Personal Wellness Con’t

With a week until the first day of school, I find myself with poor sleep, a knot in between my shoulder blades and worry lines between my eyebrows.  How can  I find myself feeling stressed already?  Quite easily when the school is a disaster, unfinished construction that will not be completed by the first day of school, disgruntled staff for whom I don’t have answers, and a hugely growing population and no more room in the building for growth.  The frustration of so many things beyond my control is what is causing the stress, I can only manage my reaction to these things.

I need to keep in mind that it is not my responsibility to be everything to everybody.  Adults should be able to problem-solve–I should not solve every problem.  It creates stress when I find myself reacting to the words and actions of others.  I need to keep in mind that I only have control over my own actions, and that unless it’s a medical emergency (and really, how often do those actually happen?), it’s okay to not react immediately.  I am in control of my own emotions and actions, it’s my job to manage them appropriately, even in the heat of the moment.

My board has identified staff wellness as a priority this year.  I am happy, because well adults are much better able to service the needs of students.  And make for a much happier culture and school climate.  We all need to care for each other–and that includes me caring about staff, and staff reciprocating.

I sincerely wish all educators a smooth transition back to school.  We are in this together, and our passion for educating children is what makes us keep coming back, year after year.


Personal Health and Well-being

One area that we don’t often spend enough time thinking about in the realm of education is personal health and well-being.  We focus largely on student health and well-being, and often put ourselves last in the haze of never-ending paperwork and responsibilities.  We also tend to think about the well-being of our staff, and yet who is thinking about our well-being if we’re not?

As I consider this, as in years past, I know that making my own health is a priority.  We all need to take downtime and find ways to positively manage stress.  In my other life, I am a yoga teacher, and practice both yoga and meditation–when not distracted by school.  It’s ironic that I counsel and teach others how to manage their stress, yet allow my own stress to remain unchecked.

One of the manifestations of a stressful career and lifestyle is being at an unhealthy weight.  When I consider how many educators are at an unhealthy weight, I find it alarming.  We are a group of adults who model and teach children and young people about health.  Clearly as a whole, we need to change things up.  Manage our stress.  Exercise.  Eat well.  Essentially at the heart of it, if we’re not healthy adults, we are not able to do our jobs to the best of our ability.  Which only compounds the stress.

I have done a significant amount of work with my board around the mental health and well-being of our students.  I think it’s time that I invest my energies into working to improve the health and well-being of staff.  One of the ways that I’ve already begun, is sitting on the local OPC group’s executive, and endeavouring to improve our working conditions and manage the amount of work and stress being downloaded by senior admin to principals and vice-principals.

I am happy to know that at our administrators symposium this August, in addition to having Dr. Marion Small present as our PD opportunity, I am offering yoga classes to anyone who would like to participate.  It’s small, but it’s a start.  And hopefully it will grow from there.

Leadership Roles and Tools

As principals have increasingly become instructional leaders as the main part of their role, engaging staff in Collaborative Inquiry to inform professional development is critical.  Using multiple data sources to determine gaps in student learning and well-being, and working collaboratively to develop a workable if/then statement is key to beginning a successful CI.  Use of current sources of research to build capacity, and multiple opportunities to implement ideas with students, followed by collection of student evidence for analysis, should provide opportunities for next steps, and determination of the success of the strategies implemented.

Working on collaborative inquiries with my staff has given me the opportunity to participate as a co-learner, and has also helped to continue to build relational trust and working partnerships.  Respectful dialogue and opportunities to challenge one another have really increased professional learning and strengthened the teaching collaborations in my building.

There is always the issue of how to engage reluctant staff members in professional development opportunities, and for myself as a leader, I see Collaborative Inquiry as an ideal opportunity to have staff give input into the project, both process and end goal.  When staff have the chance to feel totally included and have some power in how the project evolves, there tends to be greater commitment and learning that takes place.

A tool that leaders can use to reflect upon the professional learning that both they and their schools are engaging is a blog.  This public (depending on the settings applied) forum, is an opportunity to share the work and the learning with others.  Blogs vary in level of formality, and in my opinion, should reflect the writer’s personality.  When used as a reflective tool, they can be informative for both the writer, and the reader.

A blog is a good way to showcase the work that leaders are doing in their schools, as well as personal professional learning.  I enjoy to write and reflect, and although I have generally done it for professional purposes in a private notebook, I am beginning to consider my blog a better place to engage in reflection.  My blog also serves as digital portfolio for me, and I have included links, as well as my philosophy of education.  In the links I have included my LinkedIn page, where readers can find out more about my professional experience, and my education.  It continues to be a work in progress, and also links to my other life–my yoga.  Given that I have done work combining yoga, mindfulness and education, I think it’s a great option to marry the two professionally.

While digital portfolios have not become common in my board, it is the way the world is moving.  I have looked at digital portfolios of design professionals, and have gotten some great ideas.  I also have looked at business professional portfolios online, where I have found some other great ideas.  I have found that professionals in those areas are often more versed in these modalities, and are a great resource for educational professionals.

Using a digital portfolio to showcase yourself is an effective way to generate interest in any projects or ongoing work in which you are engaged, and once set up is an easily updated and maintained forum.  Moving forward, it is my intention to continue to update my blog as my digital portfolio, including visuals and writing about work that I am doing–myself and with my staff.  I see my blog/digital portfolio as continually evolving, and I am asking friends in fields outside of education for feedback, as well as colleagues so that I can make it the most comprehensive possible.

The beginning or the continuation?

Although not new to blogging–I’ve had a personal blog for years–I have never really kept a written record of my leadership reflections, save in reports written to satisfy my SO. Having said that, I love to write my reflections in other areas of my life, so while this is a new blog and in some ways a new beginning, it’s also a logical continuation of my personal writing and blogging.

My current leadership role at Gr 7-12 Summer School and also as the Principal of elementary Summer Learning Programs funded by CODE, have highlighted some new, interesting leadership opportunities.  As I walk through the classrooms of Gr 7-12 teachers, I’m struck by how instruction in many rooms is vastly different than that of the primary school of which I am principal during the regular school year.  I wonder how in my limited time at summer school, can I have a positive impact on instructional practices?  “Sage on the Stage” continues to be the primary mode of instruction, with little opportunity for accountable talk and learning from peers.  It’s almost as if teachers are worried about a mutiny if they loosen the reins even slightly.  Ironically, the students in most of the courses offered are the very students who largely benefit from opportunities to share ideas, consolidate their learning through the work of others, and who benefit from alternative ways to demonstrate their knowledge.

Teachers are quite amazed when I pull students who are clearly struggling and sit one on one with them, and walk through the work, reading or scribing when necessary.  In primary grades (and junior in many cases) this is just a way of doing–secondary teachers seem to see it as revolutionary, or at worst that the student is not working independently and therefore has not mastered the material.  It supports my viewpoint that educator could benefit from some time in early primary, and see how we do it with our littlest people.  I’m also being made quite aware that my personal math strengths top out at about Gr 7 🙂

It has been an incredible opportunity for growth for me, and I’ve learned a great deal already this summer.  I think this opportunity is making me a better, more reflective leader.  And Smoking Area beat cop!