“Reflections: Looking back, Looking ahead”

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It’s that time of year – June.  Students and teachers everywhere feel the end is near and summer is soooooo close.  It’s the time when you start winding things down, wrapping things up, putting things away and making plans for next year.  You might be too busy with report cards and year end hoopla to think about it, but reflections will come. After students reflect on their own learning and you reflect on your student’s learning, you are going to be next.  So how will you reflect?  Over drinks with colleagues at the year end party?  As you clean out your classroom on the last day of school? Or have you thought about the year as it happened, making notes of what worked and what didn’t?

 

How do you reflect on your practice so that you continue to grow as a teacher leader?

What things do you reflect on? What were your highs and lows of the year?

What are you celebrating this year?

Was there anything you wouldn’t do again? Why?

What risks will you try next year?

Share your thoughts with us at our upcoming twitter chat”Reflections: Looking back, Looking ahead” on  June 11, 2014 at 5pm Mountain time using #leadEPSB.  Reflecting on the school year between friends is the best place to start thinking about your practice. Hope to see you soon!

 

 

 

Published in: Twitter Chats on June 6, 2014 at10:30 pm Comments (0)
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May 28, 2014 Twitter Chat: “Using Twitter as a Leadership Tool” #leadEPSB

The Leadership Development Framework for Edmonton Public Schools has been designed on a flexible, competency-based model.

12 competencies were identified by closely examining and combining competencies laid out in the Principal Quality Practice Standard (PQPS*),  Professional Practice Competencies for Central Leaders) (PPCCL**) and current leadership research.

An Edmonton Public School Leader:

  1. builds relationships
    hot air balloon
  2. coaches for success
  3. communicates effectively
  4. engages and manages resources
  5. envisions for the future
  6. focuses on leading and learning
  7. focuses on results
  8. inspires for action
  9. leads with confidence and competence
  10. makes decisions
  11. reflects on practices
  12. understands the larger context

 

As we work  to develop our capabilities as leaders, how can Social Media  assist us? How can Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Blogging and other social media platforms help emerging leaders develop these competencies? Where do you start? If there are advantages to using social media,  where do you focus your time and effort? How do you engage your colleagues so they too, can benefit?

Join in on the discussion as we explore these questions in an hour-long Twitter chat beginning at 5 pm (Mountain daylight time)  on Wednesday, May 28. Hashtag is #leadEPSB

 

 

Published in: Twitter Chats on May 24, 2014 at9:15 pm Comments (0)
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Passing on the Glory

Me, standing in the back row, second from the left.

Me, standing in the back row, second from the left.

A personal risk I am taking this year is playing outdoor soccer. My girlfriend approached me with the idea and it took me about 2 weeks to think about it.  Ridiculous, I know. I wanted to play to meet new people and to try the sport.  I was hesitant because I didn’t think I could commit, I wasn’t fit enough and of course, I didn’t want to look like a fool.

I finally agreed to join the “Pylons” soccer team, a mixed bunch of soccer players from experts to novices.  I was welcomed by my teammates and encouraged when many players told me they didn’t know how to play the game either. It didn’t matter because it was apparent that no matter what our skill level was, we all had a desire to learn and support each other!

Yesterday’ s game was a turning point for our team.  One of our best players decided he wasn’t going to score today.  He would simply pass the ball.  We laughed. Nick is very competitive and we rely on him to get the goals for our team since most of the girls on our team are novice players.  But, he kept true to his word.  One of our other male teammates got us up two points in the first half and then he relaxed a bit too.

By easing up on the competitiveness and the glory of scoring many goals, these skilled players would get close to the net and then pass the ball to a Pylon player, usually one of us girls. If we weren’t just standing around and was “with-it” enough to receive the pass, it went in.  And, that’s what happened to me!  Twice!  I could not believe that I kept up with my Nick and received his pass to score.  What an amazing feeling.  My teammates congratulated me with shouts and pats on the back. Having never experienced goal scoring before,  it’s hard to know what to say or do in that moment.  I smiled and hugged the girlfriend who convinced me to join soccer.

