Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Experience 3.0 - New School, New Grade, New Culture

The new school year is underway and for me the key work is "new"! I've transferred schools and teaching a grade I have never taught before. I'm also learning about the culture of my new workplace. Each school is unique - they all have their own charm and needs. My colleagues have been very helpful and friendly. I'm enjoying my students and they seem to be in good spirits.

I'm doing a lot of observation and I'm listening to what people have to say. I'm very aware of the fact that I have just arrived and that it is important that I find my place, how I fit in this new culture, and how I can use my knowledge/skills/gifts to support my class, colleagues, and the school community. As I reflect on my first month in my new environment, I realize that I have not been as passive as I thought I was being. Using the Catholic Leadership Framework to assist with my reflection and preparation for the upcoming months, I realize that I have been engaged in the following expectations/look fors in my day to day interactions at school:

  • encouraging my colleagues to be innovative in helping students meet expectations (setting directions)

This past week I was talking to a few colleagues about what my students were doing using Google Drawing during a science activity. They viewed the work my students were doing as over the top but my response to them was that my students were doing common things in a new and exciting ways and that their students could do the same things. I encouraged them to try something similar and mentioned that I would be happy to assist them in trying something innovative to help their students meet a learning goal.

  • making my expectations known through words and actions (setting directions)
In my day to day interactions with my students, parents, and colleagues I communicate my expectations in what I say and what I do. This is not to say that I am inflexible - I operate from a set of beliefs that I value and I allow those beliefs to guide my day to day interactions. I have standards, and they are subject to change based upon meaningful conversations and when I learn new things and unlearn old things. 

  • acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of others (building relationships and developing people)
This has been a lot of fun over the past month. There have been many laughs and "small" victories where I have acknowledge the accomplishments of the people around me. It is in celebration that I have been able to connect with my colleagues and get to know them a bit better.

  • demonstrating respect for the ideas of my colleagues, students, and parents by listening to their ideas and considering them as valuable/viable options (building relationships and developing people)
I met with several parents (some before school started) who wanted to meet me and talk about their child's strengths and needs. Meeting with them and listening to their experiences and ideas on how to help their child succeed has been quite valuable as it has allowed me to build trust and rapport with all involved. With respect to my colleagues, we have already met twice to help build our School Improvement Plan. Each of us comes to the table with a variety of ideas/experience and we all speak from those perspectives. Again, listening to them and taking their perspectives into consideration has been nothing but helpful.

  • encouraging a willingness to compromise among collaborators (developing the organization to support desired practices)
Along the same lines as above, we quickly realize that not all ideas presented to help make our school a better place will fit into the vision and mission of the school. As a new staff member my perspective come from other schools I have worked at. My new colleagues were willing to compromise and I demonstrated the same in return. 

  • creating a classroom environment where parents are welcomed, respected, and valued, as partners in their children's learning (developing the organization to support desired practices)
Meeting with parents before the start of the school year really demonstrated that they are welcome in my classroom community and that I want to hear what they have to say. I do believe that education is a partnership and that we all provide a piece to the puzzle that will lead to student success. Aside from the regular modes of communication with my parents, I use Twitter and Remind to post photos and information in "real time" so that they can feel like they are actually in the room with their child. Parents are really enjoying this and feel like they are being respected and welcomed because of all the sharing.

  • ensuring that the Ontario Catholic Schools Graduate Expectations are incorporated throughout the curriculum (improving the instructional program)
This is something that I have been very focused on this school year. As we gather for whole group instruction I have been taking the time to explicitly talk about the OCGE's and which one is being addressed in what we are doing/working on. I feel that it is raising awareness with the students which is helping them reflect on the OCGE's as they live their lives.

  • collaborating with my colleagues during meetings involving data interpretation (improving the instructional program
As I mentioned earlier, I have had several opportunities to collaborate with my colleagues during meetings to look at data, make interpretations, and plan accordingly. It is never easy to find time throughout the school day to meet and do this kind of work so when it happens it is a real treat because it is what helps make our school a better place for our students.

It has been quite a busy month and it doesn't look like it is going to ease up before our first natural break - Thanksgiving - the perfect time to reflect on what we do and why we do it.