Tag Archives: leadership

Leading & Building a Positive Culture as a Teacher-Librarian

I was at a family function last weekend when my sister said it.  No one had talked about the fact that I was changing roles in September.  Now I know why–they had talked about it amongst themselves.  She said, “So you went from being the Literacy Consultant for a whole board to a Teacher-Librarian? Like isn’t that a total demotion?  Why would you do that?!” (yup, her exact words–gotta love my sister’s direct & honest approach??)

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback, but it made me really think about leadership and how people perceive leadership as being connected to titles. It also showed me the extent to which people don’t recognize how valuable Teacher-Librarians can be in a school.

What I explained to her is that I chose to be a Teacher-Librarian so I can continue to be a leader. In that role, I have the privilege of working with teachers, administration, and students in positive and impactful ways.

Two awesome posts by George Couros this week : 10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #Classroom Culture this year and  10 Easy Ways to Build a Positive #School Culture as a Principal, helped me to think about the ways in which a Teacher-Librarian is not just a leader, but has the incredible opportunity to contribute to the building of  an amazing culture in a school.

An effective Teacher-Librarian supports teachers to try something different, offers a little tweak that can move a lesson or unit from good to awesome, offers a second set of hands, eyes, and ears to help differentiate and assess.  An effective teacher-librarian can help a teacher find the perfect tech tool or resource to serve the learning needs of their students.

We know about critical literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and every other modern literacy classroom teachers haven’t had the time to dig in to or keep up with in this age of abundant information.

But our space isn’t just another classroom in the school.  The Library Learning Commons can and should be the heart of a school; a place where learning, literacy, critical thinking, creativity, and fun come together.

Teacher-Librarians also interact with students– lots of students every day.  I am completely new at this role, so maybe I’m off base here, but I think that George’s Top 10 list can be modified for the role of Teacher-Librarian.  This is what I’m thinking:

10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing School Culture as a Teacher-Librarian this year (2)

 

I’d like to create an inviting and positive learning culture when it comes to allowing cellphones in my Learning Commons.  I am experimenting with the wording on this poster and would love your feedback on this sign:

Be prepared to rethink how you use social media here (2)

 

More about building a positive culture by connecting your students

I am committed to helping teachers and students to see how technology and social media can be used to learn and share learning, connect with others, and be a more positive influence in the lives of others!

I am excited for the opportunity to work with teachers and students at my school and in the world on the following initiatives:

I would like to start a High School Global Book Club to foster digital leadership and a love of reading.  My VERY DRAFT ideas are here.  So far, I’ve got a few North American schools and an International school in Thailand interested.  Would love for you to join us!

I am participating in the Global Peace Project sponsored my Buncee launching September 26th. It is free to join and is an excellent way to build empathy, cultural awareness and to work towards spreading peace.  Details here.

I am helping my friend, Barbara  from Norway to get some North American classes involved in a Digital Storytelling project beginning in September. Check it out here.

I am organizing a Global Amazing Race EDU for grades 7, 8 and high school.  The project launch happens on February 10th with a Virtual Breakout EDU!  Details here.

I can’t wait to see my sister at the next family function to tell her all about my  start to an amazing school year!

Quotation source: http://ottmag.com/most-famous-leadership-quotes/

 

When it’s time for a change

I currently have perhaps the best job in the world. I work with an amazing team of professionals, I get to engage in learning and thinking about topics in education which most people don’t often get to delve into because they have three classes of 30 to prepare for.  I get to go into classes to co-plan, co-teach, co-learn, and debrief with teachers of every subject area. Teachers trust me enough to take my suggestions and try them, knowing I will support them.  I get to lead professional learning around the meaningful integration of technology in school.  I have met and worked with hundreds of amazing educators in my District. This is no different than what other system leaders do.

And yet, I have been at a crossroads lately.  I miss being in a school.  I knew it was time for a change. The question became…go into administration? go back into a classroom?  or something else?

For my Sicilian parents who have been ever supportive of me, the choice was clear (little known fact my mom didn’t speak to me for a week when I told her that I wanted to be a teacher rather than a lawyer–she thought I was wasting my talents).  My mom said to me, “Why aren’t you a principal? You are smart enough! Can’t you be the Director?”  Having never gone beyond grade 5 in Italy and never studied here, she has no real concept of the whole Vice-principal, Principal, Superintendent, Director trajectory–but what a blessing to have a mom that believes in me so much.