The confidence I received after those two goals was instantaneous. I ran harder, put more effort and started cheering on my other teammates, wanting them to score too. When I played, I focused on making more passes too.  I thanked Nick and Craig for their assists and felt energized by the experience. They were just as excited, as I was.

The sweetest moment came when my girlfriend got the ball and passed it to me as I was running for the net.  Lo and behold, I scored again!  A hat trick!  My girlfriend says she wishes she could take credit for the skill of getting the pass right to me but laughs it off as sheer luck.  In telling my husband my soccer story later that evening, I too laughed off any skill as “Thank goodness for Nick and Craig and just being in the right spot.”  But you know what?  It doesn’t matter how or why it happened.  I got the job done when it needed to be done.  Growing up, I was never part of a sports team. The teamwork and support I received from my Pylons teammates made me feel like a kid. I felt like I was on top of the world, and drove home from the game, with a permanent smile.  Today, I am feeling aches and pains but the feeling of successful teamwork trumping individual effort is still with me.  So much so, I had to share my story.

What risks are you taking in your life? It doesn’t have to big.  Just stepping out of your comfort zone a little bit creates a path for more risk-taking.  Have you been part of a team outside of your work?  I used to think, ”I don’t need to be part of a team.  I have my family. I’m not missing out on anything.”  I guess I can read this blog when I ever start thinking like that again!

Published in: Teacher Reflections on June 10, 2013 at2:58 pm Comments (2)
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Reflections on the Year

 

Reflections on a Year of Professional Growth

 

The time I took off teaching this year has been an amazing learning experience.  As I set out to take more risks in my life, I was rewarded with incredible opportunities for growth.  This was a year of learning driven by me, the learner and it is one I will cherish.

As I share my learning from this year, I have outlined the leadership competencies I feel my learning  addressed. The competencies are 4 areas of leadership  my school district has specifically identified as goals for teacher leaders. They are as follows:

1.) Coach for Success

2.) Communicate Effectively

3.) Focus on Leading for Learning

4.) Understand the Larger Context

 

My Learning Adventures

1)  I became an active participant on Twitter: 

(Focus on Leading for Learning)

After attending and presenting at a ConnectEd Conference in May 2012, I was introduced to the twitter world. At the conference, a wonderful person took me through the twitter process, from setting up an account and following people to sending my own tweets.  I went from a “lurker” to a “contributor” and now I am working on inviting my own staff members to join, and developing a PLN (Professional Learning Network). My teaching partner and I have already agreed to set up a classroom account for our grade 3′s the following school year.

 

All the other risks I took this year stemmed from twitter.  Being part of twitter is like being in a room full of amazing, talented people and hearing all their conversations. I am mentored by educators inspiring me to be my “best” by directing me to articles, apps, websites, book titles, online chats and conversations. The resources and connections I have discovered have been shared with my own staff. I have set up a school hashtag for my staff as well as the schools in our cohort division group and am encouraging colleagues to become active participants by sharing and teaching them about twitter.

 

2)   I started a Blog:

(Communicates Effectively)

It was hard to write about innovations in the classroom when I was only teaching one day a week. I put off writing my blog because I felt I had nothing to offer other educators.  I had to adjust my thinking and learn to write for myself rather than for an audience. My blog is where I write about my reflections on what I want to know and who I want to become. I love knowing that I can visit my blog and read about the things I have accomplished and the risks I have taken in my teaching. It’s a terrific learning experience taking the time from your teaching to reflect and record your hopes and dreams about your teaching journey.

 

3)   I participated in an ETMOOC!

(Understands the Larger Context)

I joined an ETMOOC without even knowing what it stood for! ETMOOC stands for (Educational and Technology Media Massive Open Online Course). They’re free, online courses that are open to anyone.  The ETMOOC course I participated in introduced me to new people in the field of education, encouraged me to make a short video about myself using a variety of tech tools and introduced me to digital storytelling. All of these are available for viewing on my blog under the category ETMOOC.

