Learning this Week

reading with dadA couple of weeks ago I posted my Professional Growth Plan and mini 360 results on this blog as well as sending the link through Twitter. I have had a number of interesting responses to that and the majority are very supportive. I think some are still wondering why I would do that – I wanted to model vulnerability and surviving it. I wanted to model that risk taking behavior helps us all grow. I wanted to model migh commitment to continued learning and walking the walk. I am constantly encouraging our administrators to get out of the office and into the classrooms – well then I better make a solid effort to do so myself!

So, this week by invitation I spent some quality time in a few of our schools. I visited two of our 4 high schools and two of our 8 prek-8 schools for ‘official’ visits as well as lunch in another high school to discuss student led conferences and observations of Learning Improvement Teams in another school – 8 schools in total this week.

In summary we have plenty to be proud of in our school division. In one of the prek-8 schools when we toured around every single classroom (422 students) demonstrated curricular focused learning – there was no ‘fluff’. Its not that I expected to see fluff only that there is often the notion that some of what we do isnt connected to outcomes and in that instance I saw connected learning taking place. SLO’s were posted in various ways and students were actively engaged, I did not see a single example of ‘sit and get’ going on. In the other prek-8 school I was able to see a family reading event taking place. Wow. It was exciting to see the number of dads who took time away from work in the middle of the day to come to the school to read with their children and do some organized activities around nonfiction reading. The principal shared the school goal with the parents present as well as a short descriptor of metacognition. Learning was everywhere! This school is what we would consider a ‘community school’ meaning they have a higher number of at risk families, low income and other social challenges at a higher rate than others.

At the high schools we had lengthy discussions regarding student support, assessment, learning improvement teams, walk throughs and general discussions around teacher practice. It was enlightening to hear our administrators speak so affirmatively about the practices they are confident are supporting student success in their buildings.

So after those visits I am left with the following reflections:
1. How do we get the message about about the great practices we have taking place and is it an important message to get out?
2. While we havent had a solid provincial comparator for a few years our large scale assessment results often indicated that our students were performing average to below average compared to their provincial counterparts in reading, writing and math. Sometimes there were brighter spots but overall we were average to below average – WHY? We have solid assessment and teaching practices in place, generally engaged parents and students – we should be knocking it out of the park but yet we aren’t. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on this but it is a niggling question at the back of my mind.
3. I was always confident in our administrators but after these visits I am even more confident in their leadership abilities. I feel we have focused on learning leadership and raised the bar for our admin and they continue to meet and exceed it.

I am sincerely thankful for the time that admin spent with me this week and I am sincerely excited and looking forward to the upcoming visits that are planned. I appreciate the time, talents and passion of the educators we have in our classrooms and schools.

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