It’s been an unusual few days in Alberta. The cold weather has definitely been the focus of most conversations. I can’t recall too many times that buses have not run in Sturgeon for two days in a row. The last two days with no buses saw the lowest student turnout we’ve ever had on those days. Today, most buses are running, but we still are way down in student turnout. Part of this is also due to the fact we have Teachers’ Convention for the next few days, and I’m sure some parents decided to not send their children in for just one day of school.
It’s difficult to get academic work done on these days. We don’t cover new topics, but I know that teachers do work with small groups, and work to get those that are here caught up on work that may have been missed.
The disruption to routine has its impacts, but we do get a bit more time to collaborate, and potentially tackle tasks that have been needing attention. We get to spend more one on one time with those students that are here. We get to complain about the weather!
Stuff happens here. And even on days when the routine is completely disrupted, we still learn, we still grow as educators, and we still work to build those relationships with our students.
I’m looking forward to the end of this cold snap, but in the meantime… we press on.
I’ve been on a learning journey around math and how students develop and understanding of numeracy.
I haven’t used my blog to talk about my learning very much this year, as I’m not using it for my Professional Growth Plan. However, I’ve decided I need to keep documenting my learning and use this site as more of an eportfolio.
So, do update what I’ve been doing
Investigation into math diagnostics
Decided to purchase Leaps and Bounds for our grade 1-4 classes
Grade 4 classes using Mathletics
Purchase “Mind the Gap” for K-2, and 3-4 to assist teachers with the task of diagnosing and teaching to fill in the gaps in understanding that our students may have.
Math PD from ERLC – Supporting Struggling students in mathematics (October 22)
Early Childhood Education Conference
attended math sessions around manipulatives and games to support learning
Admin council session on analyzing Provincial Achievement tests.
Worked with Math teachers from Gibbons School in examining their PAT results
Lots of online research on numeracy and the development of numerical understanding, including this linked video by Ch which really helps to encapsulate the need for making sure our youngest students are Developing Number Sense.
My VP and I have been participating in our grade level PLCs which focus on goals the teachers have chosen. However, we have directed them in some activities. One of the first things was to look at results of the MIPI which measures students understanding of math concepts.
the analysis of these results led to some plans to address lack of understanding in certain areas.
We were involved in some rich discussions about what areas were lacking and what we could/should do about those gaps.
PLCs have also been asked to participate in learning sprints for Nov-Jan. Three of our grade levels chose to look at math concepts for the sprints. I am looking forward to the progress that is made. I will definitely post our learning when we get a chance to analyze the results.
One thing that has been affirmed to me can be summarized in this quote by Christina Tondevold.
I’ve revamped my Professional Growth Plan this year. I will working on instructional leadership in the area of math. Specifically around looking at the data to find the gaps in students’ understanding of mathematical concepts.
Our school has already started on a few processes to help move us forward in this area. We administered the MIPI at the beginning of the year to help us with our understanding of where each student is at in their journey to mathematical competence. We spent time analyizing group and individual results in our grade level PLCs, as well as looking across grade levels and what areas might be better supported as students move up in grades.
We have purchased Nelson’s Leaps and Bounds and are looking forward to the diagnostic and remediation support that it offers. The program is being used in other Alberta schools, and from what I can tell, is a great resource in supporting students who are experiencing gaps in their understanding. We are also trying out Mathleticsin our grade 4 classes to allow for ongoing diagnostic assessment of all of those students.
On Monday, I attended a Professional Development session offered through the ERLC entitled “Math Strategies for Struggling Students”. The session offered, not only ideas for math activities, but looked into the gaps in students’ understanding around specific concepts and the kinds of activities that might be necessary to support them in their learning.
And lastly (at this point), I’ve acquired two books by Jon SanGiovanni, entitled Mine the Gap For Mathematical Understanding, which offer strategies for finding and addressing the gaps in understanding for students.
I am really looking forward to working with my staff on this journey to better meet the needs of all students as they move along on their journey of mathematical understanding.
