Now we are getting close!!
Everyone in education has heard the line that the principal is key to the success of a school.
I have never been comfortable with this, more so after 12 years as an administrator in a variety of schools. The administrator plays a key role, but the overall success of the school depends more on the leadership style of the principal.
It is difficult to teach a leadership style and to be honest, I am not sure how you would do this.
As administrators, we are well trained in a number of areas. We take a whole host of courses that prepare us to deal with the administrative side of the job. We are well equipped to deal with ministry regulations, curriculum expectations, school finance and management practices.
We are not well trained on how to deal effectively and compassionately with staff and the wider community.
I say this because over the years I have heard so many stories of administrators fumbling relationships with staff, parents and the wider community. I have worked in several schools where I replaced administrators who had run roughshod over the emotional landscape of their school. To be fair, I have also replaced excellent administrators and in these cases, I have done my best to continue to support their excellent practices.
The problem seems to be that you can’t teach ‘heart’. You can’t teach a principal to lead from the back, to empower their staff and to make themselves the servant leader in the school.
Years ago, Robert K. Greenleaf wrote about how to test for true servant leadership:
Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the last privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?
This is not new. Greenleaf wrote about Servant Leadership over 40 years ago. However, this essential ingredient in teaching people to become effective leaders is entirely lacking.
The result is troubling. Administrators regularly act as if the teacher, educational assistant, custodian or parent do not truly matter. Administrators routinely believe that their way of leading is the only way and what they know is what is best for their school. The idea that they should stand back and play a supporting role is lost on many people.
This is not to say that there are no great leaders out there. I have met many of them, some in our own district and many more at conferences I have attended and learning groups I have joined.
“The servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
It will be seen by many that writing about this smacks of disloyalty to other administrators.
This may be true, but I sincerely believe that we are not put in these positions to support other administrators, we are here to support our staff, students, and community. We are here to create the conditions for the best learning environment possible. We are here not to put our stamp on our school community, but to get out of the way and allow others to thrive.
I love reading the work of George Couros. He is a true leader when it comes to innovation in schools and the use of technology in education. Most importantly however, he is a true believer in the importance of building healthy relationships.
When I talk about “innovation in education”, creativity in schools, or meaningful use of technology, I always begin by saying that nothing I say matters if you do not build relationships in schools. There is no “culture of innovation” if there is no positive culture. It is the foundation of which we build things upon.
Maybe this is one reason why schools are failing to become centers of innovation. If everything depends on the ‘vision’ of one individual, how can we expect innovation to take place?
How do we expect our staff to really express their creative voice?
This is what I see. I am happy to hear from others with an opposing view. Whatever the case, we should consider the role of the leader and the enabler, the true servant of their community.
This is where true growth and innovation will flourish.
In times like these, you really need to keep yourself informed. It is one of the responsibilities that come with living in a democracy.
It is not enough to complain about the bizarre situation in the United States. Even though I am Canadian, it is really important to keep informed.
One new way I am trying to keep informed is by setting up a special Twitter list on American politics. My list is growing daily and it includes many of the dominant opposition voices to the current regime in Washington. I am also including Donald Trump’s account on the list. His tweets are objectionable, but again, it is important to see what he is putting out. A Twitter list is like your own specialized information channel. I use them frequently to focus my feed on specific topics.
I am also using Scoop.it to share the tweets and articles I find important. Keeping informed is part of our responsibility, sharing what we find is also essential.
Apart from developing my new Twitter list, I am also signing up for more political blogs and collecting them for my daily unroll.me e-mail. Again, it is really important to channel as much relevant information as possible to keep aware of a political situation that changes daily.
My list will continue to grow. I need to create a really good news channel through Twitter and at the same time, I want to follow and support those out there that are doing their best to stand in opposition to the current American political situation.
You can do your part – follow my list or create your own.
Whatever you do, stay informed!
“Schools should not, in other words, be responsive, welcoming, or servile in the face of change, but should be bulwarks against it. Schools should be the high point from which to watch the flood.”
Gary Chapman The Not School discussion of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death
I read Neil Postman’s book Teaching as a Conserving Activity when I was in teacher’s college. Something stuck with me, although I haven’t read it in over 31 years. To me, there was an important message in this book. Education needs to stand in resistance to the dominant culture.