The rest of the course was completely overwhelming but I was so proud of myself that I completed the first two tasks.  I learned about new forms of technology that are available to teachers and tried things I didn’t even know existed. As a new learner to technology, I was thrilled to discover the range of activities offered in order to complete a task. I appreciated the differentiated course content and experienced the excitement a learner goes through when trying new things. It opened my eyes as to how and why I should teach this way too.

 

4)    I Skyped!

(Understands the Larger Context)

First, I had to find a purpose for wanting to Skype. I wanted to compare life in the country to life in the city with my grade one Social class.  With my class living in the city, I decided to search for a teacher who taught in the country. I put my request on twitter and found a teacher from a small town in New Zealand.  After receiving a Skype lesson from one of my staff members, I practiced skyping with my grade one class and the grade one teacher with whom I job-share. We fixed any technical difficulties and I was on my way to setting up a Skype date.

The learning experience was awesome!  My class got to see another class in a different part of the world and learn about life in their town.  Kids will always remember doing and taking part in this experience more than what they could just read or hear about.  I am thinking of ways I can continue flattening my classroom walls and reaching out to others globally.

 

5)      I Shared and still SHARE with others

(Coaches for Success, Communicates Effectively, Focuses on Leading for Learning)

From my twitter handle, my blog, Google docs, and ideas for lessons to acts of inspiration, motivation and general “people building,” I shared.  It’s not easy putting yourself out there. Things that are important to you are not always that important to others. Sometimes your thoughts or questions reach no one. But when I feel something can truly benefit others, I put it out there.  My colleague once told me that he didn’t feel it necessary to share everything you do with others.  He found it to be self-aggrandizing.  I don’t agree.  I learned from one of my followers on twitter that if you aren’t sharing, you aren’t learning.  That resonated with me and so I share.  What you put out comes back always, in all ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6)  I  Practice Mindfulness

(Understands the Larger Context, Coaches for Success)

The one thing I rediscovered this year was something I knew all along but got lost in the hustle and bustle of life.  The art of ‘being present’.  Being present is accepting that the only time is “NOW”.  When we are focused on the now, we are focused solely on what we are doing or who we are with.  We are mindful of others, compassionate, empathetic and able to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, like breathing! A leadership course on Mindfulness helped me practice mindfulness both informally, by monitoring my awareness and concentrating on one task at a time and formally, through meditation. These practices help develop meaningful, authentic relationships with my students, their families and my colleagues.

7)     I continued to Team Teach and work Collaboratively

(Coach for success, Focus on Leading for Learning)

I collaborated with the other grade one teachers in Social Studies and invited them to participate in team- teaching two classes of grade one students.  We started from day one and outlined the behaviors and procedures needed for when our classes united.  It was incredible to see the blended classes work together, listen to each other in discussions and adapt to different learning environments. The growth I experienced in my own teaching by having another teacher teach with me was valuable.  We created quality assignments, shared in our assessments, reflected on what was learned and what needed improvement and discussed our own viewpoints on the teaching and learning that was taking place.  These conversations would not have happened had I taught alone. Teachers, open your doors and flatten your classroom walls.  The profession is so much more engaging and inspiring when we work and grow together. It my hope and dream to convince administration that giving assigned time for collaborative work  is essential if we want to see  inquiry based learning, innovative projects, and meaningful assessments, in our schools.

 

These are some of the learning experiences I encountered during my time off teaching for the 2012-2013 year.  In taking a risk to reduce my teaching time and stay at home with my two children, I grew as a parent, a teacher and an individual. I grew in all ways!  These are blessings I take with me onto my next learning adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

Developing Resonance

 

I once had a principal who I considered to be a resonant leader.  When he talked, everyone was engaged.  He could inspire his teaching staff and motivate us for the school year with his stories, humor and passion. My principal was a confident leader who inspired everyone to give their best. 