Another school year has started. We have some new staff, many new students, and with that a few new families represented. The school year has started smoothly, but it wouldn’t be a start up if there weren’t a few wrinkles to iron out. Hopefully though, that doesn’t last long.
Our school division has a new superintendent. Some people don’t embrace change, but I generally gain energy from change (however, not quite as much as I did in the first 75% of my teaching career!) I’m looking forward to a new opportunity to learn and grow with her, and to see the great things that are in store for our awesome school division.
I’m hoping my blog entries are a bit more frequent this year. Last year we ended with about 6 weeks of frenzied activity
as a few emergent things took up most of our time. I know we can never fully prepare for those kinds of things, but I’m looking forward with positivity to a year filled with learning for all!
Since reading Michael Fullan’s book called, Coherence we’ve started having discussions as a leadership team at my school. I really work in a great place, and many of the things we do here align with what is discussed in the book.
We are a team; we have a high level of trust; we collaborate; we use capacity and develop it. Many of the pieces are in place. I think we are in an ideal place to take the next steps.
We are meeting tomorrow to discuss this. Narrowing down our focus to one or two main things is going to be the first step. There have been conversations happening around this already, and I am excited to see where we go. It’s a great team, and I know the potential for excellence is within us.
I’m looking forward to reporting on our progress as we move forward.
As an admin team we will be spending time with Michael Fullan next week. In preparation, we have been doing some reading, watching videos, and having discussions about his book, ‘Coherence’. I will be blogging more about the time we get to spend with him, but I thought I would put a few short thoughts down ahead of time. It’s also been a long time since I’ve written a blog, so I better get something down!
At my school, we’ve been doing quite a few things that align with Fullan’s ideas, especially around the collaborative cultures. We have put effort into deepening learning, especially around setting goals and capacity building. I would say the areas that we need to have more coherence around are Accountability, and turning I minds toward Clarity of Strategy.
We do have accountability, and need to be careful to ensure tha there is both external and internal accountability. We have come a long way in the last few years in understanding the importance of internal accountability as a driver for change. In my mind, the internal accountability ties into the individual passion and is necessary for powerful change to occur.
I look forward to deepening my understanding in this area as we spend time learning from Michael Fullan, and from each other.
One of the biggest lies we can tell ourselves is, “I can’t do this.” Even though I consider myself to be a very positive, optomistic person, I still fall into this trap sometimes. The work we do in schools is so important, and often very challenging. Everyday we are faced with a myriad of decisions and difficulties. The self talk that we engage in at these times is usually key to the outcome we experience.
It’s very easy to fall into a trap of focusing on the difficulty of each task, and the overwhelming scale of the entire job. The error in doing this is that when we are focusing on the problem we take the focus of our ability to deal with the problem. I know it’s very unlikely that I will encounter a situation that I haven’t handled in one way or another in the past. If I’ve dealt with it before, there’s no reason I can’t deal with it now.
The inner voice needs to say, “I CAN do this!” And, I know I can do it now, because I’ve done it before. The negative self-talk is just a trap.
Some of my best thoughts come from Twitter. I usually have it open on my desktop at work, and occasionally check it while at home. I came across a tweet the other day that really got me thinking. (See image below)
What is the value in what we do? If our job doesn’t directly make a difference in the learning and the lives of the teachers and students, are we doing what we are ultimately meant to do? We certainly do things that indirectly affect the students and the teachers. We are often managers who oversee the operations of the school. But even these ultimately affect the teachers and students as the most optimal learning environment is to a large degree based on the comfort of the building and the schedule. We do our best to keep the school safe, because we know that you need to feel safe to work and learn to the best of your ability.
Clearing the way for teachers to become their best self in a school that has a vision and values results is the job we are ultimately tasked to do.
I think the question we need to be asking ourselves daily is, “Are the things I am spending my time on helping teachers do their jobs better?”
I find myself caught up in the busy-ness of the job on a regular basis. I regularly make lists of tasks I need to accomplish. I’m sure most of us do the same. I’m going to try reframing my priorities with this tweet in mind. I need to mindfully put the majority of my energy into those things that help my teachers do the best job they are capable of.