I have always seen the educator’s role as that of a subversive. We need to resist the dominant culture and teach our children to be critical thinkers.
This is more important now than ever.
For most of us, we are living under a truly evil leader for the first time. This happens, it just hasn’t happened to us before.
Donald Trump is not something that we have seen before in an American President. Denying refugees safe haven and painting them all as dangerous subversives is simply wrong and we who teach need to stand in opposition to this type of thinking.
How do we resist?
I would suggest that this is the time to really embrace social media and teach our children how to use it responsibly. I can no longer stomach those who say that social media is dangerous and has no place in the classroom. Those who say our students use social media just to keep up with the Kardashians are really missing the point. The Kardashians are simply the Flintstones of a new generation.
Let’s move on.
Social media is the best way for all of us to resist the evil that now exists in our society. Remember this, most of us have never lived under a Pinochet, a Franco, a Mussolini. In the days of these and other dictators, there was no light that you could shine on their evil and have it viewed by others.
Our one hope is that the power of social media means we finally have a weapon to deal with ignorance and hate.
In 2007, a group of protesters in Suchitoto, El Salvador were abducted when they were protesting against water privatization. Their capture was caught on film and quickly uploaded to Youtube. Ten years earlier, these protesters would have disappeared never to be seen again.
Because of social media, there was an international protest against the illegal capture and eventually, the Salvadoran Government was forced to release the protestors.
If you know anything about the slaughter of civilians during the civil war in El Salvador this was an incredible event. International pressure fuelled by social media certainly saved the lives of these people.
Now, in 2017 we are faced with a government system that has all the earmarks of the oppressive Salvadoran regime of earlier days. But we have the tools and as educators, we need to use them as a way to stand in opposition to racism and bigotry.
Look what is coming out daily through social media:
Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care says the province will offer to provide life-saving care to children whose surgeries have been cancelled in the United States as a result of recent travel restrictions.
“Given that this is a critical time for these ill children, our ministry and Ontario’s specialized children’s hospitals, which provide best-in-the-world care, feel the responsibility to act quickly,” Eric Hoskins said Friday.
Hoskins said it has come to the government’s attention that some critically ill children are being turned away at the U.S. border solely because of where they were born and that Canada has an obligation to respond.
Today, Uber also bowed to public pressure and distanced itself from the Trump government.
So, resistance, peaceful and respectful works. Let’s really be educators and teach our children that this is an important time. Tell them to use social media in an intelligent way and resist.
My fundraising page: http://bit.ly/2bKfFkk – all donations are tax deductible
Thanks to everyone who was able to come out to our fundraiser last night. It was great to see so many good friends and I feel truly honoured to have your support.
Thanks to long distance travellers like Patti Walker (Oakville), Joe Ferracuti (Montreal) and Bob and Karen Kennedy (Brockville).
Thanks to all those who made this happen – Shawn Dawson – our fearless Dream Mountains leader, Jenny, the wonderful Fatboys manager, First Bass – the amazing band (who we want to hear again!), my wonderful family – Heather Swail – who worked so hard to make this happen, Liam McGuire, Mairi McGuire – our artist – Colleen McGuire and Claire Maultsaid. Also, thanks to Dream Mountains members Virginia Gluska, Julie Baird and her husband who did so much to run the silent auction and 50/50 draw. Also to Harry Binks, Augustina Dean and Byron Johnson who came out to our event.
What a community effort!!
We are now approaching the $7000.00 mark in our fundraising efforts for Rec Link and we will keep on going to see how we all can assist this great organization. We will continue to take donations, so let’s see how much we can raise for Rec LINK!!
Many are asking how best to follow the climb so I am adding the sites I will be using here. If you know of anyone who wants to follow and is not getting these notes, please let me know and I will add them here.
My Blog: https://paulmcguire1.com/
ESRI Story Map: Our Canadian Kilimanjaro Journey http://arcg.is/2hwfHR3
Sutori Story Board: https://www.sutori.com/story/our-kilimanjaro-journey Our Kilimanjaro Journey
Kuula – a growing collection of 360 degree photos – many more to come!
