So looking through the responses made by my PLN I have learned a lot about the thoughts of others on the skills of the 21st century learner. It was interesting to read the thoughts of the tools that teachers will need to move forward to become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and collaborators. So if we know all of these things, what do we need to do to get there? What do I need to do as an administrator to empower my students and staff?
My job as an administrator is to empower my staff and give them tools to be successful. Sometimes this is sharing knowledge, sometimes this is providing tools (it is not about the tools, but we definitely we need them if we want to connect globally), and sometimes this is allowing them to take risks (calculated but still risks).
There are many staff that are already trying different things. I have staff writing their own blogs, creating multimedia with students, collaborating in the classroom through simple things like show and share. I am seeing these practices everyday. Unfortunately (not for me but for everyone else), I am able to visit different classrooms everyday. I have the opportunity to see the effective practices that each of these teachers are doing.
So HOW do I give my staff more opportunities? Here are my initial thoughts:
- Time – This is the greatest commodity that we lack in schools. There is always that balance of leaving the classroom to learn more but then who is working with the kids? This is always a great struggle with teachers and it totally makes sense. Our school will also continue to offer, “release time” for teachers to simply further their learning in critical thinking and technology integration. Hopefully this time will provide beneficial to staff.
- Opportunities for Collaboration – My Assistant Principal, who is absolutely amazing, has been working on a schedule where staff has preps at the same time of day so that they will have the opportunity to share best practices with one another. There are definitely times that teachers need to just work on their own and get things done, but we wanted to ensure that time was available to learn from their teaching partners.
- Job Embedded Professional Development – As we are working on distributed leadership, we have provided time for staff to take the lead in certain areas in our staff, including special education reform, technology integration, and critical thinking. Although they will need time to further their own learning, they will also have time to work with teachers IN the classroom along with students. This not only lowers the ratio of teacher to student, but it also gives staff the opportunity to learn on the job in a safe manner. We are looking forward to see how this progresses in the next year.
- Tools – Ultimately we cannot connect through things like Skype with out cameras, computers, and microphones. If we want to collaborate with others and open up opportunities for students to use technology, I have to ensure that these tools are available in the classroom. As a technology integration coordinator, I saw the reluctance of many who had to go grab carts, set things up, etc., etc. It is essential these tools are readily available in the classroom for staff so it is the same as grabbing a writing utensil. Of course costs cause an issue, but the better we can equip the classroom, the more likely we are able to reach our goals.
- Professional Development Opportunities – In our school division, we have eight days next year that are for professional development and are up to each site to decided how they are used. It is important as an administrator that I align our goals and vision with what we do during these days. If it doesn’t fit (which I have seen in schools), then we don’t do it. We need to be very deliberate in the way that we spend these days. There are always the “little” things that we must ensure that we get done for our school division, but it is essential that we use our time as wisely as possible. This also includes time for teachers to just “work” on things for their classroom; it is not about filling the day with professional development. Often times as learners, we check out when topics are “overkill”. It is important that we are wise in how we use this time and thoughtful of how it affects our staff as a whole.
Now these are only some of the ideas that we have had to move our vision forward. As an administrator I have a lot of opportunities in our school to determine how our budget is used and what it is used for, so this is how I will focus my time.
Are there things that your staff does that are useful that are missing from this list? Are there things on this list that will not work? I do not believe in “my ideas” but I believe in “best ideas”; all input is valued.
Hopefully we are on the right path.