Posts Tagged With: influence

The Principal Affect

Last Spring we completed perhaps the largest re-configuration of school administrators in the history of our District. Sixteen of the twenty-four principal and vice principal positions will have new individuals assigned to them as students return to school in September. We are very excited about this significant change to our leadership team. Some are transferring in from other administrative positions within our District while others are taking on leadership roles for the first time in their careers. Based on the qualities and skill sets each one of them is bringing to their new role, our hope is for a significant positive impact on our schools and students.

I recently came across a 2013 research paper called School Leaders Matter where the impact of effective principals was measured in relation to school and individual student success. It was found that highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year;IMG_0092 ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount. Much of that work was attributed to management. And by that I don’t mean the management of the school but rather the management of teacher quality. The research supported the fact that “management of teacher quality is an important pathway through which principals affect school quality.” The findings went on to point out that “less effective teachers are more likely to leave schools run by highly effective principals.”

The work, then, of our new leaders (and all school leaders for that matter) is not so much with the students but with the teachers. Building a culture of continual improvement and teaching excellence will ensure that the best possible teachers are impacting our students every day. 


Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

My Essential Question

“Not by age but by capacity is wisdom acquired.”

– Titus Maccius Plautus


This year, as conceived by Assistant Superintendent Jessie Shirley and her team, our District is embarking on a PD model that will significantly change the way our teachers engage in their own professional growth. Working in teams with their grade level colleagues throughout the District teachers will create, research, and collaborate around an essential question designed to drive student learning forward. Through action research teams will identify promising practices, incorporate these strategies into their daily instruction, then come back to their team to discuss and refine. A list of suggested topics was provided as a starting point, however it was made clear that the list was not exhaustive, giving individuals autonomy in the selection process. Below is one list of ideas that was made available. The other two lists were around the themes of literacy and numeracy.

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Sample Differentiated Instruction Topics

As a District we have provided 12 Friday afternoons for our teachers to meet free from instruction, which will give them a solid 3 hour block of time to engage with colleagues who have selected a similar essential question. If we want teachers to learn and grow together we need to give them time to do it. A lot of work went into the District calendar to make this happen. At the end of the year each teacher will present their learning to the group as a way to demonstrate growth and make decisions going forward. I look forward to watching as this exciting new PD model plays out over the year. The ultimate goal is that it impacts student learning in a meaningful way.

By the way, our Superintendent Karl Germann added an important element to this new plan. He has asked that every certified teacher in the District, including principals and central office personnel, complete the Essential Question. He believes that we all need to embrace continual growth, no matter what our role is in the District.


So here is my Essential Question:

How can building the instructional leadership capacity of our principals & vice principals allow me to engage every teacher in our District & drive learning forward?

I plan to work with members of our leadership team, both at the school and District level, to continue the work I started last year with Instructional Leadership. I should never forget that even my work in Human Resources is really about student success.

These are exciting times in Education and I’m happy to be part of a District where that change is being embraced. Let the learning begin.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Moving to Central Office & Staying Student Centred

Over the summer I will be transitioning from my role as a school based administrator and moving into a system wide, central office position. After 14 years as a principal I feel up to the new challenge, however along with all the normal feelings associated with any significant job change comes the realization that my new assignment will take me one step further away from direct contact with kids. This is not settling well with me because the reason I entered the teaching profession in the first place was to work (directly) with kids and to make a difference in their lives. Many would say that district level administrators, far removed from daily classroom life, are no longer in the best position to make important decisions that directly affect the students they serve. In the past I’ve remained tight-lipped as those in the trenches complained about directives being forced on them by the higher-ups who “Don’t know what it’s like to teach anymore.”


This leaves me worried that it may be difficult to maintain a focus on student learning as I fall deeper into the role of Assistant Superintendent. What if the “administrative” stuff overwhelms me? What if I slowly but surely entrench myself under piles of paperwork in an office? What if I become exactly what those disgruntled were talking about not so long ago? That’s not going to happen to me! So, I’ve come up with a couple of lists that I will endeavor to live by in the coming months and years. The first is a list of the big ideas I hope to stay focused on and the second is a list of the little extra things I hope to do day in and day out.

List 1 – My Professional List

  1. Recruit and hire the most forward thinking, innovative teachers who will effectively engage todays students.
  2. Work with principals and teachers to develop collaborative and reflective instructional supervision and evaluation programs in order to build capacity in all teachers.
  3. Provide in-service to principals and teachers on ways to better engage today’s learners, focussing on the Framework for Student Learning.
  4. Model and demonstrate broad involvement and collective responsibility for student learning.
  5. When directing resources always consider the most at-risk students first.

List 2 – My Personal List

  1. Switch from a Dell to a MacBook Air because that’s what most students are using.
  2. Attend celebrations, assemblies, sporting events, concerts, and graduations.
  3. Conduct classroom walkthroughs in every school consistently throughout the year, talking to students about their learning.
  4. Consult with my two daughters (11 and 13) often and always.
  5. Keep Tweeting. Keep blogging.