His leadership was not the only reason staff members gave their best. From the moment I was hired, he expressed an interest in supporting and helping me grow as a teacher.  He shared stories about his family life and past-times and asked questions about my own life. I felt special because he took the time to get to know me as a teacher and as a person. This was just his way.  With staff, students, parents and every person he met, my principal made people feel valued and heard.

 

Resonant leaders inspire others to give their best by drawing out and amplifying the best in people. They tend to be “approach” oriented and have leadership presence. 

 Every day, my principal took time out of his day to go for a jog. He told me it helped clear his mind and made him feel energized. This was time he took for himself. When I took on a different teaching position, I understood the importance of taking time for oneself. For me, it became about living in the present moment. Taking the time to breathe, feel my emotions and body, and observe or express whatever feelings rose within. This simple yet difficult practice eased my stress and anxiety about the past and future. I learned there were no problems if you could live in the present.

 Resonant leaders attain resonance with those around them through self awareness and relationship management.

 As I grow in my teaching and awareness of self, I wonder, “Am I a resonant leader?” When I am fully present, I am aware of my surroundings and my purpose. I am expressing my authentic self.  People value authenticity because all human beings want to be heard, seen and accepted.  When I am my true authentic self, I am truthful and compassionate with people. I speak candidly from the heart and about things that matter. My passion comes across and I can resonate with people around me.

 Resonance also comes from relationship management. Being present with human beings means accepting each interaction for what it is, without the need to judge. Relationships are easier to form and manage when you can see the good in all people. I am working on developing and extending my relationships at work. Naturally, I feel more comfortable with the colleagues who are closest in grade or division to me. I am working on extending my encounters to teachers and students outside of my division. The easiest way for me to start this is to give my full attention to every personal encounter I have with people outside of my division. Valuing people and seeking to support and help them, is my way of developing resonance.

 By practicing mindfulness, being present in the work I do, and working on extending and developing relationships with people, I strive to be a resonant leader.  What kind of leader do you want to be?

 

Published in: Teacher Reflections on April 8, 2013 at7:23 pm Comments (2)
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The Dog Days- Finding Balance

 

Last school year, I experienced the joy and excitement of taking risks with my teaching and trying something innovative.  Combining the school’s two grade 3 classes and team teaching was an amazing, learning experience. It was one where my teaching practice improved dramatically because of consistent coaching and reflection with my grade 3 learning partner.

With this experience came times of weariness, frustration and high stress. I was not aware of the term “power stress”, a term coined by Boyatzis and McKee, but perhaps this is what I experienced. Because I wanted to succeed so strongly and not disappoint my teaching partner, I didn’t allow myself to feel sad or exhausted. Since what we were doing was a new experience, we isolated ourselves- working constantly to make the experience a success. 

My physical and emotional exhaustion came during breaks like Christmas vacation and Spring Break.  Vacation time was spent recuperating in bed because I was sick.  I took naps constantly and still had trouble feeling refreshed. My thoughts of disappointing my family and myself made things worse. I wondered what was wrong with me.

I noticed the same ‘power stress’ occur with my teaching partner as well. Between the two of us, our states of “dissonance”, which luckily for us occurred at different times, drained our enthusiasm and energy. We were lucky because when dissonance occurred in one teacher, the other was able to take the lead.

I realize that this is a part of leadership reality.  Taking time off from teaching this year has given me the recovery time I needed to reflect and “be” but also to learn how to take better care of myself, if I want to continue to pursue leadership opportunities. I needed to learn how to shorten the recovery time of “power stress” and experience it as it arrives, rather than have it pounce on me during “down time.”

Before taking my Mindfulness course, I knew the benefits of being present and how to practice mindfulness, but I wasn’t doing it daily when I was working full-time. This course is reminding me of my practice and the importance of making the effort to be present, everyday. But how was I going to do that when working full-time?

