The 21st Century Educator; Your Thoughts

There is so much conversation about 21st century learning and learners.  As a principal, I want to ensure that I empower my teacher with the opportunities that they can develop their skills in our schools to best meet the needs of students for both now and the future.  How do I do this though?  What are are the skills that I need to help my teachers access in the future, and what skills do I need as a principal.  Unfortunately, many seem to associate “technology integration” with 21st Century skills, but this is only a component.

So instead of writing a post about it, I would love to hear your thoughts?  It would be great to share this resource with others on what skills educators will need in the classroom.

Here is what I am asking for:

  1. Share what you do as an educator (administrator, librarian, teacher, or other role) and age group you work with.
  2. Share where you are from (this may show that there are different skills by region, ie. Are Canada and the United States looking to empower their educators with different skills?)
  3. Your thoughts on the skills that we need to ensure that educators have in the future to best meet the needs of the students we serve.

I would love to put all of your ideas together and summarize in a post in the future, but this blog is not only about sharing my thoughts; it is also about learning from others.

Please share your thoughts.

…Hello!

Well if you have found your way here, you probably have read some things from my former blog.  I have taken the opportunity to try and further my learning by buying my own server space and domain name.  I also wanted more control over the design process as well, as blogging has become a creative outlet for myself.

As my school moves to the end of a year, we have already started visioning for next year.  Creating our own site and domain for Forest Green School, I thought I should also learn more about WordPress.Org and how it differs from my former site.  We created the Forest Green site as we wanted students to create eportfolios and I wanted to lead by example, which was the reason I started this blog in the first place.

There are definitely going to be some bumps along the way (I was told that the site was slow already) but that is part of learning.  Hopefully you will continue to learn along with me.

I would love to hear some of your thoughts on the new site, format, anything?!?!?  It would be great to continue to learn along with you.

A HUGE thanks to my brother, Alec for pushing me to start a new site while also helping me with a lot of technical difficulties.  I really also wanted to thank Jared Bennett who helped me so much with my site and the new Forest Green site.

New Learning

As my first year as a principal is coming to an end, I have been really thinking on what next year could look like.  My number one focus this year was to get to know people and learn a lot about what it takes to be a principal.  There has been a lot of learning, and probably more than I expected because of my participation on Twitter.  It is great that I have seen more of my colleagues join Twitter and participate.  I can sometimes either gently coax or push depending on the person, but I really believe Twitter has been AMAZING for my learning and my progression.

For example, yesterday I purchased a new domain for our school.  As I am trying to set up an online community for kids, parents, and staff where we can all meet, I decided to use Buddypress and also WordPress MU. Not really knowing much about either of these sites, or hosting my own domain, or ftp, or it seems almost anything, I asked for help.  Fortunately, I received a TON of support from @mrjarbenne on Twitter.  He spent the night, AFTER playing with his kids, talking and helping me on Skype.  I should actually rephrase the term “help” and acknowledge that he did most of it.  Today I am playing, and after the initial set up and getting through some glitches, it is coming along very nicely.  I am VERY confident that our new school site will be up and running for September.  Thanks so much to Jarred for spending so much time with me and helping me out.  I have a feeling I have not skyped with him for the last time!

I am looking so forward to seeing how year 2 goes and how that I know the school and the community what I can do to help more people be successful.  I am so blessed to work with such a diverse and amazing group of people at my school.  The talent, skill level, expertise, and genuine caring for kids and each other is something that I am so grateful for.  This has enabled me to take more risks in my learning and implementation of these ideas into school, especially starting in September.

I cannot wait until next year to see the growth of our school and the growth of myself.  Thanks to everyone that helps me everyday.

If you are interested in seeing the growth of our school site, it is listed below:

Forest Green School Community

Slow posting

I am currently working on a few side projects by creating a buddypress site for our school to be up and running, while trying to move my blog to a new url.  I am looking forward to trying these things to see where they lead.  I have already had GREAT support from my PLN building these sites and look forward to sharing my learning with everyone!!!

Saying hello after saying goodbye

Lucky enough to get a picture with one of my former students.

It is interesting how I am reading a lot of sentimental posts at this time of year as things wind down in education.  Eric Sheninger just wrote a lovely post on the priceless moments that make education the best profession to be in, while Joan Young said goodbye to a teacher she mentored that had a great impact on her own practice.  Approximately one year ago at this time, I said goodbye to a wonderful group of staff, students, and parents.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my career, even though it was the fourth time I had done it.  Something was special and different at my last school, and as a first time administrator, I had learned so much.

Last year I found out during the last week of school that I was going to become a principal at another school in the division.  Although I was excited about the opportunity, I knew I was going to have a tough time to say goodbye so quickly to so many people that I had cared about for the previous two years.  When it was announced at our final assembly that I would be leaving, I was given the chance to speak.  It was a tear filled moment that was extremely bittersweet.

One of the GREATEST moments that I had ever had as an educator was at the end of the assembly.  In the gymnasium there are two main exit doors.  Wanting to say goodbye to as many kids as possible, I had to choose one, knowing that some students would go out the other.  What happened next I will never forget.  Every student wanting a chance to say goodbye to me, left out the door that I stood beside and gave me a hug and said goodbye.  The school has approximately 450 students from K-9 and every one of them stopped to hug me and say something.  I remember a group of students distinctly stopping and taking the time to say goodbye that I had suspended earlier in the year.  You could tell that they never thought anything of it at the time and held no grudges towards me since they knew that even though there were consequences with me, I would ALWAYS treat them with caring and dignity.  It was an amazing moment.

