I returned from our yearly administrator’s seminar yesterday a bit tired but with a host of ideas for creating a better climate for our school. While we were there, we were given two new tools that I feel are really going to help our staff to focus their efforts and move us forward.
Now, to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to these two days. Not because of the content but one of my staff members had had a stroke on the weekend and I was still trying to figure out how we were going to organize ourselves during the recovery. I know that recovery from a stroke is really determined by a number of factors and, right now, there is no telling how long this could last. So, there I was Monday morning trying to get things organized for the sub that was coming in not really knowing what was going on in the classes. After some searching, we were able to piece together some ideas and get things going. I then had a number of other “administrative things” to deal with and really thought it would be easier to stay home. I’m glad I didn’t.
Our school division has been working on Professional Learning Teams – fashioned after the Dufour’s PLC’s. We’ve been going through this process for about a year now. The staff with which I work has really been trying to work together to build these teams and develop a greater sense of community within the school that focuses on their own professional growth and the improvement of teaching and learning. Our trouble has been we haven’t been really clear on the focus and the use of the SMART goals as outlined in The Handbook for SMART School Teams by Conzemius & O’Neil. I didn’t want the enthusiasm to be lost but still wasn’t sure how to move the teams along. The two days in seminar really helped.
The one tool that I was happy to learn was something called the Turbo Meeting +. Now I know that this type of meeting has been around for a long time but I hadn’t heard of it. Why I like it is that it will give our PLT’s focus and direction, something that they have not had so far. It also will give those teachers who have been hesitant something with which to work that isn’t threatening to them. The whole focus will be on data we collect as a school. Now, one of my focuses the past year has been figuring out how to build community while bringing new tools, particularly web2.0 tools, into the school. What I see as being possible is for our teachers to see ways to use technology to help students in areas in which they are having trouble. Through data collection, we can see areas where we may need to look at new strategies and some of these can be linked to technology tools.
The other area that I found very helpful was the clarification of how SMART goals will drive what we teach. Now I know that some people are not fond of these type of goals. What I like about them is that they can increase our understanding of what we need to do, identify ways to do it and then provide us with strategies that will impact what students are doing. Again, I see us being able to examine what we are doing and then looking at a variety of strategies, some including technology, that will assist us with achieving our goals.
I don’t think that, as schools, we can move from where we are to someplace where technology is helping to influence our schools and teaching until we begin to take a serious look at what we are doing. As I mentioned in my last post, I believe we have spent enough time discussing and talking. Some educators will continue to do this but it isn’t bringing about the change that I feel is needed. With these tools to guide us, I believe we can begin to examine our objectives and see, through the data we collect, that there are areas that indeed need some changing in order to have our students prepared for the transition from school to whatever it is they choose to do. We need to have some place to begin and taking a closer look at the present and what we are doing with an eye on what we might change and might do differently is definitely better than the insistent talk about what could be. As I mentioned, Barbara Barreda’s post at Leadertalk really got me thinking about our need as educational leaders to use the tools we have and work within the mandate that we have to look more closely at what our objectives. These two tools, combined with the PLC format, I believe, will give those teachers with whom I work the opportunity to do just that. As we begin to ask questions about what we have been doing and what we might be doing, there will be an opportunity to also look at the objectives and how they can be used to meet student needs now and in the future.