Confession time: my name is Sue and I like doing surveys. Weird, right? I’m the one who actually clicks on the link in a request email and completes all those questions. Cheesy magazine questionnaires, coffee shop service feedback forms, online shopping experiences, I pretty well do them all. I even do workplace surveys. I figure I can’t complain if I’m not willing to offer my opinion or experience.
But the real question is: so what? Is there a point to all this navel gazing? Let me use the 4Di to answer. This particular test looks at operating style not personality. It shows you how you like to learn, make decisions and collaborate at work. Our senior team completed it, and it was illuminating. Since we shared our results, it helped me to understand those I work with a lot better and to think about how to interact more effectively within the team. My “balanced red” style is different from when I took the test years ago as a principal, perhaps because I’m in a different role. “Balanced red” essentially means I like to stop and decide best. For those of you who work with me, you might recognize that “cut to the chase, make a decision and act” style. It works great sometimes, but other times it’s better to slow down to understand or to go and create, the two other operating styles the test identifies.
Having different styles on a team only makes it stronger. We can use the different styles at different times, depending on the kind of work we are doing. Do we need to make a decision? Do we need to learn and understand better? Do we need to consider creative possibilities and options? Even more, how can each of us learn to use styles that we are not comfortable with?
All this knowledge helps me be a better co-worker, leader and, to be honest, a better person. That’s important to me. Maybe you would consider doing a survey too?
My nieces and and nephew just started at new schools in Washington, D.C. after a move across the country. They were excited and nervous, as you would expect. And so were my brother and sister-in-law. They didn’t know exactly what to expect either and wanted their kids to have a great first day. As educators, we often forget how parents may feel approaching a new school year.
And yet… we also need to think about families. We might be able to come up with a list of words to describe how we would like them to feel, like welcome, happy, included, or confident. How do our actions actually achieve these?
I was not always the most welcoming teacher or principal. In fact, when I look back over some of the things I did, I cringe. I acted like I knew what was best for students and their families. But I didn’t, a fact that it took me a few years and experiences and the modeling of some really great teacher and principal mentors to realize.
Have you ever done this exercise after a learning session? “I used to think…. but now I think…” It’s a great way to give yourself permission to leave behind old ways of doing things that were not the best and commit to making a change. So I’ll go: “I used to think that parents should leave me alone and let me do my job, but now I think that if they know how much I value their child and their input, we can do a great job together.”
So what does that mean for the first day of school and welcoming families? How about a big fat smile that stretches your face and no curt or frustrated words? How about having parents bring students to classrooms for the first day (or maybe a first week?) How about free coffee or tea on the playground for adults as they arrive? Expand on these to fit your school and your context.
I’ll let Maya Angelou have the last word with a quote I always need to keep in mind:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I first met Andrew Kelly as a classroom teacher. His curiosity, questioning and deep thinking stood out then and are even more evident now. Andrew embraces learning and always welcomes others’ viewpoints as he seeks to understand. Andrew’s blog Stop Start Continue showcases his thinking and provides entry points for any educator and parent. He talks below more about why he loves to blog. You’ll find his ideas fascinating!
What is your role in HWDSB?
Currently I am a Character Networks Pathways Teacher. Using theCPS approach, I work with teachers, EAs and administrators to figure out how to best support students who display challenging behaviour. Beginning in September, I’ll be working with the 21CL team supporting the TLE project in Special Education classes.
What led you into education?
I got into teaching for two reasons: my interest in History and a desire to positively impact others. I figured I was signing up for a job where I’d be delivering Chomsky-influenced lectures on U.S. foreign policy during the day (probably wearing a tweed vest) and editing lengthy essays in the evenings. Although my job doesn’t resemble my initial vision of how my career would play out, I feel fortunate to be in an occupation devoted to removing barriers and empowering young people.
What are you go-to pieces of tech?
My Lenovo ThinkPad R500 is my work laptop. Originally designed in 2008, it weighs a ton and doesn’t have any bells or whistles but the extended battery pack helps with longer meetings. Because I travel between 15 schools, I use web-based tools to collaborate on plans with staff on a regular basis. The R500, although almost a decade old, is fast enough to access web-based applications such as GAFE,WordPress, andPiktochart. Proof you can be connected without having the newest tech.
Last year I got rid of my iPhone and switched to Android. The customization options, innovative apps and relative low-cost of the device made it an easy decision. My Moto X phone is my go-to piece of tech. Main uses: Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, podcasts.
Twitter or something else?
Twitter really is a game-changer for professional development. The staff room, hallways, structured PD, AQs…all of these places where PD traditionally occurs have their value, but they’re limited in the audience and the ideas to which you have access. Twitter allows you to connect with (or even silently observe) educators in your district and beyond. One hashtag that broadens my perspective and enriches my professional learning is#educolor. Equity and anti-oppressive practices are foundational parts of my pedagogical stance (and Twitter feed) and#educolor is an easy way to stay current and keep these things in the front of my mind. Checking out these hashtags and following some of the active contributors is a must (@RusulAlrubail and @ChrisEmdin are good places to start).
Being a connected educator allows for quick access to a wide range of sources allowing for professional learning that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. It’s not just about learning new concepts or ideas but also about finding inspiration. Twitter extends the reach beyond your in-person PLN. For example, I followDan Scratch, a progressive educator who is truly empowering students at Inner-City High School in Edmonton. Inspiration also comes from inside the HWDSB and the group of educators that contribute to the online community by tweeting or blogging their ideas and experiences.
What’s your best piece of advice for those wondering how to use tech to accelerate their learning?
Start blogging. No other tech-supported learning compares to it. It feels risky to put your ideas into public space, but educator generated content is what drives the learning for everyone else. Additionally, an enormous amount of thought goes into one blog post, causing personal reflection while challenging you to both articulate and justify your pedagogy. Simply put, blogging connects you in a way that “lurking” doesn’t. So fire up theWordPress and give it a try!
Behind this series: Inspired by the innovative and trailblazing Royan Lee and the #workflow series on his Spicy Learning Blog, I’m asking connected educators around our district how they use technology to accelerate their learning. In HWDSB, we’ve been talking about how to transform relationships, environments and learning opportunities. The driver is pedagogy, but the accelerator is technology. I’m hopeful that educators’ insights and experiences will kickstart a conversation and even spark some action.