Unit 3: School Level

This week’s readings reaffirmed in many ways how grateful I am for the Connected Educator program that I am able to be part of in the Regina Catholic School Division. In this program I am not only provided with technology infrastructure (1:1 classroom laptops), funding, and support but also I am part of an in depth professional development program. In regards to the the “play”, I have some pretty great working parts to create something rather spectacular and the creative freedom to do so.

This week I want discuss my current plot conflict- the parent push back. In my experience this parent push back seems to be driven by two types of fear:

  1. Fear of exposure: Many parents seem to react to technology with fear. The world can be a scary place, and by allowing children technology they fear as to what they will experience or view in this world, or the choices they may make that will have a negative impact on their digital footprint. I so often hear this fear drive conversations that talk about all the “do not’s” to maintain safety but rarely are the conversations surrounded by thoughts of how technology can be used to change for the good or to inspire.
  2. Fear of change: This fear is expressed as an uncertainty of an education that looks different than the one parents received. I am faced with questions such as “how will my child learn to spell if they are using a device?” Parents did not grow up with technology at their fingertips therefor the unknown of how students will learn to spell without those 10 spelling words on a piece of paper each week to memorize is terrifying. In reality, did I really learn to spell from those 10 words written in my agenda? And how often do you really need to spell the word “pneumonia” that it needs to be on that list?

My project this term will be focusing on creating an educational program that will assist parents in understanding the Regina Catholic Connected Educator Program and to assist in educating students as to the benefits of technology. I will also discuss the policy put in place in attempt to negate the “side effects”. I feel as though parents are a huge part of the educational journey. If we are able to engage parents and students together in the educational journey we will in turn develop deeper learning. Technology will not replace all tasks, nor should it. It can however be used to connect students in positive ways to the world while teaching them to be positive digital citizens in this ever evolving world and assist in bringing curriculum to life.

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Week 3: Leadership?

The readings this week helped me further explore where my strongest traits of leadership style are and reflect upon experiences in life that have shaped me into being this type of leader. When first reading the C’s of leadership, memories came flooding to me of the leaders I have looked to in my life and how they have embodied these characteristics. When I arrived at my second placement in my career I was welcomed with open arms by a leader that embodied the trait of Commitment. A former Olympic coach, with a passion for teamwork, and a work ethic that I have yet to see rivaled- she demonstrated an unwavering commitment to her community and her staff. The word CAN’T never existed in her vocabulary. When the community struggled with attendance and little parent involvement she hit the pavement, knocking on doors, introducing herself as their child’s principal, and offering a ride to school as she valued their child’s involvement in the “team”. With this commitment, the community began to grow. Eventually these same parents who she would meet at their door, day-in & day-out would pop by for coffee, with their children having nearly perfect attendance and taking leadership roles in the class. This level of commitment created a trust that could not be broken. Thank you #17 (some of you may know who I am talking about)

My leadership style has come from watching and working with mentor’s I have had throughout my life. From coaches, to teachers, to employers, I have been very blessed to work with some phenomenal people. The 2 traits I believe that tie most to my personality are the traits of Consistency and Communication. My first job teaching was in a classroom for students with challenging and sometimes violent behavior. My classroom was set up, ready to crush day 1….20 minutes into the day and I found myself with every bulletin board shredded, many choice words (not mine), and even a visit from the Regina Police Service to remove a weapon from a student. Next day repeat, start fresh. Day after that repeat, start fresh. Each day getting a little better as relationships grew and trust built. My husband always says, “notes are important in music, but it is the silence between the notes that makes them truly powerful.” (Not sure where he heard that but it sounds a little more poetic than his normal self) I have learnt to value to silence between the notes. There will always been ups and down, moments of stress, but allowing for the silence and the calm to creep into these moments allows me to stay calm and collected. My second strongest personality trait that leads into my leadership style is Communication. In my years of competitive sports I have needed to use communication skills in many different forms. From working with different coaches, team mates, referee’s- the need for positive communication always remained strong. Through communicating on and off the court, I was able to earn the trust of my teammates and take on varying degrees of leadership.

In the first reading it initially discussed a situation in which the power lays solely within the leader and the remainder of the team follows. Only later does it discuss that a more fluid system of leadership can allow for a more positive outcome and sharing of power. When it comes to leadership approaches I am drawn more to leaders that work alongside others to better the group rather than those who make demands from above. To me, leadership is a sharing of power. I believe that strong confident leaders recognize the strengths of those they work alongside and are willing to step back and allow others to lead with their strengths. Being a leader has nothing to do with being in charge but rather how one can empower those around them to achieve success. Simon Sinek is probably one of my favorite authors due to his views of leadership. Simon’s quote I feel sums up how I view a leader- it has nothing to do with the name plate you have on your office door but rather the relationships you make outside that door.