My fundraising page: http://bit.ly/2bKfFkk – all donations are tax deductible
Thanks again – this is a great venture and I am very happy to have all of you on board!!
“I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.”
—President Barack Obama, January 10, 2017
We need some hope.
Today, I found the link to President Obama’s new Twitter account and his foundation page. It starts with a really positive message.
When you go through the site, you are asked a few questions on what kind of positive initiative you would like to see happen. You are also asked to add an image and write about why it is important to you. I wrote this.
I think a good citizen is someone who contributes in a positive way to make things better for those in their community. That community could be your neighbourhood, city, country or the entire world. We can all make a positive difference if we want to.
I am part of a group that will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in March 2017. I love this project because we get the adventure of a lifetime and at the same time, we raise money for a charity of our choice – mine is Rec LINK, a small organization that helps families in poor neighbourhoods access recreational services.
It would be great to do something like this in Guatemala or El Salvador – places more people need to explore and learn about.
That’s it – I got to write the President about Dream Mountains and its potential to continue to match adventure and social justice – something I really hope will happen in the future.
I am really glad he asked.
I am on the search for great story-telling tools!
Sometimes you need to spend a whole day to find just the right tool. I think I found it – Kuula – a great interactive tool, which unfortunately will not embed to a WordPress blog!
https://kuula.co/share/7ft6s – link to the interactive version.
This find is the result of a day-long search to find apps that will allow me to easily share interactive photos from my upcoming climb to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It is great that we are all raising money for different charities – mine is the Sens Foundation and specifically, Rec LINK, an organization that does terrific work in our community, linking families up to recreational opportunities for their kids.
From their website, they outline their mission for their community:
1 in 5 children in Ottawa lives in poverty and many more face barriers that make participation in after-school sports, recreational or social programs difficult. Rec Link aims to help children and youth participate in social recreation activities during the critical afterschool hours by working to effect change on three levels: system, community, and individual.
I understand the importance of this work. For over two years, I worked in the community they support. Kids in our neighbourhood simply do not get the opportunities to play sports and take part in enriching activities due to the lack of resources available to families.
So, while it is important to raise money for Rec LINK, I also need to tell the story of the journey to the top of Kilimanjaro. I am doing this for the kids I used to work with and for all those wonderful people who are supporting me. To date, 82 people have contributed $4082.00 to Rec LINK – my goal is $6000.00 and I am going to make it.
Now, back to story-telling. I continue to look for ways to tell the story. Kuula is really important because it is really difficult to share 360 photos. These photos are really important as you can manipulate the picture so you can get a 360 degree perspective on what is going on in the photo. The photos are taken using the Ricoh Theta S – a wonderful camera that takes 360 photos and videos. I have the photos worked out now but still learning how to do interesting 360 videos.
The jewel in the story-telling crown is certainly ESRI Story Maps.
The story map is supposed to embed to web pages, but it won’t work here which is a problem. The opening page looks like this
The actual story map will scroll down as you add to your story. You can embed maps, photos and of course 360 interactive photos and videos!
I hope to use this tool as a way to share the actual climb with students back in Ottawa. With the aid of an InReach Satellite Communicator I will actually track our progress up the mountain. To do it on a 3D map would be the best – however, I don’t know how to do this yet.
Another story-telling tool I am experimenting with is Sutori. This tool has lots of interesting features that are not included in ESRI Story Maps and it might be a better way to interact with students. Sutori allows you to add collaborators to write with you. It has functions that allow you to add forums for questions and music. Like ESRI, you can’t embed the story to your website which is certainly more engaging. You also can’t embed photos which is a problem.
screen shot of the Sutori Page
I will keep searching for good ways to bring this story to life. I can’t imagine doing this without sharing as much as I can.
If you have good ideas on tools I should be using, I would love to hear what you know!
I find that my priorities are beginning to shift.
While I will still continue to include lots of education posts in my 31 days of blogging, more and more of my mental and emotional energy is going into the immense physical challenge of getting ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Dream Mountains.
I took this challenge on as a way of starting retirement and I guess as a way to rewire (or reprogram) myself after 31 years of working in the education world.
