What type of leader are you?

Are you a leader?
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
What is leadership?

Can you answer these questions? While you may be able to answer the first with a simple “yes” or “no”, the other two questions require you to take an honest look at yourself and what you believe leadership to be. But what happens when you don’t know what you believe? What happens if you truly don’t know the meaning of leadership? Does it matter?

If you were to take a moment and reflect upon the leaders that you have met in your life, you may describe them as being invitational, constructive, strategic, or perhaps the leadership you have experienced has been distributed among a group of people. Now look at yourself as a leader. What type of leader are you?

Are you an INVITATIONAL leader? Invitational leaders have to take care of themselves and others personally and professionally if they hope to be in the game for any length of time. John Novak describes invitational leaders as having to invite…
Oneself Personally – pay attention to one’s self-talk
Others Personally – an active and creative social committee is vital
Oneself Professionally – keep informed and up to date
Others Professionally – help everyone to see themselves as part of the growth process
The invitational leader appreciates what is presently happening, yet is working to have more of the group’s potential realized. Invitational leaders believe “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!”

Are you a CONSTRUCTIVE leader? Constructive leaders focus on finding a sense of purpose, like a shared vision. To be constructive, you must believe that when people learn through change, they commit themselves to the outcome. Purpose or purposeful action is the foundation for constructive leadership.

Are you a STRATEGIC leader? Author Michael Fullan talks about how strategic leaders are restlessness with the present. They have a dissatisfaction with the status quo, and have the belief “we can always do better.” They prioritize. They look at what has worked in the past, and shape it to work in the future. To strategic leaders, strong personal and professional networks are key for change and growth. Strategic leaders are successful in that they are proactive and personally engaging, while at the same time having a long range view.

Are you an INSTRUCTIONAL leader? Or do you view leadership as a DISTRIBUTED process? If so, you should believe that the growth of others is as important, or of greater importance, than personal growth. You look for opportunities to show others how to be successful, while using the successes of others in your organization as exemplars? To instructional leaders, leadership is not an act, it is a practice.

So, what type of leader are you?

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The Honour Roll

In recent meetings, our teaching staff and administration have had the opportunity to discuss our schools mission and future direction. The conversation has had many topics and gone in many directions. Of these, there is one that has been constantly on my mind. It is the conversation we are having about Honour roll in our school.

I can understand and appreciate. the importance of staff feedback, especially with such a sensitive topic. Yet in some way I feel that we are currently asking the wrong question. I believe we should not be asking “what” should be on or included on Honour roll, but the “why” are we having an Honour roll? What is its purpose? Does Honour roll improve student learning?

I have thought of these questions many times this week. I had conversations with colleagues, both for and opposed to Honour roll. Yet no one had a definitive answer to these questions. So I decided to continue my search. What I came upon was a video shared to me by @joe_bower on his blog For the Love of Learning. It is a short (20 minute) webcast from author and lecturer Alphie Kohn. In it, Kohn describes the importance of student engagement in learning.

Here is the link to @joe_bowers’s blog post entitled “From a culture of performance to a culture of learning” I encourage you to give it a view.

Or, directly view the video of Alfie Kohn. ALFIE KOHN: From a “culture of performance” to a “culture of learning”

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1/365 isn’t for me

Happy New Year!

It is January 1st. What a great day! It is a day where we can assess the past year, and look ahead with hope and excitement for the year to come. Perhaps we might even make some resolutions.

However, if you are an educator you know that resolutions are not meant for January 1st, they’re meant for September 1st (or somewhere close) For educators January 1st resolutions often refer to personal goals, commonly healthy initiatives. But gaining popularity lately is a resolution to improve one’s online presence. Perhaps through a 1/365 blogging goal. That is, one blog post for each day of the year. Sounds like a great idea, just not for me.

My blog posts have become sporadic at best. To say that I could do one everyday is too lofty of a goal. Instead my resolution is to write meaningful posts, and write them more often. Oh, and no offense, but I am not worried if they are meaningful for you. My posts need to become more meaningful to me. To evoke some sort of change, or inspire some new revelation in thought.

1/365 may be something you’ve done, are doing, or are planning to do. If so, I wish you the best, andI look forward to reading your posts! But it just isn’t for me…at least not this year.

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What does it mean to be engaged?