I also believe that leaders need to not be just trained in the job they will have and the tasks required of them as discussed in article two. Leaders need to be able to adapt and grow through learning leadership and professional skills that can be transferred to a variety of settings. I do not feel a stagnant leader is a positive leader. The world around us is constantly changing and evolving and we need to evolve as well. As leaders for our students we must model the ability to change and grow- just as we would expect of them. Our job is not to prepare our students for their job when they leave school, it is to help them prepare themselves to tackle anything that comes their way. Why should we expect anything less of ourselves?

Oh gosh…. the repetitive change syndrome. Don’t get me wrong, change is good, but sometimes too much change feels as though you are running down hill while eating a bowl of soup. Not going to lie….if I have to see one more change to the report card program….. I may lose my mind. In my 11 years teaching I have used 5 different programs to complete my report cards. This has been very frustrating at times I would like to throw the whole thing out the window and just sit down with every kid and parent to explain and demonstrate how their child is progressing without any bells and whistles or the newest program to input data. Keeping up with technology in general can be a challenge. I think a strong leader needs to leverage change. They need to be aware that change is inevitable, inform others of changes allowing time, provide support, and sometimes a listening ear for those experiencing frustration. I do also feel that a leader needs to advocate for others when the demands for change get out of hand. This repetitive change syndrome can be linked to the stupidity paradox on multiple levels.

Leadership is something that is very individual. Each person has their own style that works best for them. Recognizing the different ways in which people demonstrate leadership is very important to creating positive and trusting work and school environments.

Week 2: Critical Theory

This weeks readings were a powerful platform that allowed for the critical examination of public education. I feel a discourse between my personal experiences of education and the experiences of those I love and these readings have allowed me to explore this discourse and the unfair nature of the system further.

I fit the system……I have always fit perfectly into the educational system. Growing up in a middle to upper middle class home, with one parent being a teacher and the other a nurse- I had very few barriers in my way to achieving “success” in this system. My personality also fit the mold for public education. I was born into a position of power and was set on the path of continuing that power. I had a wonderful childhood with many blessings, one that I am very grateful for. This however has not been the path that has been experienced by many in the public education system.

From the outside looking in……My husband has had a very different experience of public education- he was the kid who didn’t fit into the traditional mold of the system- and experienced nearly 7 schools as his family had to move quite often. His family of truly wonderful and incredible people, that despite extreme effort- faced barriers that did not allow them to “fit” the mold of public education. Education, due to many events, could not be placed as the main priority in life. My husband is extremely brilliant and smart, but his report cards (those somewhat insignificant pieces of paper from his childhood) say that he is an individual who challenges the system and has a disregard for work- a label that is not a true reading of his abilities whatsoever.

Continuing the oppression….I view the report card as an agent of maintenance for existing unjust powers. It is a document where we “assess” a student’s ability to fit into the system. These marks, checks, and comments determine how one does in this system of power not in life. If you think about students who generally don’t succeed on this report card it is due to so called laziness, lack of interest, lack of attendance, not following instructions, or those who exhibit behaviors outside of the “norm”. Statistically it is students who are not in positions of power that do not perform well on the report card assessments. The message we give when handing out this report card is that “they do not measure up and they are not good enough”. This underlying message continues to oppress. These messages can lead to not only oppression but also exclusion- “you missed too many days you are out of the class, you didn’t change into gym clothes in PE- you cannot participate, etc. “

Seeing the light….I am beginning to see people working to challenge these powers in education. Attendance policies that rather than kicking students out of a class immediately offer to provide support. I am also seeing teachers that allow for individuality of expression. Rather than providing a grade mark for a set assignment, I see teachers allowing students to demonstrate learning in ways meaningful for themselves. Bring on the Ed.Tech! These assignments demonstrate an individual’s learning journey rather than their learned based on a set standard of expression. I think we need to reassess what education truly looks like and begin to empower teachers to take risks to allow for student individuality and critical thinking.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

For the next 13 weeks this blog will accompany me on my journey through EDL 320- Leadership of Instructional Technology in Education. Please join me on this journey of critical thinking and self-growth. Like a hiking trail, learning never takes a straight path. The journey is filled with twists, turns, and obstacles. One must remember that life is not all about the destination, but rather it is the journey that makes us who we are.