What is important to me is that in doing this climb, I have pledged to raise $6000.00 for the Senators Foundation – a charity that does lots of important work in and around our school community for our families. I wouldn’t be doing this if this was a bucket list thing, I’m not interested in projects that don’t tie into my former school community.
I was fortunate to meet up with Shawn Dawson who leads the Dream Mountains Foundation. Shawn is a very accomplished climber who is giving back to his community every year by recruiting and training 20 non-climbers to take on the challenge of a lifetime.
In the years Shawn has run these trips he has raised close to $1,000,000 – in fact, we will break this barrier very soon as we raise money for our different charities.
Our ultimate goal is to do 10 stories in 10 minutes per set. Right now, I am at 8 stories completed in under 13 minutes each.
I have a way to go.
We change things up by hiking an 8.5 km trail that quickly ascends 310 m. This past weekend, we did this ascent in 55 minutes – a good pace!
These hikes serve many important purposes – the main objective is to get to know your fellow climbers – these are the people who you will depend on during the climb and it is important to know who has your back on an arduous climb. The climb also gives you the opportunity to try out your equipment – a constant experiment and most importantly at this point, it gives you a chance to test your fitness level.
For me, I realize I have work to do, but that’s OK – this is January 16, and we don’t leave until the end of March. There is something wonderful in focusing on your physical fitness – it is so rare in this society that we have the opportunity to do this. After 31 years of working as an educator it is a very welcome change!
I am loving every minute of this experience – the training, the hikes, the constant learning and the team building. There is lots more to write about – especially how I hope to share this experience in real time as much as possible, but that is for a future post. Lots of time now to write.
Today, recover and get ready for another assault of the stairs.
This is a position I have been in before. A large part of my role as an administrator has been to encourage the development of new teaching techniques based on digital technology and at the same time, work hard at making the learning at school more visible through the use of social media.
The move to digital transformation however does not last. Generally, the tools that we use especially to communicate with parents are not always picked up by the next person to fill the role of school administrator.
There is a systemic problem here. Administrators are not trained in the use of technology or social media. Many are still hesitant to use Facebook or Twitter and fewer still blog to or text their parent communities.
Part of the problem is that many administrators did not teach at a time where the use of digital media was becoming more prevalent in the classroom. There is also very little time spent on forming administrators as digital leaders in their schools. Many administrators are still deeply suspicious of social media.
To me, there are several basic tools that all administrators need to be using. All of these tools have been around for years and do not require a huge amount of technical expertise to use.
Facebook: Many administrators seem to have grown up at a time where Facebook simply was not trusted by educators. What they don’t realize is that most of our parents grew up with Facebook and still use it as a way to communicate with friends and family. Facebook is easily the best tool to let parents into the school to see what is going on every day. Administrators need to use Facebook to open up their schools to their parents – they deserve to know what is going on.
Twitter: Twitter needs to be used as a way to quickly communicate with parents and administrators should also be using it daily to keep up with the most recent trends in education. We have a responsibility to stay well-informed and that means developing a good list of people in the education field that are then followed on a regular basis.
Remind: This may seem like overkill, but parents choose their own way to communicate with their school. You need to use a variety of tools so that parents can choose how they want to hear from you. You don’t need to use Remind, but you need some form of text communication with parents. Remind is very easy to set up and parents are the ones who decide if they want to receive your text messages. Remind is now set up to allow parents to respond to your texts – all in a way that preserves the privacy of the user.
Blogging – you need to blog! The day of the tired out monthly newsletter is gone, thank goodness! Having said that, this does not release the administrator from communicating with parents on a regular basis on what is happening and what is coming up at school. At my last school we used Edublogs to send a weekly post to parents on what was planned for the upcoming week. All the teachers contributed to the blog with a rundown of their plans for their class. The blog was the very best tool we had. Parents and teachers read it every week to keep up to date with all academic, sports and social news coming from the school. It was an invaluable tool and one that really should be used by all administrators.
There are many other tools that can be used to engage your parent community and new ones are being created every day. My main point is that this is part of the administrator’s job in 2017. I don’t know how we can ask our teachers and our students to become adept at using digital technology when our own principals lage so far behind.
There is hope. If you are an administrator – challenge yourself – start learning today!
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