For my husband and teen daughters, who listen to me celebrate and complain at the dinner table (when I make it home on time for dinner)  and who love and support me unconditionally, their advice was to reflect upon what makes me happy.  This has been the advice of my dear friends as well.  But how does one really know what makes them happy?  Isnt’ happiness a relative term?   I am happy when I am doing work that I’m passionate about. I am happy when I work with kids, I am happy when I feel like I am making a difference. I am happy when I am learning new things.  When I taught English (or Special Education or Coop or ESL or Italian) I was happy. When I am leading professional learning, I am happy.  But in each of those instances I was disappointed, frustrated, and longing for more as well because I am always reflecting on how I can be better.

George Couros, who has been an incredible mentor and friend to me over the past year offered this advice:

George Advice

So there was that happiness question again!!  But in discerning the answers to #2 & #3 were where I now set my mind.

The first step in answering question 2 is understanding my strengths.  We ask our students to do this, don’t we?  I think big picture, I try things and then reflect on their success/failure and try again. If I hear a good idea, I move that idea to action. I am happy when I  push the boundaries of what Literacy, Curriculum, and assessment look like (geeky but true). I am effective leader.  I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t have the freedom to be a leader. And so the question of impact…

What is impact? Isn’t this as relative a term as happiness?  If I can have a deep impact on 30 students, isn’t that more meaningful that having little impact on hundreds of teachers? How might I measure impact? A thank you vs a test score vs a thoughtful question that has come out of learning something new?  Does a principal have more impact in education than a classroom teacher? How about a Department Head? A Teacher-Librarian? An education officer at the Ministry of Education? A Superintendent? I would argue that this depends more on the person than the title.

George’s questions helped clarify my thinking and my answers gave me direction.

I applied to be a Teacher-Librarian at a high school and was successful.  In that role, I will have the privilege of working with an administrative team, with a collaborative group of Teacher-Librarians, with teachers, and with students.

I will miss working with the amazing people at the CEC and beyond, but in my new role I will have impact, I will be able to use my gifts and talents, and I think I will be happy! Best of all, I will be able to work with students again; why I became a teacher to begin with.

I can run a coding club, create a makerspace, run a book club, facilitate connections with students and the world. I can not just talk about student voice, but I can empower students to use their voices and be there to support them when they think they are voiceless or powerless.

It’s an IB school so I have a lot of learning to do: which I am so excited about and there are so many incredible Teacher-Librarian role models in Ontario and in North America from whom I continue to learn.

Did I make the right decision? Who knows? But change is good…Change is an opportunity to do something amazing!

Change

 

Thanks for your leadership and support!

I wonder how many people have misconceptions about what value people at  the “Board” or “District” bring to the system?  What do they do all day? Do they have any idea about the challenges in the classroom?  There is a movement for teacher-directed schools–why not extend that to the District level?   Teachers in classrooms are awesome and do amazing work for students, but I just want to take a moment to recognize the good work of Central staff and highlight their awesomeness!

Connecting the dots

There are definite benefits to being in a central position when it comes to professional learning and time.  In my role I have been able to dialogue about assessment, inquiry-based learning, technology-enabled learning, etc…in ways that classroom teachers often cannot.  I have attended workshops and conferences.  BUT, then what is significant is that this learning is shared.  Whether I am in a workroom, at a conference, on Twitter, or on Voxer, I am talking and listening to other Central staff who are constantly researching, iterating, reflecting, and trying new things.    District level central staff help connect the dots, make sense of all the policies, and create interactive learning opportunities for teachers who do not have the time to do this.

The power of “Co”

I love this expression by my colleague and friend, Lori Lisi.  When resource staff (regardless of their title) co-plan, co-teach, and co-debrief you have a learning partner: a critical friend.  And not one who has the answers, but someone who is on the journey with you, with whom you can try out something new, reflect on the impact it made, and then try again.  Sometimes, it only takes a minor tweak to get from good to great and an outside perspective can help.  And being in a classroom, means that theory and practice can come together in a way that makes an impact on student learning.

