Category Archives: Professional Learning

Becoming a Google Educator Vice-Principal…

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 6.37.40 PMWhen I attended the Google Summit in April, I was quite intrigued about becoming qualified in some “Googley” way. However, I did not necessarily want to become a trainer. You can become a Google Certified Teacher. You can become a Google Certified Trainer. Why can’t you become a Google Certified Vice-Principal?

My main purpose is to increase my knowledge base and figure out how I can help create a Google School … a Schoogle (a favourite term I must give Doug Sadler credit for) where I could help staff and students alike get more Googley too.  So I decided to become a Google Educator.  And that’s more than good enough for me.

This venture involved taking part in 5 different learning modules from Google for Education:

  • Google for Education: Gmail
  • Google for Education: Calendar
  • Google for Education: Drive and Docs
  • Google for Education: Sites
  • and an elective which I chose – Google for Education: Chromebooks

The learning modules were packed with great information that was highly applicable as an educator. But the exams were a little ridiculous (providing great cognitive dissonance for a recent A&E consultant) with 60 multiple choice questions in a time crunched 90 minutes, with 80% as a pass. Remember the ones? A & B, B & C but not D, All of the above, Only three of the above, None of the above? Talk about craziness for second guessing yourself!  I must say that this test environment kept me on my toes, with my heart pounding for the entire 90 minutes, with the little voice (OK… very loud take-over type voice) telling me “You must pass! You cannot fail!” the entire time.

The good news… we’ll be on our way to helping staff and students become more Googley come September!  I’m open to any suggestions from Administrators out there who use the Google platform to organize their schools.  Please share any ideas and I promise to go slow 🙂

Now… where to begin?


Just do SOMEthing!

DSC_0196My problem is… I overthink things.

I overthink things to the point of not even beginning something that should be a relatively easy task, if I were to just begin. I am constantly trying to think of an even better way to begin or set things up or roll out a plan. To the point of sometimes sitting very still for a long time.

What’s the best way to organize my garage?  What’s the best way to switch my winter clothes out of my closet and start bringing out my summer stuff? What’s the best way to sort out the content on my sister’s Greenhouse website?  By the way, none of these 3 tasks have been started.  I get stuck.

A few weeks ago, I was quite geeked to be a part of a 4 day professional learning experience involving a “Google Bootcamp” and a “Google Summit”.  Many ideas streamed by me for 4 days at lightning speed… people sharing ideas… apps to try… extensions to add to Chrome… and solid pedagogical practices that were shared.  For 4 days, I tried to organize it all in my head and figure out a strategic way to implement some of the possibilities with my staff.  I struggled with how to “dial it back” a notch to begin at a reasonable speed.

I had a great discussion tonight with a few colleagues as we shared and brainstormed about “what would be the best way” to share ideas with our staffs regarding curriculum, pedagogy, and integration of technology.  We shared our ideas of our weekly newsletters that are sent electronically.  We shared our attempts at organizing blogs according to strategies we see in our schools.  We shared our face-to-face discussions.

And then I started to talk about my vision of how I’ve always wanted to start a separate page on my website that I could begin sharing weekly ideas with my staff, that would be archived online for future access as well.  And as I listened to myself say “I’ve always wanted to do that, but haven’t figured out a way to organize it all yet”, I realized that I could be putting it off for a very long time.  I stared into space for a brief moment, and I realized… stop trying to organize it all and just begin.

The process just repeats with me.

Learn… reflect… do.

It’s the timing of each that seems to vary with me.

What have you been spending too much time organizing your thinking around? What can you begin tomorrow?


Keeping honest with my goal…

It’s time to get back to my professional goal of online digital content creation. It seems that I was much more effective at this BTW (before thesis writing). And so now that I have completed my Masters in Education as well as my thesis, I feel as though I can move on with my professional learning goals as a Vice-Principal!

photo (55)Recently, our staff contributed to a Professional Learning Goal wall of excellence in our front foyer, as a way to show our students and our parents that learning never ends.  The goal I chose to display was “to further support staff and students in using technology effectively in the classroom, where students create content to share with others”. 

And so it begins.  I remember listening to an audiobook by Ed Bliss called Getting Things Done.  He mentioned that “the difference between a wish and a goal is very often a number and a date”. I have been wishing I could find more time to work with students and staff on specific content creation projects.  And so now I have turned them into goals.

