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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April 3rd – April 7

The rain and sunshine combined for a beautiful weekend, even if it was a bit windy. I hope you were able to enjoy your time, whether it was starting your spring cleaning or just spending time with your family. We are now into April, which is hard to believe, and are on the way to our Easter break. April also brings Spring Arts, and Joanne has been working tirelessly with the students to create what I am sure will be a wonderful experience, thank you Joanne for everything you are doing. Just a reminder that the gym is now closed for the next week and a half so your gym time will be impacted. Please feel free to take your students to the MB Church, however they would appreciate a heads up call prior to coming over (945-2149).

This is going to be a busy week with a lot of adult learning taking place as we go into our second round of peer observations. Hopefully you were able to come up with some clear targets for your peers to observe and give you feedback on and this process will prove valuable for you. I’d love to hear about your targets and what some of the feedback was that you received. As you know, we are spending some time at our next staff meeting to debrief, but please feel free to have these learning conversations whenever it suits you. Something I’ve been thinking about is having a principal from another school come and observe me and tour the school, hopefully leading to some reflective questioning. While I was in Prince Albert, I lead a break out session on peer observations, and one of the keynote speakers (@casas_jimmy) challenged me to think about doing this. I’m paraphrasing,  but he said, it is important to be open to having others walk beside us on our learning journey, giving us feedback along the way. This way we are modeling to the students the desire to constantly improve in our profession. I really hope you enjoy the peer observations!

As I walk the halls and visit classrooms, I am excited to see a lot of feedback occurring. I’ve seen this in the form of teacher-to-student, and student-to-student, and the focus has usually been on celebrating things done well. This is great, as people always like to hear about a job well done, but what about the feedback on the failures? The following video highlights the work being done at an art school in the United States, and it emphasizes the importance of embracing failure. Have a look, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Video

Here is what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Day one of our peer observations
  • Krysten at secondary science ILO
  • Welcome back Dwayne!
  • Spring Arts practices in the gym begin

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & David away at ALT meeting
  • Sharlene at literacy ILO
  • Day two of our peer observations

Wednesday:

  • Day three of our peer observations
  • Joanne at Resonate

Thursday:

  • Grade 9 – 12 progress reports & comments due to the office

Friday:

  • Day in lieu (enjoy!)

 

As always, create a great week!

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March 27th – 31st

People will always be the problem

And people will always be the solution

-Jimmy Casas

And so the conference started, and already I was forced into serious reflection. Could it be that simple? Could it be true that people will always be both the problem, and the solution? From that moment on, I vowed to be as intentional as possible, taking in every word each presenter spoke and absorbing as much information as possible from my colleagues, regardless if I had worked with them for years or had just met them over breakfast. As I wrestled with the notion that people are the problem and the solution, I started to wonder, when am I part of the problem, and when am I part of the solution. It became obvious that while the statement is simple, the complexity lives in what we do every hour of every day with our students. When you think of the problems in your class, ask yourself, what are you doing to be a part of the solution? Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) asked us a question about what we want to see in our schools, do we want to see average or do we want to see excellence? As you reflect on your students, do you want them to be average or excellent? He went on to ask the tough question after that, if we know there is average in our school, what are we doing about it? We can be part of the problem, or part of the solution, it’s our choice. There was so much more that I took from the time I spent in Prince Albert, and hopefully over the next few weeks we will have an opportunity to discuss some of these things.

Going from interviews directly to the conference this weekend, I was forced to think about how we communicate with our parents. Corinne does a great job letting people know what events are going on and when they need to have forms and/or cash submitted to the school. We also do a wonderful job of sharing the big picture of what we are doing through our school newsletter and class newsletters. Where I feel I am coming up short as a school leader is sharing the day to day things that are happening in and around our building. Every day I see multiple examples of excellence in our building. From motors being torn apart and rebuilt, to high end cake decorating, to innovative math and science lessons, to empowering sharing time, to hilarious games of line tag, there are multiple things happening all the time! The keynote speaker, George Couros (@gcouros) took some time during one of his sessions to critique our website after I had questioned why there was so little traffic. While he was brutally honest, I believe his words were, “your website is boring”, his meaning was loud and clear. We compete with so many different mediums everyday, and if there is no reason to spend the time going to our website, why would we expect people to? One commitment I am going to make is to be more diligent in capturing images and videos of the great things going on and sharing them on Twitter with the hashtag #WaldheimSchool. I invite you to do the same thing by taking the time to snap a picture or take a video and share it out.

Lastly, I want to thank all of you for your tremendous work at the parent/teacher conferences last week. These are a great opportunity to connect with our parents, and while it is only for 15 minutes, it is a chance to engage in a learning conversation to help our students along the path towards excellence. As you look all the way back to last week, and I know it seems like a long time, what were some things that stood out to you? You had your list of interviews prior to Wednesday and Thursday night, and if you are like me, you would have likely tried to anticipate what each interview would be like. Were there any interviews that did not go how you imagined? How many interviews did go as you had imagined? Now that you have that informal data in your head, what does that say about how well you know your students and their parents? As you reflect on your interviews, what will you do different next time?

So, with all that being said, here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • David away all day

Tuesday:

  • K – 3 gym blast (pm)
  • 4 – 12 ski trip (all day)

Wednesday:

  • Tom’s last day 🙁

Thursday:

  • Staff meeting (8:00 am)

Friday:

  • Business as usual.

 

As always, create a great week!

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