I’m not sure exactly where the future will take me. I can only hope and pray that I leave this profession some day in the same way I entered it; making a difference in the lives of kids.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Need Ideas? Just Ask.

My grade 1-3 teachers have been planning for next year and are looking for creative and engaging ways to build a literacy intervention block into the daily schedule. Language Arts and Math would be scheduled every morning and then one teacher would be freed up to work with students that are just not up to par with reading, writing and comprehension. I’m quite impressed with their innovative thinking because in order to make this plan work the others will need to have substantially larger class sizes for Social, Science and other non-core subjects. The literacy intervention teacher would work with multi-grade groups of struggling students throughout the afternoon. In a school where many students find themselves below an acceptable literacy level, I like their thinking.

So when the teachers approached me, asking if I would consult with my PLN for high yield strategies that could be used for this intervention block, I was more than happy to oblige. I sent this Tweet out the next day:

My Tweet

My Twitter PLN, which includes over 3500 followers, has become one of the most important sounding boards in my professional life. By including only individuals who share the same passion for education, I am always learning new things and having my thinking challenged and stretched. Just look at the responses I received from this Tweet.

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Help yourself if there is anything here you can use. 🙂

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Don’t Forget the “Little Picture”

As an administrator I’ve always had to keep my eye on the big picture. At least that’s what I’ve always told others when they asked why a particular initiative had been undertaken or a decision had been made. After all, everyone must know that if we spent all our time tending to the needs and concerns of individuals we wouldn’t get anywhere. There has to be a big picture. That’s what a vision is and any good leader has a vision for their organization, right?

Well over the past few years my thinking has taken a 180 in this area. In Kouzes & Posner’s The Leadership Challenge they describe a good leader as “someone who is able to be in the balcony and on the dance floor at the same time.” You see, we’ve got to look beyond the big picture if we hope to move our schools forward. With each and every system wide or school wide change there are many individuals who are each affected in their own way. It is our job to understand this and work with those within our circle of influence to assist them in better understanding and moving forward.

With society and education changing faster than ever, there has been no more important time than now for leaders to see the little picture. Excellent teachers are being called upon to transform a pedagogy that has been a mainstay in our educational institutions for decades. Leaders must paint a vision and enlist individuals to join them in bringing it to life. Transformation will happen, but it will take place one teacher at a time, in their own way and at their own pace.

So think big and push the envelope, but don’t take your eye off the little picture.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who is Within Your Circle of Influence?

In Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he refers to the importance of concentrating one’s energy within his/her circle of influence. Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which you have little or no control, focus your time and energy on things you can control.  Often, we waste valuable energy on the circle of concern–things over which we have little or no control.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about influence a lot. If you are reading this blog post you are probably someone who has a vested interest in transforming the educational paradigm that currently exists. Since building my own personal learning network I’ve engaged in many conversations with forward thinking educators who have stretched my thinking with innovative ideas that challenge the status quo. (@ecosys @edchat @elemchat) I often wonder how many of these amazing individuals are exerting their influence on others.

The only way we are going to build the critical mass that is necessary in order to shift the educational landscape to a place that better meets the needs of today’s learner is by working inside our circle of influence. The place where your great ideas can take flight.

So I ask you — Who is within your circle? Is it one other colleague? Is it a classroom full of students? Is it a school full of teachers? Is it an entire jurisdiction? Once you determine your circle of influence, I urge you to act.

Categories: Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Fighting Bullying – Is kid’s knowledge being put into practice?

“If you don’t say something to your friends when they are treating others poorly, you’re giving friendship a bad name.” – Bishop Fredrick Henry

 A few weeks back I attended Mass at St. Martha’s Church and Bishop Henry was celebrating the Eucharist in honour of Fr. Fernando who was being officially installed as our pastor.  The Gospel reading, Matthew 18:15-20, was all about standing up to your friends when they have sinned against you or others.     

As he gave his homily on Matthew’s Gospel I was reminded of our students and their continual struggle to gain acceptance among their peers.  It seems to be very difficult for them to stand up to their friends when they are excluding others, bullying them or treating them in a disrespectful or hurtful way.  It’s almost as though they avoid challenging them in fear of becoming an outcast themselves.  I’m sure you would all agree with me when I say that peer pressure and a need to be accepted are deeply engrained in the psyche of our young people today.  How then, are we going to be able to help them understand the importance of doing the right thing, even if it means going against a friend.

Last week our grade 6 students came together to create commercials about the negative affects of bullying and how to handle the many situations they encounter every day.  In groups of 4 they used flip cameras to film, download, and edit videos that depicted a terrible bullying situation followed by the proper way to handle it.  I was amazed to watch them as they worked.  Without any help from their teachers they knew exactly what bullying looked like.  They also knew exactly how it should be handled.  Actually, they made it look easy.

The question I’m left asking myself is: Why is it so difficult for students to apply what they know is right on a daily basis?  I’m still not sure if I know the answer to this one.  I hope and pray this video-creating experience gives our grade 6 students the confidence to do what is right more often.

For some examples of the commercials our grade 6 students created visit the following link:

Categories: Community Engagement, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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