One idea that is making more sense is a formal meditation. A formal meditation helps in increasing the magnitude of ‘feeling alive’ and being one with your body.  I found that after listening to a guided meditation by Kim Eng, I was calm and re-energized. At home, I was able to unblock my feelings and thoughts and let them flow through me.  I could let my body relax deeply and observe my breath become slow and deep. This is a practice I am curious about. I have tried formal meditations a handful of times and would like to explore it further as a way to help shorten the recovery time of stress.

BUT, I just wonder if I am able to find the time to do this when I am at work?  Today, I worked and my extra minute was for the bathroom and a glass of water.  After school, I had teachers entering my room to discuss immediate matters and then it was home time.  I don’t know how to bring this important practice into the realities of a hectic work schedule?

 I wonder how others manage their work and home lives and find the time to re-energize themselves on a consistent basis?

 

 

 

 

Creating Leadership Presence through Mindfulness

 

Being mindful of the present moment

Great leaders I have come to known, have a presence about them that makes everyone want to listen, be around them, and feel their energy.  When I listen to Deepak Chopra or Eckhart Tolle, my mind slows down, my body relaxes and I feel an energy that is bigger than me. Is that the result of their “Leadership Presence” or is that just the power of “presence”?

Maria Gonzalez talks about 9 ways to Mindful Leadership in her book, “Mindful Leaders: 9 ways to Self Awareness, Transforming Yourself and Inspiring Others.” The 9 ways are summarized below:

1)      Be Present

2)      Be Aware

3)      Be Focused

4)      Be Calm

5)      Be Clear

6)      Have Equanimity

7)      Have Compassion

8)      Be Positive

9)      Be Impeccable

My lifetime goal is to be more present and aware in my everyday life. This means to pay attention to the present moment, without making judgments. In my practice so far, I have found that ‘being mindful’ or ‘being present’ helps me stay clear and focused on what it is I am supposed to be doing.  I don’t worry about the future nor do I dwell on the past. I don’t let my mind begin its chatter. I simply BE.  In this state, I am happier too, because I am not resisting the moment.  I am in the moment and at peace.

Since I have started practicing mindfulness, I no longer define myself by my experiences or lack of experiences.  I have stopped labelling things I do, as good or bad. I work diligently on being non-judgmental. This has allowed me to take more risks in my life, embrace uncertainty , be accepting of people and situations, and understand that everything I need right now, is here in the present.   The 9 ways are my life lessons.

For myself, creating a leadership presence means staying in tune with what I am supposed to be doing at the present time.  It means focusing on the work in front of me and doing it with incredible attention and presence.  By doing so, I become more in touch with who I am already and empower my true self rather than thinking about how I can be better. Everything I need is already within me.  It is energy that is powerful, captivating and passed on to those around you.  People are attracted to positive energy.

 

 My leadership presence will rise from the daily practice of being mindful.  As I observed from taking the Mindfulness Awareness Scale, a scale from 1 to 6, designed to assess a core characteristic of dispositional mindfulness, we can start where we are and improve our levels of mindfulness through daily practice. With 6 being the most mindful to 1 being the least mindful, most people average around 3.86 out of 6. Individuals who can increase their mindfulness are more in tune with themselves and the people around them.  These qualities are anything but average, and people tend to gravitate toward them, thus creating a Presence.  It could be called “Leadership Presence” or simply “a way of being.” 

Either way…it’s a practice I’m using to become the kind of Leader I want to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: Teacher Reflections on March 11, 2013 at8:34 pm Comments (0)
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The Mentor

Everyone should have a mentor in their teaching career.  I have always surrounded myself by people who could help guide me through whatever grade, subject or class I was teaching.  When I was student teaching, my cooperating teacher was amazing at preparing me for a career teaching Drama.  When I got my first teaching job (one that wasn’t teaching Drama), my principal was there for me no matter what.  In that first year, everything was a learning experience for me and he was  there to answer my questions, give advice, and care about me as a person. These two people provided me with the confidence I needed to know I could do this job and be good at it.

I have formed many relationships with amazing teachers who have come and gone from my life.  Each person left something with me that made me into the teacher I am today. There have been so many lessons and I am so thankful I  teach with an open door so that I can continue to welcome the lessons.