One goal is to work with a group of grade 8 students and our specialty computer teacher in order to create Learning Skills and Work Habit videos that have a student voice to accompany the teacher resources previously worked on from a teacher’s perspective.  We are hoping to have these done in the next couple of months.

Another goal I have is to work with a group of 20 grade 5 students in order to create an awareness video in honour of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, 2014.

There.  It’s in print.  I must complete them.  What goals have you set for yourself? Have you written them down, with a number or a date?


Audio invitation to UnPlug’d12: International

Listen to hear an invitation to UnPlug’d 12: International shared by BenToddRoddZoe, and I.
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Reflections from Infusion, 2011 – North Bay


I was super excited to have the opportunity to present a Keynote at the Infusion, 2011 Conference in North Bay this weekend.  Being a “northern girl”, it felt like I was coming home to the Great White North.  But far beyond connecting with the North again, it allowed me to share a little bit of what I love doing most…  working with aspiring teachers, and sharing experiences of what I have learned in the classroom, through my connections with kids.

The framework for our presentation (co-developed with @benhazzard) focussed on thinking about the infusion of technology into your classroom following a gear-system approach of:

1.  Think it – What is your key learning purpose?  How do you plan on infusing this technology to meet with your pedagogical purpose and student learning goals?

2.  Find it, Bring it – If you don’t have access to your “ideal piece of technology that you envision”, what could you use instead?

3.  Try it – It’s ok to learn as you go, and yes, it can be messy! – try it, refine it, try it, refine it, try it, refine it … just keep trying it!

4.  Learn it – Reflect on what works and what needs to be tweaked.  And start the process again.

The essence of the gear framework is that you can jump in at any point.  And the turning of one gear, builds momentum in the other gears and allows the learning process to unfold.

So as you reflect on the pedagogy behind one piece of technology you are currently using in the classroom … forget about the shiny features of this technology …  What purpose is it serving in your classroom?


My New Learning Journey

How do you know you are ready?  How do you know when you are truly being “called” to do something?  Change can be exhilarating.  But change can be so scary at the same time.  Scary because it challenges you to step outside of the zone that you are so comfortable in.  However, that feeling of discomfort can also mean growth.  Personal growth.  Professional growth.

Yesterday, I started my Principal’s Qualifications course.  And I have to admit that I feel like I have come full circle.  Full circle from teacher in a classroom, to consultant at the board office, and now back to student in a classroom.  Ironically, the first day of my course took place in one of my old schools (in a different city) that I spent a large part of my teaching career in.  However, this time as I entered the school, I wasn’t the one in charge of the lesson plan.  I was in charge of my own learning.  It felt amazing.  I knew I was meant to be there, on that day, doing exactly what I set out to do.  I think I even felt what it meant to be “called”.

Many ideas surfaced through the variety of activities that we were immersed in.  The main idea that stuck with me all weekend was that “it’s all about relationships.”   A good principal will build a Catholic community by making sure that staff members feel valued.  All staff.  If you are able to listen to others, and learn their “story”, then it will help everyone realize that they are able to contribute to the knowledge of others.

We also talked about the possible stressors (obstacles) that are involved in a principal’s role.  This was eye-opening to say the least.  Many similar ideas emerged on our small group chart paper (which was very comforting):  student safety (job one!), unreasonable parent requests, conflicts among teaching staff, supporting teacher actions you may not agree with, having thick enough skin not to take things personally, making wrong decisions, staying calm, not reacting to a situation and having the right words to say in any given situation.

I appreciated this simple but effective guideline:

  1. Consider all factors
  2. Do an information search
  3. Make a decision

It seems simple, however I believe it falls nicely into an idea stressed by our instructor:  The new cool is calm!  Most decisions do not need to be made immediately – great advice.  Many of my initial fears were calmed with the advice of our instructor.  His vast number of experiences has allowed growth in his professional career that he can now share and pass on to us learners.  And I am grateful for that.  It reminds me that if we work with others around us, and trust in the collective wisdom that our staff has to offer, we can be the amazing principal that will make others want our job!  We were told that should be our goal.

It was mentioned that a good principal does what good teachers do.  I can relate to this as a consultant.  I can never stop being a teacher.  It’s not possible.  It is who I am.  And whether I have 25 students sitting in front of me, or 25 teachers sitting in front of me, or 25 principals sitting in front of me … it doesn’t change who I am and what I will do.  I have always felt that every group I work with is just like a group of students.  Different learners, with different needs and different goals.  It’s up to me to listen, connect and help lead them in their learning and to motivate them to achieve their own potential.