Beyond Resources

I had the privilege of chatting with Dean Shareski the other day and the conversation led to what he did as a Digital Learning Consultant prior to his role as Community Manager at Discovery Canada and how the value of the role is the human touch.  Just as technology cannot replace a good teacher, the value of having a human being that is a resource teacher cannot be underestimated.  Sure I can google a lesson plan and make it work well, but having a knowledgeable and passionate educator along with you on the journey, whose sole role is to support you cannot be compared to anything else.  As Dean so aptly put it, a person at the central level is the ultimate connector–they can offer a connection, a personalized suggestion or resource that is relevant to you at the moment when you need it.  You can’t get that from Google.

To all the Program Resource Teachers, Student Work Study Teachers, Teachers on Special Assignment, Digital Learning Resource Teachers, Consultants, whatever you are called…

THANK YOU!

For your leadership and facilitation.

For your tireless efforts to make learning visible for staff and students.

For your perpetual reading, reflecting, and dialogue about what is best for kids.

For being there at the right time to offer the right support to the person who needs it at that moment.

You are truly amazing!

Innovative Change: FETC Executive Leadership Summit 2016

Last week I had the privilege of attending an Executive Leadership Summit organized by Jennifer Womble and hosted by Tom Murray and Eric Sheninger, along with George Couros who played an integral role in the learning over the two days.   The summit itself is an invitation-only event which occurs prior to the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida.  It is designed to bring thought leaders from across the US and other countries together to talk Education: this year’s theme: Innovating Education for the Future.  Because I was accepted to the summit and subsequently to the conference, I chose to take a personal leave to attend;  I’m certainly glad I did.

As is the case with connected learning today, many people from my District and province (Ontario) followed the #fetcexe hashtag to learn virtually which I highly recommend you do even now!  My reflection here represents a consolidation of the big ideas and my own learning from this incredible event.

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Building a Culture of Innovation–George Couros

Big idea: Everything you need to innovate and transform learning can be found in your own District, you just need to tap into it.

To me, an effective keynote is one that inspires, entertains, but ultimately is thought-provoking and challenges thinking.  Despite having seen Couros speak several times (he spent time at our District last Spring), he never fails to make me laugh, cry,  and push my thinking. He expertly weaves his own experiences while sharing examples of innovation and transformation which he sees in his work with schools.  The first day, George set up the “why” with his keynote on Building a Culture of Innovation and then on the second day, he set up the “how” very effectively by having us engage in guided conversation based on some his prompts & examples. His keynote served as the foundation for many of the conversations and subsequent presentations throughout the summit.

He also had us engage in an activity around competitive collaboration which I am totally stealing and using in my next Professional learning session!

Couros had me thinking about:

  • a few of the ways we can make the good work happening in pockets in our District go viral
  • the dramatic impact on actions and decisions at every level that would happen if everything we did began with student learning at the centre
  • how technology can be tranformational in the hands of a good teacher
  • ways to build collaboration and connections within our organization
  • how the 8 things to look for in today’s classroom can provide a user-friendly framework for innovative change

Here is a copy of the guiding questions  with accompanying resources he provided which will serve useful for our own conversations back home in the coming weeks and months.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 5.36.30 PM

Reimagining Learning Spaces–Pam Moran and Ira Socol

Big Idea: Do you change the learning experience or the learning space first?  Like the chicken & the egg:  Does it matter if you end up with a chicken?  

Pam Moran, Superintendent and Ira Socal, Director for Innovation & Ed Technology, Albemarle County PS spoke about Creating an Innovative School Culture by focusing on these elements: Invention (curiosities questions ideas that fuel creative rapid prototyping),  Innovation (scaling creativity as prototypes across the system), Strategic (moving creativity into systems-thinking), and Operational (embedding creative solutions into expected practice).

They used a YELP framework:

yelp-395

Get to YES

Engage Team  

Leverage Resources  

Prototype 

From transforming distinctive offices for Central Staff, to reimagining libraries and hallways, Albermarle believe that different spaces for learners can be transformative for learning.  They even built a Treehouse in the Cafeteria!  Most of us agreed that having a Superintendent as open to the diverse ideas posed by students is remarkable and goes a long way towards making change.  Their presentation can be found here.