Today, I continue on the journey to be my personal best.  I want to learn and pursue more outside of the classroom than ever before.  I am ready to “people build” and by that, I mean share with others my experiences so that they too, can learn, grow and try new things.  I have already started and am happy to say I took to twitter and writing a blog that will help me and others grow and be inspired.

I have come across an opportunity to learn more about leadership and be mentored by an experienced leader.  Recently, my newly formed mentor asked me

“What does the mentor relationship mean to you?”

Upon some serious reflection, here is what I came up with.

1) I want someone to take the time to get to know me and understand me   as a teacher and person today.  I want to be coached by someone who will help reinforce my skill-set and identify areas I need to improve. I want to be encouraged to keep exploring and taking risks with my teaching and my pursuit to “people build” outside of the classroom.

 

2) I want someone to believe in me and my abilities.

 

 

3) In my relationship with my mentor, I want to be able to have conversations that drive us both forward.  It’s important to me that we question and challenge each other and hopefully nudge each other in a direction we wouldn’t normally consider or take. In doing so, I want us to see these new perspectives or ideas, without feeling threatened. Instead I would want us to remember that our relationship is one where we both want to grow and learn and that we should feel like we can express our thoughts without the fear of being ridiculed or judged.

4) I want to know that if I fail or doubt myself, my mentor will be there to remind me that without risk, there is no reward and that they will have my back.

That is the mentor relationship I want to have to help me be the Teacher leader I want to be…

 

Published in: Teacher Reflections on March 4, 2013 at5:36 am Comments (0)
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Joining Weight Watchers

Who would have thought I would be blogging about this defining moment in my life and through digital storytelling!?  But this is what this #etmooc challenge has got me doing!  That and the fact that I am willing to be open and just try!  It just might be a lesson in life – Be Open to New Things and Just Try It!

So the next digital storytelling exercise I decided to try was the Five Card Flicr Story. It is based on the Five Card Nancy card game by Scott McLeod, and is an exercise in visual storytelling. You are dealt five random images from a Flickr tag and you pick one to be in your story. In the next four rounds you again choose from 5 new random photos with the idea of building a coherent storyline from your five photos.  I picked my pictures and the story just came.  I don’t know how- I guess I had a reaction or thought about each picture and strung them all together.  Here is the link I visited to get started:  http://5card.cogdogblog.com//play.php?suit=etmooc

Again, I have no idea if I did it right. Is there even a right way of doing these things?  I just had fun and told my story.  I enjoyed the process and surprised myself by my own learning.  That’s the teacher I want to be…

Here’s my story if  you feel like checking it out:

http://5card.cogdogblog.com//show.php?id=30580

 

Published in: etmooc on February 6, 2013 at5:13 am Comments (2)
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A Simple Digital Story

Digital storytelling is the telling of stories that are made accessible through a form of media.  The stories may consist of images, music, animation, text or all of the above.

There are many resources out there that explore Digital storytelling and my #etmooc assignment is to pick and choose the ones that interest me and start telling stories!

My digital story comes from my first time experience using skype in the grade 1 classroom.

I had read about the benefits of skyping on twitter and thought it sounded like a neat idea.  I am all for developing relationships and learning from others around the world.  So, I committed to skyping by writing it in my professional growth plan. The best thing about doing that was I had to create a timeline on how I was going to make it happen.  It forced me to step beyond thinking, “Yeah, I think I’d like to do that,” to “I better make a plan on how I’m going to do this.” After that, I just did it.

Now for the story on how you can do it too.

I will tell the story using just six words. Ok,ready? Here it is…

Ask people. Face computer. No fear.

And, that about sums up the experience.  I also like…

She had to believe she could.

If you want to tell your own 6 word story, here’s the link where I read some examples on how to write 6 word stories: http://www.sixwordstories.net/about/

Published in: etmooc on February 4, 2013 at5:41 am Comments (0)
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