A Principal Gets Ready for the First Day of School
I worked steadily over the past few days to put the finishing touches on the staff and the home handbook being careful to convey what is most salient to us at BBCS. I realize that unless I spend time going over its contents with staff, it may be shuffled to the edge of teacher’s desks and eventually to a nearby shelf where it will lie hidden until next spring. Getting ready for school is labour intensive at best even for the principal. Deciding what is most important to cover in the first full staff meeting is something I had to decide on. Without a doubt, it is whatever most impacts student learning. I certainly want to see daybooks filled in for the week. I want to make sure that all staff understands that they must find ways to get a smile and a nod from their most reluctant learners in order to make the kind of attachments that Gordon Neufeld believes to be foundational to effective teaching and learning. I need to ensure that they are are committed to doing ongoing assessments to plan for student learning. There is so much more, but I know that I have a very fine group of teachers who want the best for their learners and I am committed to supporting them, as effective instruction is foundational to effective student learning.
It hasn’t been that long since I was in a classroom as much of my time as a principal is spent visiting classrooms. Here’s what I know about getting ready for one’s classroom.
Getting Ready for Day 1
Getting ready for the first day takes days and lots of detailed planning for teaching and learning including getting the classroom and resources ready. Teachers think of every little thing: how to set up the room; where to put resources; when students can have shared or individual reading; what to do to ensure we get off on the right foot; why we need to plan so carefully… There is so much to do. For experienced teachers, getting ready might include taking time to consider what to do differently to address some issues from last year. For example, how to fully engage the most reluctant learners. I remember the anticipation and the dreams that began weeks before and in the days before that moment when you greeted your students for the first time. What will you say? How will you gain their trust and their hearts?
What Makes a Difference in Classrooms?
What is most important above anything else? Is it establishing classroom management and routines or is it spending time on creating a sense of community or is it creating a connection each of your students? Is it providing students with the opportunity to make meaning using the resources closest to us: what is natural and bountiful in the Great Bear Rain Forest which we live and work within?
There is so much to consider and as a principal, I want to support my staff with all of these considerations without micro managing too much. We know that every child needs a champion and that sometimes is not what you are teaching, but how you are with the children.
Teacher Mentors At BBCS
Based on a conversation with a couple of staff members, I am formalizing a mentorship program at BBCS by matching new teachers with more experienced teachers as their mentors. Alberta Education has a wonderful framework that explains teacher growth over time and the importance of having on going conversations between mentor and mentee. Sharing could go both ways as new teachers have a lot to share that would allow the more experienced educator to reflect on one’s own practices.
- Stages of Teacher Development: how did you get to become the teacher you are now?
- Initial Orientation: Learning About the School: What do I need to know?
- How did you learn to plan and teach?
- How do you plan curriculum?
- How do you manage student behaviour?
- What has changed over time about your teaching practice?
- What do you do now that you didn’t do five years ago? 10 years ago?
- What does your course overview look like?
- What kinds of formative assessments do you use?
- What matters most for you?
Collaboration according to John Hattie is integral to improving instruction and I think it could work both ways between an experienced and new teacher. It is my hope that they will both benefit. I have offered to provide release time and time for teachers to meet and the least I can do is order the treats as support.
Role of Teacher Assistants
Teacher assistants can make a difference as long as they are able to work one on one or in small groups on tasks that are associated with learning. Just as each lesson, their work must be focused. There must be daily collaboration between teachers and teacher assistants to ensure there is mutual agreement on what support and for whom. Handing out papers and photocopying does not impact learning. Sitting along side students or working in small groups impacts learning. Teacher assistants can make a difference.
What Have I Done to Facilitate a Climate of Trust?
Our staff went on a daylong orientation at Hakai Research Institute and enjoyed a wonderful day of hiking and talking at a beautiful research institute called Hakai. This is also my ancestral home as my ancestral family originates from this area. It is the most spectacular place with km of sandy beach, driftwood, and many different species of trees and shrubs. The day began with an hour and a half journey on board a comfortable and speedy sea bus along the spectacular central coast. It ended with a decadent meal courtesy of the institute. Check out my slide show by clicking on the photo below.
I am excited about the new school year and look forward to all that it will bring. Happy New Year to my colleagues within FNESC and my former colleagues within the public school system. I am proud to be at the helm of a school where staff care about each other and the students in our building. I am also very proud of our sasum and all that they bring.