The night before my course, I came across this blog post by a principal in Alberta.  It was the perfect reflection to guide me in setting out the type of principal that I want to be (when I grow up).  It stayed on my mind throughout the course of my day.

We were introduced to a great mentor text:  King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood.  It helped me connect to the idea that everyone has a role to play.  The solution to any problem may be easy if you are open to looking at things with a different eye and using the collective knowledge of those you work with.  This is exactly what I intend to do with my new learning challenge.  I like to embrace each new opportunity with this thinking … What is it that I’m meant to learn from this situation?  Is this the calling (which is way more than a title by the way) that I am to be listening to at this time in my life?  Will I embrace this new calling when that time comes?  Absolutely.


Oh no! The posters are in my garage!

It’s 5 minutes before the “starting time” of our Collaborative Inquiry sessions on Monday morning.  The junior staffs along with their principals are gathered and excited to begin our day together.  The ministry folks have arrived.  Our team is gathering tools and posters and preparing the tables for the busy day of strategizing ahead.  The room is a BUZZ with activity.

First up on the agenda, after our prayer, is a reflective review of where they left off last time.  Each school had prepared a poster with their Inquiry Question, their Theories of Action, and their plans for data/evidence collection and next steps.  Each session, we begin by taking a pulse of how they made out with their plan.  They use red, yellow and green sticky dots to reflect on how they made out with each part of their plan.  This task is completed on a large poster so that they can then use the poster later in the day to present to other schools.  It has worked very well all year to keep our teams focused and the dialogue related to the action plan for the students.

So as we scramble as a team to prepare each school’s materials, a sick feeling starts to hit me.  The posters are not where they should be.  A new member of our team is scrambling along side of me helping me look for them.   I’m trying to appear calm, in order to model effective professional behavior to one of our newest members of our team.  Must model organization, preparedness, control, calmness, right? The ministry ladies come over to chat and see if I need them to help with setting up anything (NO! I scream in my head, just let me think!), the other team members are scurrying about trying to help and obviously starting to sense my angst.

The only option was to admit defeat.  I turned to our newest member of our team and said “Oh no… the posters are in my garage.”  Actually, you can substitute another word for “oh no” because I believe I may have even done that in the heat of the moment.  I just thought I had better keep an appropriate title for this blog post.

The next thing that happened just makes me realize what it truly means to be a member of a team.  Everyone jumped into problem solving mode with 2 minutes to starting time.  Blank posters were created, team members dug up old notes from the previous session, about three different people offered to drive to my house, and a couple of others offered to cover while I went home to get them.  However, it was starting time.  There was no other option than for me to admit defeat and “roll with it”.

After we prayed together as a community, I welcomed the teams and we began our session with the message of how “collaborative inquiry can be messy”.  It’s ok not to be perfect at everything we are trying to accomplish.  Everything we do is a learning opportunity. It was a perfect moment to admit to the entire room of teachers, principals, ministry folks and team members (and obviously to myself), that our posters were in my garage.   What happened next makes me realize how very hard we are on ourselves.  They thought it was funny.  They laughed at my imperfection.  I even heard, “Thank God, you are human,” from the crowd.  I had beat myself up for 5 minutes (which honestly seemed like three hours) and they laughed and appreciated that I was human.

Being a perfectionist is hard work.  I remember reading a long time ago “Perfectionism can drive you to the dredges of destruction”.  When I read that, I thought it was quite harsh at the time.  Probably because the truth of that statement scared me immensely.  But over the years, I’ve realized that it is quite true.  Just this morning I was also reminded of this in a blogpost by Daniel Pink which allowed me to reflect once again on the view of perfectionism and the choice I need to make regarding this quality in myself.

We all “leave the posters in our garage” at some time or other in our lives.  We do this because we are not perfect.  And, since no one is perfect, it’s much easier to admit your mistake, laugh it off and move on, with the help and support of your team around you.  I’ve learned that most people (the ones that matter) will appreciate the fact that you are human, and really don’t mind that you are not perfect.  In fact, they will appreciate that you are not perfect.

So try it.  Admit that you left the posters in your garage…