As I bid farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014, I feel a sense of renewed optimism in my personal and professional lives, although it is hard to separate the two when I live only 200 meters away from the school. I continue to recover from my injury and am getting around reasonably well aided by a cane in and around the school and in the city. I know that I will one day be taking regular outings with Vic, Eddy, and my camera. I was able to travel over Christmas and today I went out with my camera today to capture the sights around the village in the early morning light and the shadows of dusk.
Being confined to a wheel chair followed by a walker, and crutches for the past four months has been a test of my ability to be present in every sense in my work as administrator of a K- 12 school. It was difficult to visit classrooms, as the old-fashioned classroom doorway corridors simply do not allow easy access to someone on a wheel chair, a walker or on crutches. I completely understand the need for every school and every public place to ensure access for everyone with an elevator and an electronic button that swings a door open to let a wheelchair or walker inside. Further at least one washrooms need to allow easy access.
I would be interested in knowing how many schools are being built with the needs of all people in mind. I am reminded of a cartoon (on the importance of differentiating in classrooms) that shows a custodian shoveling off the stairs of the school while the children stood by and waited. Beside him was a wheelchair ramp begging to be shoveled to allow everyone equals access. (More on differentiating when Karen Hume visits us for two days later in the Spring)
I was so moved by the compassion of staff and students. I had meals brought to my home. Kids genuinely asked me if I was okay and they often accompanied me as I cruised the hallways or went down the elevator to the lower level. “Cool” hgh school kids noticed when I shifted from one crutch to a cane. At the high school assembly, I told students how this image and message, a simple set of stairs/goals helped me to move along with my recovering and mobility. My first real challenge two days after surgery was to learn how to go up and down stairs on crutches so that I could be discharged. I took a flight home unaccompanied a few hours later and was present to open the school with a welcome assembly. Determination was what it took along with courage and practice. It helps to absolutely love your job!
I have wondered about the need to be physically present in every sense of the phrase in order to keep us on a path focused on student success. I knew in May 2013 after we finished teacher recruitment that I had an amazing and talented staff to work with! I knew too that we had to establish and maintain high standards. I knew that we had some specific goals to begin working on. I also knew that I simply did not have all the answers so being physically present was second to ensuring that my staff had access to a range of tools and strategies intended to provide students with the interventions and the enrichments needed in order to meet with student success. A range of initiatives point to the changes that have been made in our school:
– Having special education specialist, an instructional coach, and a literacy coach has provided teachers with a wealth of resources and instructional and assessment strategies by which to gauge student success.
– Introducing a swat team approach to providing guided instruction had provided children access to the learning support teacher on a daily basis.
-When Damian Cooper was unable to fly in due to weather, I sent our six teachers to attend a two-day training session and they came back and provided staff with a range of new knowledge and strategies to try in the classroom.
-Having teachers work interdepartmentally has helped to build a cohesive staff willing to work collaboratively.
-Creating an alternate program provided a half dozen high school students with small, intensive one on one or small group instruction. It provided them with a place to call their own.
– The learning center has truly become exactly what it was intended to be- a place of learning where several students receive support with learning and support with online learning. A team of highly skilled teacher assistants under the guidance of the learning support teacher provides this assistance. They also go into classrooms to provide assistance to students who are mainstreamed but require learning support.
– The high school from week one has provided an after school study hall that is both mandatory and voluntary. When students are too often absent or behind in coursework, attendance at study hall is mandatory. Other students often stay behind the 4:00 closing to get coursework done.
– BBCS has held regular assemblies for primary, intermediate, and high school students. Its intention is to recognize student success with attendance and academic support. The high school assembly on Dec 18th saw family members beaming proudly as students received honour certificates. Perhaps this needs to be a whole school assembly next time.
– The school in general has a hum of high expectations for students where we hold kids accountable while recognizing their success,
– Communication with the community has been raised to a standard that conveys our desire to raise parent and community it involvement with the school.
– Special events and spirit days and extra curricular activities have raised school spirit. We Read day, Pajama day, jersey Day, and extra curricular events every day sees students in he building beyond school hours.
We are in process in terms of being a PLC Professional learning community with the following PLC groups: kindergarten, primary, intermediate, and high school.
As groups meet, I ask them to review the following with a review of the smart goals each group has set for themselves:
1. Focus on learning
What is it that students need to learn and be able to do?
(Essential learning outcomes)
How do we know they know it?
(Common formative assessments)
What are we going to do if they don’t get it?
(Interventions) i.e. pipe cleaners as a learning strategy for teaching DNA
What are we going to do if they already know if?
2.Collaborative culture: Work with other teachers. Together we’re better!
3. Focus on result. What does our data tell us? What steps do we take?
Some Mantras to Live by:
Have high expectations for all kids
Challenge what we believe about student learning!
No longer accept the racism of low expectations!
As administrator of BBCS, my goal is to continue to support teachers as effective teachers ensure successful learners. People go into teaching to make a difference. I can honestly say that the teachers and teacher assistants at BBCS are making a tremendous difference for the students. I remember how intensely demanding teaching can be. This is a reminder that I know what teachers go through every day.
As well, many more parents meetings will occur as we seek to work collaboratively with students requiring additional support or accountability.
As well, I will be meeting with small groups of students from diverse grades to find out what their hopes and dreams are and how we may be able to help them find the path leading toward whatever that is…
Happy New Year!