It’s been a very long time since I’ve done any blogging. Well, any writing for that matter. It’s not that I haven’t had things that I could write about, it’s just that I wasn’t sure where they fit or how to word them in such a way that was politically correct. I’m sure that many of you have had the same thing – you have an idea or two but you aren’t sure exactly how to approach writing about them without creating a bit of a mess for yourself so decide it’s easier to just not write about it/them.
Now, as my friend Dean Shareski has pointed out, I do wear my feelings/thoughts on my sleeve. It’s just the way I am. Over the years, as I’ve grown to see that this is not always a good thing so I have learned to become more diplomatic when needed. As an administrator, I’ve learned that you create more problems if you can’t do that. It’s not always easy but it is a necessary thing to do.
I Fell Out of the Groove!
This last year was a huge learning one for me – one where I spent many hours trying to figure out where I fit in this whole educational piece and what exactly I was doing. It put me off balance, which, in hindsight, was a good thing, as I had to re-evaluate what it was I was doing and why I was doing it. I spent a great deal of my timedealing with a small number of students – almost daily. What’s important in this scenario is not me but the learning that occurred as I was pushed beyond where I had been – I was heaved out of the ruts.
It was frustrating, infuriating, difficult, ….. and I wasn’t exactly sure where I fit in the whole school aspect of things. For part of the year, as some readers know, I was almost at the point of quitting as I really struggled with what was going on. I questioned what it was I was doing as I had lost the comfort zone where I had spent a number of years. As the year progressed so many different situations occurred where I really wondered what exactly was going on. What is this place we call “School”? What does it mean to “teach”? What, exactly, is the role of an administrator? What do good “educational leaders” do in schools? Can we continue to “do school” like we have and still meet the demands of a new world where the future is not compatible with what schools have traditionally done? The Resource Room teacher and I spent many an hour discussing the whole concept of “school” as we were faced with a number of challenges to which the traditional school model just wasn’t working.
With all these questions swirling around and a less-than-wonderful experience taking place, I was really questioning if education was where I was suppose to be. For the most part, as an educational administrator, I’ve always been out of step with most of the other administrators. Again, as Dean has pointed out, I don’t always follow the trodden path. I question and I point out things that don’t seem to be quite right with what is being professed. I will take the opposite side of the majority just to point out that there is another side and this really can put people off-balance as I may pursue a point of view different from one perspective but then agree, in principle, with their perspective. My experience has taught me to look beyond, not just at what is being presented. I’ve learned that the easy road usually doesn’t get you where you want to go. In fact, it was Darren Kuropatwa who blogged about a presentation he saw at BLC10 by Michael Wesch that dealt with creating community in schools. That’s Really Hard Work discusses Wesch’s approach to creating community in his university classes. It is hard work – really hard. Trying to build community within a school is not something that is for the faint of heart or the thin-of-skin. And, sometimes, one has to be willing to have tough discussions about difficult subjects as ignoring an elephant in a room just gets people trampled or fertilized!
But, after some time, I decided that it was time to pursue my options elsewhere. It seemed to me that my skill set wasn’t going to be used and I wasn’t going to continue with the status quo. I realized that part of the frustration and angst was I wasn’t doing something that was my passion.
Putting Things Back On the Track
Currently, I am the principal of a yet not completed new K – 12 school in rural Saskatchewan in a community close to where there is family for both my wife and me. There were many aspects that went into the decision to take this position, many of them related to education but not all. And that “not all” was something that I realized was missing. Too much of my effort had been diverted toward things took away from really important things.
Technology is important in education but it isn’t a silver bullet
What I have learned in the past few years is that there are some things that technology cannot overcome and one huge one is the relationships that are build through being able to interact face-to-face. There is no substitute for being able to meet in person. Connecting with people via technology is a wonderful thing when there is no other option or when it involves something like a meeting. However, what I’ve noticed is that, even in the world of the social network, there is a huge difference between the interactions between people who have met and those who haven’t. It’s good to grow your PLN but it takes on a whole new dimension when face-to-face connections happen. The social network relationships evolve differently, from my observations, once people meet. In a different, yet similar way, part of the reason for moving was so that we, as a family, could be closer to other family members. We decided that those connections were more important than me taking on a bigger school or a different position. Connections and community were a greater part of the mix than they had in been in previous decisions to relocate – a much greater part.
A New School Year – A New School – A New ……..
I’m looking forward to the work ahead as we build a new community in a new school. Presently there are two schools that will move under one roof early in the new school year. There will be excitement, fun and many challenges. It will be hard work – which is what school is – hard work. What will be important is building strong connections for everyone as things change because it will be those connections that help us through some of the difficult situations. Part of my reason for this particular blog post is that I needed to begin building the community that I have had through blogging again. This year will be one of many changes and one will be more consistent posting on my part. Another, I hope, is that I’ll return to building the community of administrators I have begun over at Ed Administrator 2.0. Currently it is at Ning.com and I’m not sure what to do with it but it will continue in some way because I believe it is an important part of the changing educational landscape. I will also be developing a few more of the resources that I let slip this past year – some of my passions!