Finding the balance…

Had an interesting experience last week.

Our school leadership team had the opportunity to finalize our school improvement plan and meet with our Superintendent of Schools to discuss next steps.

We had been provided a list of guiding questions that our SO used during a rich 1.5 hour  focused conversation. A number of voices were invited around the table to ensure multiple perspectives were represented, and people spoke very frankly about the progress, challenges, and work that still remains to do to improve student achievement in a few areas as identified from a variety of different data sets. At several points, it did not even feel like a meeting; rather we were discussing educational change very honestly and openly. People listened, opinions were welcomed, colleagues offered support and extended ideas, AND some even disagreed agreeably. Nice!

When it came time for the rubber to hit the road and define our immediate next steps, the need to differentiate teacher professional learning offerings became more apparent than ever. As I am sure is the case on many school staffs, we have people at very different professional learning comfort levels. As the co-facilitator of our weekly TLCP sessions, I have also come to appreciate that there is the work that teachers feel needs to be done based on their perspective, and then there is the work that admin feels is required to move students and teachers along in our critical thinking and mathematics journey. While some might feel they know what the nature of the work is that needs to be done next… teacher buy-in is not a given. The Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) research of Hall and Hord has taught us for decades that unless we value the need for the perceived change, change will take longer to achieve and chances are it will not stick…

The good news is we have SEF days to access. Now we need a professional learning menu that offers choice if we really want to empower teachers to self-direct their job-embedded learning.

There are some excellent online resources available through our district online training and learning repository, PLUS this Fall, the Ontario Ministry of Education came out with some incredible monographs and webcasts DVDs that align directly with our areas of focus. So, the WHAT TO LEARN? syllabus is already there… at our finger tips actually.

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So here is the balance challenge:

I suggested allowing teachers to experience inquiry-based learning by having them sign up for their own professional learning focus and then, based on a set agreed-upon schedule, they would meet with those colleagues interested in the same topic to design their own learning adventure. We could assemble a variety of applicable learning resources from which they could read, discuss, study…

However, members of my leadership team feel this is too open-ended and teachers need more direct instruction and facilitation.  Hmmmm??? At what point do we allow teachers to experience curiosity and inquiry on their own without direct-facilitation from others?

I want to read the recent Natural Curiosity publication from the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (Natural Curiosity) OISE to find out more about instilling meaningful inquiry and curiosity in play-based early years programs.

Maybe everything we need to know, even about facilitating meaningful job-embedded teacher professional learning, does stem from Kindergarten?

Would love to hear what others have done or think…


Transformative experience at ECOO11

It may be because of @snbeach and @willrich45 ‘s keynote address; or being surrounded f2f by tweeps with whom I have only ever dialogued online; or sitting beside REALLY smart people during the sessions I attended on Thursday; or chatting with @digitalnative post-conference in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel; or thinking about my digital footprint after hearing @royanlee and @zbpipe ‘s session. Basically, I am not sure how it is that I am finally entering the blogosphere, but here I am after what I am referring to was a trans-formative experience at the ECOO2011 conference October 20, 2011!

First off, I am most grateful to Todd Wright, Principal of Curriculum in the York Region DSB for supporting me to be away from my school last week as a member of the Literacy@School (L@S) [#litschool] leadership team to attend #ecoo11 for the day. Thank you Todd!

Walking into the keynote room Thursday morning, there were familiar faces everywhere! I was delighted to hear that @royanlee (fellow L@S team member) and @danikabarker (first time meeting f2f) wouldn’t mind sitting right up near the front, so we settled in and were soon joined by @shannoninottawa (first time meeting f2f), and @jeygenraam and David from York Region DSB. As all good 21st Century presenters do, Sheryl and Will leveraged the expertise and interests of the group by having us interact with one another in a Google doc (tres cool!). In no time at all, it became very evident that each of us brings different perspectives and value to the conversation, and working within this group dynamic was a great experience.

At one point, Sheryl commended Canadians on our collective know-how, experience, etc…, but then reminded us that we still have far to go in terms of sharing our know-how, experience, etc… with others. This stuck with me big time, and I got to thinking, unless I share all of my ideas, thoughts, solutions, how will anyone else ever benefit?

So, when we were prompted to create our personal professional #changegame tagline, mine came to me right away: I Am What I Share!

I had a chance to share this a-ha moment with  @snbeach in the vendor’s area at lunch and not only did she listen attentively, she challenged me with: “So what are you going to do about it?”

She’s right-how many times have you gone to a conference and left with a gazillion different ideas to use in your practice? Unfortunately though, the minute we walk through the school doors, that enthusiasm and momentum seems to go out the window.

Following my magical minute-long conversation with Sheryl, I thought, the onus is on ME to make the change I want to see. So…. during an impromptu chat in the lobby of the Sheraton with Colin (@digitalnative) and Royan (@royanlee) we charted the path for what might become our ‘sharing opportunity and venue’ about our learning journey regarding critical thinking and inquiry.

In a nutshell, one thing I have learned about leading change is that change is SOCIAL. So, before we can lead any change in the way teachers explicitly teach and assess critical thinking, we need to know the people who will be the change agents with us! This means taking time getting to know one another-and I mean REALLY getting to know what they are all about, their passions, what they know, where they have been, what they have seen/learned, what they can do. If people know that you really know them, and are aware of how THEY can EACH fit into the change equation, they will walk to the ends of the earth for you! I know I have done that for a number of amazing Principals and Superintendents in my time. Haven’t you?

Bottom line-out of mutual respect, comes committed and shared purpose… Please join us on Twitter Wednesday evenings from 7-8 pm EST for #CTchat to talk and learn about critical thinking.

Thank you #ecoo11 for all that you did last Thursday. You have NO idea how ‘changed’ I am as a result!