Just last week, I was asked to come back to the school and talk to the kids as the guest speaker at the Grade 9 Farewell.  It was such an honour to be asked to speak to this class, their parents, and many of the staff.  As I am not much of an “inspirational” speaker, they knew that I would make jokes for most of the time because it was always wonderful to be able to laugh with the students.  To prepare for my speech, I looked back at my year after Muir Lake and how the kids affected it.  The “serious” portion of my speech was not about what I taught them during my time there, but about what they taught me to prepare for being a principal.  Here were some of my key points:

  1. Always treat people with respect. Even when things are not going exactly the way you want them to be, you always have to be respectful to others.  Kids at that school always talked to me with respect and it was always given back.  When there is reciprocation of respect, it can be endless.
  2. Even in tough situations, it is still okay to laugh. I did suspend kids at that school.  A practice that I have implemented in my own career is that the day a student returns to school after a suspension, I talk to them.  Not necessarily about what happened, but just talk.  This is to show the person that yes, they made a mistake, but I still care for them and want to move forward along with them. This has worked wonders in helping to build relationships with students, but also help students focus on learning from their mistakes. I know that I have shared laughs with students after suspensions, and there is no better currency between educators and students than humour.
  3. Be enthusiastic about as much as possible! I spoke about a time that we took our students to New York on a school trip.  On the way to New York, we were delayed at the airport for 10 hours.  It was not the best time for us but I distinctly remember the kids running and getting so excited to go to McDonalds!  This enthusiasm I saw for something insignificant to me, was something that I saw from those kids the entire trip.  In fact, I was getting just as excited about the same things as they were.  Maybe it is going overboard, but I just learned that being enthused about the little things is just a better way to live.  It was a magnificent trip that I would do all over again.

I definitely taught these students a lot about the subjects that I was their teacher in and also lessons about life in general.  I know that.  What they didn’t know is that they taught me so much as well.  Part of the reason that they had the opportunity to teach me was because I was willing to learn from them.  Students have SO much to teach us about ourselves and what we do as educators. Learning from them will be as rewarding as anything that you have done as an educator. I am glad that I had the chance to share that with my old students and say thanks.

Distributed (Student) Leadership

In the last two days, I have given two “farewell” speeches to one program in my current school, and to a grade 9 class from my old school.  No matter how many times I give these speeches, I am always nervous.  The ceremony at my school was done so well and I was so thankful for the heart and soul that was placed into the preparation by staff.  What I was most inspired by the last few days was the kids.

At both ceremonies, you could tell that the students had done a significant amount of the planning and the preparation for the events.  The themes and ideas were theirs and were extremely well thought out.  It was amazing to see the ideas that they came up with.  Planning these type of events is something that does not really excite me myself so it is great to see when kids take the LEAD and are excited about these opportunities.  From what I remember in my school days, the adults in the building put in a ton of effort in the organizing and planning, and led much of the way.  Although it saved many of us a lot of work, I feel that many of the kids in my class would have LOVED this planning and organization (to be honest, I would have not been one of them).

I really believe that if we give students opportunities like this, we do not only empower and engage them in the overall school environment, but it actually makes our job a lot easier.  For example, I had one student who was a whiz with technology.  At the school I was at, I was the tech lead and would go around fixing computers and hardware for teachers when things were down.  I took one afternoon with this student and shared some tips with him.  The grade 6 student then became the “go-to” person for our staff when things needed to be fixed.  Not only did the student love it, but he felt like an essential part of the school.  Two years later, going back to my old school last night, he was running the entire show for the ceremony.  I was so proud to see how this had continued.

My advice to many staff is that we need to give students more opportunities to lead and participate.  Why would I be grumpy decorating a gym for an assembly when I know there are kids who will do it AND love it?  This is not about giving up my responsibility, but it is about giving students the opportunity to share it.  The more opportunities we give them to lead in all areas of school, they will not only be more engaged in the school environment, but they will also make YOUR school better.  I am so proud that my school is able to have so many student led initiatives in our building.

Are you willing to hand over those reigns?  When you do, you will see the instant results.

Shared Ways We Are Improving Education; #WeAct

I would like to thank everyone that added their tweets, blog posts, stories, and anything else to the #WeAct initiative.  This was an opportunity for educators to show what we are doing NOW in our schools to improve the learning of not only students, but also of educators.  We can learn so much from the stories that we share with one another.

Here is a comment that was shared on this post by @kelalford:

I think the way I have made education better for my students this year is by connecting with several other schools.
We have used the Interactive Television system in our building to talk to 2 different authors, a scientist from Michigan State that helped observe LIVE crickets ( my tech team has begged me not to do that again!), and more importantly work with several students from all over. We met students in Canada for Read Across the Planet, and with students all over the state of Michigan. My students wrote plays to share with other schools, created a presentation about our town, developed interview questions for the authors we talked to, wrote their own folktale (state grade level expectation)created a monster and wrote step by step directions for a school across the state to build, and their favorite was a taking information from one school and using maps and research to try to find our where they are.

All of these activities gave my students an authentic audience. It made them feel empowered to share what they have learned with other students. They learned with writing we have to be clear. We used measurement in an authentic way…not just the measure your desk activity, which has its place, but they were able to see math, science, social studies and language arts all blur together in one activity. It was amazing to see students use maps and textbooks to find a location and to create clues for where we are. I loved every activity because my students were so engaged, and they were so proud of themselves…it was meaningful to my students. That is when true learning occurs, when it is full of meaning for the students!
Here are the other links that were shared. I encourage you to take time and read them and share the stories with others about educators continuously improving their practice:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thanks again for all of your contributions!  I appreciate the supports, tweets, and retweets.