What You Value…



A quote I heard from a friend but have no idea who to credit for, which I use all the time is

“What you value, you dedicate time and resources to”

I mostly use it to call out current practices, and call attention to not backing up what we say with the actions necessary to truly show our support. As I sat down to write my professional growth plan reflection for 2013-2014, I found another instance where this quote applies.

I had two goals for this school year, one was to put together and facilitate a group of teachers to take a long hard look at our practices when it comes to mathematical instruction, and to come up with a long term plan and solution to improve said instruction. The other goal was to work to spend more time in classrooms, observing and working with teachers, to do some informal observations of our teachers on temporary contracts and to work on my role as an instructional leader.

I was unable to achieve either.

Add to that I never once participated in the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program  (#SAVMP) which I signed up for, and was assigned a fantastic mentor in Jason Markey, who could have helped me in my professional growth immensely. And add to that I blogged considerably less this year, spent less time on twitter, and lost touch with a great deal of my PLN.

Don’t get me wrong, I got a lot done, and a lot of my year was fantastic, but now as the year comes to a close, and I reflect on goals for my year that were supposed to be a priority, I realize I lost track of what was supposed to be my focus. As I fumble through this post, I can physically sense the loss of connection to something that was so dear to me and important in my professional learning.

So while I am quick to call others on saying one thing and then not backing it up with what it takes to make it a reality, it is only fair I call myself on the same behavior. What I supposedly valued I didn’t dedicate time or resources to. There was always something else to do, some excuse like being tired or busy, or even justifications like doing what was needed at the time. I did nothing to place any type of deadlines for myself. I created no reminders, no string around my finger, to keep myself on task. I failed miserably and did nothing to improve my chances for success.

So when it comes to my growth plan, and my reflection as a professional on my learning, I can truly say I learned a lot. I learned from what I failed to complete, from what I didn’t focus on, and what I must have hoped would just happen on its own. I learned that nothing I want to make happen will in fact come to be if I don’t dedicate my time and my resources to these goals. I learned from the way I feel staring at the document, that I WILL NOT again put down a goal (or two) without being sure I am committed to making it a reality.

While this wasn’t my intended learning, it will no doubt be valuable, and when I sit down to write next year’s plan, it will include at least one of my goals AGAIN, only this time I hope it also includes some conviction behind the words.

Why I Am An Educator

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Jeff Sandquist

I am very excited to be part of the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program, and this post marks my first participation in the program. I have been lucky enough to be connected with a great mentor, Jason Markey, who I have been a follower of for some time and recently started to connect with. I have appreciated every interaction we have had, and I look forward to having more frequent and more in-depth interactions with Jason. I also look forward to connecting with my two fellow “mentees” Rebecca Kelly and Sue Tonnesen, and I know I will learn a lot from all three of these educators, along with many other participants in the #SAVMP.

We were challenged to write a post with one of two themes: “Why do I lead?” or “Why am I an Educator?”. I kind of feel like I am still developing an answer to the first question so I decided on the second, maybe this program will help me with that.

Why am I an Educator? To put it simply, it is what I am passionate about, and I found that out on the driving range…

I was still in high school, and our local golf club was without someone to run our junior golf program. Along with the help of one of our senior members, I was helping to make sure the program kept running, which meant once in a while I worked with some of our younger members on the driving range. While working with a young golfer, I helped with a fairly simple change he could make to his swing. He was frustrated that the ball was traveling along the ground, and wanted desperately to see the ball fly through the air, the way others were doing all around him. After a hand full of balls, it happened. The ball flew off his club and soared through the air, but it wasn’t that sight I remember, it was the look on his face as he turned to see my reaction.     

It was in that look, and in numerous moments since then that my decision to be an educator has been reinforced. It started with sports, as I coached numerous teams, camps and activities, and then as my teaching career began, it continued with math problems, science labs and daily interactions with my students. I have a passion for helping people discover and learn, and I am a junkie for those looks – those moments where they are surprised by what they are capable of and they can’t wait to see your reaction as well.

In this SAVMP program, myself and all of the other “mentees” get the opportunity to be on that other end, we get to be the ones finding what we are capable of.  We all have our mentors in our schools and divisions, but its so great to get to have the opportunity to connect with others who will bring a different set of experiences and great advice as we develop as school leaders. Many thanks to George Couros for making this happen, another one of his great ideas and a wonderful opportunity for Rebecca, Sue, myself and all of the other “mentees”.


These Are Not Optional

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Enokson

Maybe its the fact I have had the misfortune of contracting shingles during the busiest month of school, or maybe its the fact it has forced me to cancel a trip home to see my family or maybe its just because I am grumpy, but this post is almost writing itself.

I worry that because you are reading this, a blog, and you probably found the link from Twitter, that I am preaching to the converted so do me a favor and share this with someone NOT connected.

