It seems as though there is some strange confluence of events in my life these days. Last week I had a conversation with a friend who is completing her Principal Qualifications Program; she wanted to know how I view my role as an instructional leader now that I am a Vice Principal. A few days later, I read Royan Lee’s blog post about his blogging process “Writing in Snippets”. This was followed by Dean Shareski’s challenge in “How To Make Better Teachers“. When I moved out of the classroom two years ago, one of the things I missed most was the direct teaching of kids and helping them learn, question, and grow. My wife, who is a Principal, reminded me at the time that my classroom is just bigger now and that I get to work with different students. While this is true, I’m not really sure how much teaching I have been doing as I learn my new job. As we start the second semester, I am thinking more often about my role as an instructional leader in my school.
When my friend asked me about my what instructional leadership looks like, she told me she assumed I would tell her about teaching a course within the school. In fact I do not teach any class now, but do spend a great deal of time working with teachers at different points in their careers become better at some aspect of their practice. Whether it be helping solve a computer problem, suggesting articles to read related to their classes, or simply being somebody to bounce ideas off as they talk through a challenge, this is how I see myself as an instructional leader.
Dean’s blog about improving teachers struck a chord for me. Like Dean, I was fully aware of the concept of the Reflective Practitioner, and the value of self-reflection as part of the teaching/learning process. Like many teachers, I often asked my students to reflect on their work, their learning, or their successes and challenges. I, too, had spent time thinking about how I teach — the usual thoughts about how well a lesson went or how I could make changes for the next time. But I’m not sure this was significantly impact-full on me as a teacher beyond the specific lesson at the time. Ontario’s Assessment and Evaluation guiding principles focus on Assessment for Learning, Assessment of Learning, and Assessment as Learning, concepts I believe should be applied not just to the student and their learning, but also to the teachers. Specifically, Assessment of Learning could be viewed as Assessment of TEACHING — Did the teacher really convey the objectives of the lesson well? Were student learning needs met to ensure success? Was the lesson meaningful? Applying the Reflective Practitioner approach is a necessary aspect of teacher growth. This is not busy work, but essential to the long-term development of professionals.
A few years ago I started this blog with the hope of providing some support to the teachers I was working with at the time. I did post a few things related to initiatives in the school that we were coming to terms with as a result of changes to Ontario’s curriculum and our needs as teachers to adapt and grow. Unfortunately, I did not maintain the effort required as my role in the school board changed. While I regularly read other blogs and follow a great many excellent educators on Twitter, my contribution that learning has been limited. I do post and re-tweet regularly on Twitter, participating in various chats (#engchat, #cpchat, and #ntchat are some favorites), and I certainly share with other teachers articles I find. While I am a strong advocate for Social Media based professional learning, I have not done much to promote or advocate for my teachers to take the plunge. So I am going to take Dean’s challenge, albeit somewhat modified as I have not been much a blogger myself. I have approached four teachers whose experience ranges from a first year teacher to a Department Head to take part in some Reflective Practice, blogging, and professional reading. I will use Royan’s article about his blogging process and tools as a way to manage the writing process for my group and myself. While the individuals selected are each excellent teachers, they each have different comfort levels with technology so I know this will take some hand-holding and guiding. Hopefully this experiment will help these teachers examine what they do in the class, try new things, or verify for them that they are on the right track when other suggest they may not be.
I firmly believe that educators must by their very nature and profession strive to be lifelong learners. If we stop trying to improve, or believe we have nothing left to learn, then we must reconsider our purpose in the education system. I look forward to the upcoming experience, and I look forward to any feedback as I open up my flat classroom.