Three weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with @legrandeurdm and plan out a video coaching program. This idea was brought to us by our district AISI leader @neillangevin. The plan, is that we record our classes, and then review the video individually and together, in a coaching role. Great idea right? I think so. In my athletic experience it always was more effective to see what I was doing on video and then adjust; so why not in my classroom?

Well, this week I recorded three of my classes, and the answer is obvious…I sound and look funny up there. Seriously, I think I got more out of watching myself for 20 mins than I could have in an hour following an admin visit. I believe this was the case because as individuals we are inherently harder on ourselves than others.

As an educator committed to improving my teaching, and more specifically the learning of my students, I appreciated the opportunity to see myself in action, and as a result, my students inaction.
I want my students to be engaged, but in all three of my videos there was a common obstacle in the way, me. It was about me, not them. Maybe because I was conscious of the recording, or maybe it was because I wanted @legraduerdm to think I was a good teacher. Regardless, I now know what I want to change, and only after watching one class!

So I ask myself now, what does it mean to be engaged? Dave and I developed a pretty spiffy checklist, complete with educator jargon, but will it really tell us if our students are engaged? I guess we will see, and learn, through this process.

Wait…maybe I shouldn’t be asking you, maybe I should be asking THEM, you know them, right?

Yes, the 65 12-13 year-olds I see everyday.

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How do you measure student engagement?

This week I had the opportunity to sit down with a grade level colleague of mine,  @legrandeurdm and plan out our video coaching program. Originally the idea of video coaching was brought to us by our district AISI leader @neillangevin. For those of you unfamiliar with video coaching, let me try to explain what we are up to.

The plan:

To record our classes from two points of view. First, from a class point of view where the camera is focused on us. This way we will be able to focus on our own tendencies, mannerisms, etc. Second, a whole class point of view where we can see the students. This will allow us to focus on what the kids are doing during our class. How do they react, interact, and engage? After recording our lessons, we will sit as individuals, and then together, to watch each others classes. Using a checklist of focus questions that we have come up with, we will discuss or “coach” each other.

Our Focus:

Our focus throughout this project will be on student engagement. We will be looking more specifically at:

  • instructional methods
  • questioning
  • pacing
  • differentiated instruction

Sounds pretty straight forward right? Maybe not. We really had a hard time answering the following question:

“How do we, as educators, measure engagement?”

My Request to you!

So I’m putting it out there to you.

How do you measure the engagement in YOUR classroom?

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Being Comfortable: Dangerous to your health

I had the privilege to have dinner with a friend and fellow educator the other night.  Unfortunately for my wife, the conversation quickly turned to “shop talk”, as it often does when teacher’s get together.

I enjoyed our conversation, as we looked back on the first four months of the year at our respective schools. We focused on our successes, struggles, teaching loads, and future plans.  INterestingly enough, our friend was also my supervising teacher in my second professional semester in university. She coached, and now co-coaches basketball with my wife at the University of Lethbridge. The reason I felt our conversation so valuable, was that she also has 20+ years teaching experience, and is currently completing her M.Ed. Two things that I intend to accomplish in my teaching career.

As we discussed our teaching practice, and the various methods we use to engage students, a word came up that often makes me shudder. Both my friend and I have the same viewpoint of this word. As a matter of fact, I refuse to use this word when describing my teaching, I will go as far as calling it education’s “C” word.


Definition of com·fort·able according to Merriam-Webster

a : affording or enjoying contentment and security

b : free from stress or tension

That’s it, comfortable. Although being free from stress and tension sounds great, I have witnessed various types of  “comfortable” in my 5 years.

Comfortable is something that I never want to be in my profession. At the moment that I begin to feel comfortable in my teaching practice, I feel the need to mix it up. This is very similar to other aspects of my life.

Perhaps I am over thinking this simple word. However, the type “comfortable” that I have witnessed can easily be mistaken for another “C” word, complacency.

My fear is that some teachers who feel comfortable, have allowed themselves to become complacent. If I am complacent in my classroom, am I providing my students with engaging and dynamic material, or am I just sticking with what “I” know best?

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These are my goals

By florriebassingbourne via Flickr

Every year, teachers in our province complete goals that they strive to achieve by years end. Some goals however, can be completed at various times throughout the school year. We call these “Teacher Professional Growth Plans“, or TPGP’s for short.