Leading Change with Less–Dwight Carter

Big Idea: Instead of doing something brand new, do something better.–Rastor Joel Kovacs

Carter focused a great deal on the ways in which relationships impact his role as principal, a nice complement to the ideas posed by Couros earlier in the day.  He says, “You can’t grow them until you know them.”  His talk focused primarily on How to Lead Change with Less:

  • Be Compassionate-Relationships Matter
  • Communicate Concretely/Succinctly
  • Reexamine Your Vision
  • Think Different (Innovate/Reinvent)
  • Collaborate at all levels

Carter shared  a few of the innovative ideas being implemented at his school including the fact that every senior at his school asks someone to give them their diploma, as well as the fact that the student body is organized into houses (yes, like in Harry Potter) for building community.   His idea that, “the teaching cycle is not complete until students learn,” also really resonated.

IT Panel Discussion

Big Idea:  IT works in the service of student learning

It was awesome to hear IT Directors speak about the fact that they serve learners first! Some of the choices often made by IT Departments don’t necessarily subscribe to that!  Equity of access for students once they go home has always been a concern for me and so I was really interested in hearing about the many partnerships school Districts are making with business and community partners to increase opportunities for access to wifi outside of school.  Here are  some examples.

Future Ready Schools–Tom Murray

Big Idea: Is your school or District Future Ready?

Murray, a champion for the Future Ready movement in the U.S. showcased many examples of how schools are embracing innovative ideas and changing learning environments for kids.  He spoke of the cemetary effect by projecting an image of a cemetery, juxtaposed with a classroom: it was quite eerie.  His presentation showcased some of the innovative ways schools are transforming learning environments for students, including this example from Elizabeth Forward High School.

In particular, I really appreciated learning about the Future Ready Schools initiative and the links to the resources and Framework; an incredible resource for any District in any country.  Check it out here.

Here is a link to all of the resources from the summit.

If you are a leader in your school or District, I urge you to apply to next year’s Executive Leadership Summit @FETC.  If it’s anything like this year’s experience, it will be a great investment of your time.

As for the rest of the FETC conference, I learned lots, but most importantly connected with so many amazing educators; many of whom I’ve known only virtually.  That’s what it’s all about though, isn’t it?

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New Year’s Resolutions

I was challenged by my #edumatch friend, Margaret Sisler to write a reflective post for New Year’s and thought, wow, no pressure!  Then I came across this wonderful sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth and figured this would be a great way to organize my thoughts.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 2.58.52 PM

2 Things I do well and will continue to do

2015 has been a great year for me in my professional learning journey.  I have connected with so many educators and have developed a very strong professional learning network (PLN), with many educators around the world; many of whom I have never met face to face.  I will continue to look for ways to foster connections with other like-minded and passionate educators in 2016.

I will also continue to practice leadership qualities that I think are important: empathy, humility, passion, servitude, co-learning, as well as continue to challenge established norms and not accept, “because we’ve always done that” as a reason to not change or innovate.  I don’t know that I do all of this well now necessarily, but I will certainly strive to continue to try and develop these skills in 2016.

Something I want to STOP doing

Feeling guilty!  I am a good Catholic that way!  I often feel like I’m not doing enough or that I need to be or act a certain way in order to fulfill everyone’s needs.  I need to be able to say “no” sometimes and not feel badly.  I need to accept my imperfections and not feel the need to do things because I feel I should.

1 Person you want to improve your relationship with

Myself. I saw this poster and loved it:

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 3.20.14 PM

If I take care of myself, then relationships with my family and friends, who mean the world to me, will definitely follow suit.

6 Things I will do this year to step out of my comfort zone

  1. I will take courses that challenge me
  2. I will apply for opportunities and put myself out there even if I don’t think I’ll be accepted
  3. I will try on a new professional role
  4. I will practice silence: listen more and talk less
  5. I will try 1 new thing a week (and if it happens to be once a month, I won’t feel guilty about that).
  6. I will engage in more conversations with strangers

Tag.

You’re it!  

Why not write a reflective post for 2015 or a New Year’s Resolution post?  Would love to read it!