I feel inspired to do a little venting about areas of our profession that I feel are simply no longer optional. Whether at the school, district or provincial/state level, I feel we are not doing enough to push that these are now a mandatory part of our jobs, not because an act, law or contract deems them to be, but because we are professionals that are supposed to do what’s right for our students.

1. Change

We live in a world that is changing at such a rapid pace, predicting what next year will look like  is starting to get very difficult, let alone 12 years into the future of our eager little Gr. 1 students. The world is changing, and we are supposed to be preparing students for their world. So, if the world is changing, so should our practices of preparation for this world and thus our teaching. Constantly. For the rest of our careers, or until the world stops changing – don’t hold your breath.

2. Learn

Maybe there was a time that the school of thought was that you go to school to learn all you need to teach in four years, then you spend 35 years spewing that knowledge until you jump on the pension pony and ride off into the sunset. Being the expert on a topic is becoming less and less prevalent, and our system is now in need of professional learners. Educators who model learning, inspire learning, embrace learning and challenge students to learn. And it doesn’t have to be learning about science if you are a science teacher, our students just need to see a successful adult show them that learning is exciting, engaging and empowering. Are you learning the guitar? SHARE that with your science students. Learning how to mountain bike? TALK to your students about the experience, especially the parts you found tough and the failures you had to deal with and overcome. “What are you learning about now?” – that is a question every teacher should have an answer to.

3. Connect

This one really gets to me. There are leaders of education who dismiss this idea very quickly. Then there are those that make excuses for those who are not connecting – “not everyone is tech savvy…” and “lots of people don’t have the time…”. Take Twitter or even the words “Social Media” out of the sentence and replace it with “resource”.

There is a RESOURCE that will allow our educators to connect with other educators all over the globe, share best practices, learning experiences, connect their classrooms and move the profession forward. It will allow great ideas to spread and allow us to take control of our own professional development without having to travel anywhere, it can all occur from our couches.

What excuse is there for not using this “resource”. Aren’t we supposed to be engaging in professional learning throughout the year? Dedicating time to ensuring our practice stays effective and current? I am having trouble seeing much in the way of a counter-argument on this one. You should get connected, be connected and stay connected. You should learn from and share with educators in your own schools, of course, but you should also learn from other educators outside your building, district, state/province and country. We want our students to have a better understanding of their world by learning about the world beyond their cities and towns, shouldn’t we as educators learn from and share with educators from outside as well?

4. Relax 

No one is paying you to herd cattle, or to scare or intimidate your students, even if they think they are. Those days are long gone, and now we know that we need a student who feels safe, secure, comfortable, engaged and challenged if we are going to do our best work and see those students do theirs’. If your classroom management plan requires you to tower over and yell at your students to induce fear-based compliance, then you probably aren’t going to see the best in your kids. You don’t need to overpower and really you don’t even have to control, you just have to protect – you have to protect the environment to create a place all students can learn. I have the pleasure of walking around our school most days and see this in action, and what I don’t hear anymore (I haven’t heard it in years) is yelling, belittling, or the recognizable language of the classic “power trip”. The great teachers, at least the ones I get to see on a regular basis, are able to get everything they want out of their classroom with simple tricks like 1-on-1 conversations, humour and care.


While my previous post was about what I wanted to tell graduating education students about to enter our profession, I would say this post is written as a tool for professional check-up. For me, these are non-negotiable’s, badges we should already have earned that we showcase on a daily basis. If you don’t feel these describe you, ask yourself if they are important to you the way they are to me. If they are, make them goals to strive towards, if they aren’t, develop your own list of non-optional traits you believe should embody your teaching and use those as a check-up.

If we are to move forward then we need to be checking in on how we are doing with that progress,  individually and as a group. Find whatever measurement you want for your own teaching and then periodically take stock on how you are doing. I have no doubt that the simple act of reflection will go a long ways to ensure you keep moving your practice in the right direction.

Work On Your Game

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by clappstar

This past March, I said goodbye to my basketball team for the offseason, having exit meetings with each player before they headed out for their exams and then their summer. I told them that every off-season of college basketball they have, the should make it their goal to add one more skill to their arsenal. Whether it was a new post move, a higher vertical jump, a new attack from the perimeter, they need to add one more tool to make themselves into a more complete player. I explained that if they play four seasons, and have three summers away from the team, they should be able to add 3 new aspects to their game and be the best player they can be in their fourth year.

There is no reason that this philosophy can’t work in our teaching careers either. If we teach for 25 years, that’s 24 summers to develop 24 tools to make us better educators. For me, this summer I plan to learn about video capture and editing, using my computer, iPad, iPhone and video camera. Our school wants to look at making the learning in our building more public, to share what is going on at Greystone with our parents, colleagues and our community. That is one tool I can definitely make good use of and will sharpen my game as an educator.

What part of your teaching game are you going to work on this summer? What weapon will be added to your educational arsenal? How are you going to come back stronger and model for your students the ideas of lifelong learning, goal setting and self improvement? Please share them with me, your summer improvement plans may inspire others to follow your lead!