These were my goals for 2011-2012:

  • Use preparation time at school more efficiently in order to complete tasks such as planning, marking and parent communication.
  • To create a PLN (personal learning network) and learning community not only online but within our own building.
  • To complete my first sprint triathlon in spring/summer 2012

As part of my growth plan I came up with strategies to achieve my goals. Yet already this year, I have found myself straying from my well planned path and designed strategies. Of course, I can think of 100 excuses why it has been hard to stay on track; “our school is too busy”, “not enough prep time”, “class numbers are too large”, “coaching has me too busy”, and my favourite “the Flames are playing!”

All these excuses sound great, and at any given time allow me to rationalize my maintaining the status quo.

Be honest, you know the status quo, the plan/show up/teach/email/coach/ go home/mark/sleep/repeat model. None of which challenge me, my students, or the parents of my students. The status quo will not satisfy me. So what will? What will help me get what I want? I’ve decided to simplify my goals.

I want to be better. This could mean many things. I believe in this context it means that I want to be more effective in and out of my classroom. This includes in our building, community, and online. A big part of this is communication.

I want to teach better. I truly believe that I can only achieve this by seeking out the advice of others. Guidance, direction, criticism, and feedback are all necessary here. I cannot be afraid to take risks.

I want my students to learn better. As hard as it is, especially with middle school students, I believe that in order for the students in my classroom to learn better, I must give the students more control over their learning. I have witnessed that this must be done in a correct way in order to maintain sanity, but I’m getting there. Again, I view this area as a work in progress.

If you look at my TPGP’s, or my simplified goals, and think “Wow Cam, you’re way off”, please, tell me why. Likewise, if you have any suggestions, directions, or words of wisdom, please do not hesitate to share!

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Open Doors!

If you read my post last night (“Will the doors open?”) you know that this morning I looked for an opportunity to get into a colleagues classroom to observe, assist, or be part of their class.

Well, I successfully received 5 replies to my mass staff email. Out of these replies, I would have loved to visit any one of the classes. I chose to visit a grade 8 science class taught by an experienced/veteran teacher in our building. What an excellent experience!

I loved every minute of it. To see how another teacher manages a large class in a not so large room was great. Not to mention the order of the day, testing a person’s density, involved this teacher and a few brave students jumping into a garbage bin full of cold water to measure their volume. The class loved it, and everyone was engaged.

I hope that I have an opportunity in the future to get into another classroom, and quick!


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Will the doors open? I’m a little nervous…

I am going to try something new tomorrow, and it has me a little bit nervous.

In my last post, “Start Local, Think Global”, I stated how I desired to be more involved in professional communication with my colleagues within our building. In short, I have been trying to expand my PLN for some time, and have often turned to social media outlets to do so; yet I felt that I was missing a great resource, my school and the professionals within it.

I work in a fantastic, dynamic, and busy building. We are a middle school that offers shop, dance, hip-hop, rock and pop, guitar, choral, and a variety of other amazing options. Not to mention, excellent core programs. This is why I want to build my PLN locally.

This brings me to tomorrow…

Tomorrow morning there is an experienced substitute (she actually works part-time at our school) available during one of my instructional periods. I have asked this sub to cover my class, and for one reason only, so that I can get into someone else’s. I know there is a lot of excellent stuff going on, and I want to experience it!

So today, I sent out an email to my co-workers, offering my help, assistance, or observation into the workings of their class. So far, 5 responses!

Often teachers are very protective of their classrooms. I believe this is because they are worried about being “judged” or “evaluated”. I just want to experience! I’m interested to see how my offer is accepted.

I hope that this is something that I can continue to do in the future, and that it is taken as a compliment, and not as a threat. Hopefully, a few others may try the same. Maybe, just maybe, the doors will start to open.

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Start local, think global

Over the last year, I have come to rely on my twitter feed and RSS feeds for teaching resources, activities, and ways to use tech in my classroom. As I have come across these resources, I have shared them with my colleagues on staff, many of whom have no idea what a tweet is, or what a PLN is. I am committed to continuing my search for good ideas, and for ways to change the “status quo” in my class; and hopefully, along the way I can inspire others to do the same.

Yet as I browse my twitter feed, or take part in #edchat discussions, I can’t help but think about the amount of knowledge that the 40 other teachers in my own building possess. Why don’t we share information in our school like we do on twitter or elsewhere online? I really don’t have an answer for this, and I am not even sure that there is one. In the midst of my excitement about building my PLN (primarily online), I have overlooked perhaps the most readily available information in my PLN, my colleagues!

Maybe this week I will spend less time on my iphone checking twitter, and more time walking around my building and in the classrooms of the excellent teachers I work with.

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