Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Age of the Shiny Object



"What would a school that was totally focused on student and teacher learning look like?"

I believe that this is a question that, as educators, we are often quick to answer.   We might talk about how the building might look, how the classrooms would be organized, the classes that would be offered, the resources and technology that would adorn each of the classrooms, and the teaching that would take place.  However, the more time I spend in my school and others, the more I realize that we would be better served by responding to this question with another question, which would be

"What is the type of learning that we want?"

Right now in education, we are in the age of the shiny object.  Tablets, smartboards, mini iPads, smartphones, document cameras, chromebooks--you name it, schools and districts seem to be in a pseudo-technological 'arms race' in which the ultimate goal seems to fall somewhere between student learning and the ability to espouse sound bites like "we have a 1:1 tablet program in our Grade 4 classrooms".

We are also in the age of flashy programs--PRTI, PBIS, AVID, STE(A)M, Assessment For Learning, Inquiry-Based Learning, and Problem-Based Learning are just a few of the appetizers in the buffet of programs and initiatives that are available for schools to sample when they are hungry to go in a new direction.  "We do PLCs!" we shout with pride.

Some of our structures are changing as well.  We have maker spaces, learning commons, creative corners, collaborative zones, green rooms, whiteboards in washrooms, and spots to house a litany of supplies and tech tidbits that people can use.

We have even created new positions in districts to operationalize these technologies and programs in schools:   Directors of Instruction, District Technology Leaders, and even ones like my own upcoming new post as District Principal of Innovation are popping up in jurisdictions all across North America.  There are so many more of these types of jobs today that a colleague asked me "Is it even that innovative anymore to have someone in a district who is focused on innovation?".  A valid question!

But before we buy one bit of technology, send a single person to a conference, begin piloting a program, or create new spaces or positions, we need to ask the question "What is the type of learning that we want?", and clearly define what students and teachers would be saying, doing and writing when they are demonstrating this learning.

For example, if we want our learners to be 'collaborators in a digital age', we might jump to buy 30 tablets on a portable cart, using the "if we build it, they will come" mantra.  We might give the cart to a couple of eager teachers to use in their classes, and hope for digital collaboration to be a contagion that spreads through out the school.  And for a period of time, these teachers may use the tablets in their classes, but then come and say something like, "We are seeing some collaboration, but the kids are really having a hard time typing on the tablets, can we get keyboards?", or "The one cart is great, however, to get them to collaborate with another class, we need another class set.  Is there a way to get another one?".  And so the 'arms race' begins.

Another way we might approach this could be to look at this problem as a design challenge, and

  1. Frame a design question such as "How might we improve the collaborative capabilities of our students?", with thoughts of the impact that we want to have on student learning and applications beyond school. 
  2. Assemble a diverse group of students and staff members together to think about possible solutions to the problem.  Within this context, we might need to define 'collaborator' in terms of what students would be saying, doing and writing when they are effectively collaborating. Low tech and high tech possibilities might be a result of this conversation, and there may be some surprises, such as a student asking a question like "Why don't we just use our phones?  I don't have an iPad at home, so couldn't we just get kids to use what they have?" 
  3. Determine some of the constraints that exist in our particular context--funding, time for training, time 'away from the curriculum', lesson structure, sustainability, upkeep and maintenance might come out of this portion of the conversation.
  4. Interview sample students and teachers about their hopes, fears, and ambitions about becoming a collaborator, why it is important to them in their context, and what they might use to get better at collaboration.
  5. Do a task inventory through the lens of "Are the tasks students do requiring them to be collaborators?", and perhaps augment this with Instructional Rounds-style observations with specific and non-judgmental feedback.  
  6. As a result of the feedback garnered from observations, debrief during PLC collaborative time to do a root-cause analysis (such as "The 5 Whys" exercise) to determine the structures and antecedents to the observed successful teaching of collaboration
  7. Gather the brainstorm of the possible solutions, constraints, task inventory, and root-cause analysis together to determine which strategies/technologies could be high leverage given the constraints that exist (this might include PD sessions that focus on designing and implementing collaborative tasks augmented with technology that students have)
  8. Determine the collaborative technologies that fit within the constraints that were defined.
  9. Pilot two or three possible tech solutions, and get immediate specific feedback on whether they helped improve the collaborative capabilities of students.
  10. Re-assemble the group, and make a tech decision based on the information that you have collected.
  11. Be prepared to get more feedback on how things are going so we can quickly and nimbly iterate, and iterate some more.

As a result of a process like this, we would have a co-developed, focused and targeted plan for our purchase and the associated PD that meets the needs of our design question.

Wow.  This looks like a lot of work.  And truthfully, approaching something like a technology purchase SHOULD be a lot of work.  But for me, here is the thing:  there is no more money, and there are only 24 hours in the day.  Our resources are precious and often scarce, and as a result, we need to create realistic and sustainable solutions that honour the parameters within which we must work. And if the process to effectively utilize our scarce and precious resources to get the learning that we want for students takes a bit more time, it's what we have to do.  Not to mention, if we do this type of process enough, we get better and better at meeting design challenges in our schools and districts.

A shiny object is just that--an object.  And with the proliferation of technology, programs, and positions that seem to be leading us down a pathway toward innovation, we need to see past the sparkle and ensure that the objects that we pursue are those which truly reflect the learning that we want in our schools and our districts.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Faculty Meetings - Learning By Doing

Several weeks ago, a team of Sa-Hali teachers and myself went to San Diego to visit High Tech High.  A few weeks prior to the trip, we received a series of Next Level of Work plans from our Instructional Rounds observers in February that indicated that we needed to design and implement tasks that required resilience for our students.  A trip to a school that utilizes Project-Based Learning fit perfectly into our Next Level of Work, and as a result, we determined that we had four areas of focus for our trip to San Diego.  We wanted to follow up on our May Professional Development day that we had with High Tech High teachers Chris Wakefield and Anthony Conwright; to find projects and inspiration for projects that we could bring back to our setting; to observe Presentations of Learning, and; to ask as many questions as we could on behalf of our staff.

As I said in my previous post, it was hard to describe our experience at HTH.  Personally, one of the things I am trying to get better at avoiding is helping our staff avoid the dreaded "wet dog" syndrome: I know that my staff tends to cringe when I go away to a conference or PD session, because I tend to come home, stand in the middle of a faculty meeting, and "shake off" the new ideas like a Labrador Retriever coming out of a lake.  Not to mention, I could imagine little worse than simply sitting and listening to a group who had just returned from a trip to San Diego wax poetically about all the great things about a school other than our own.  Ugh.

With this thought in mind. I approached our HTH Exploratory Team with my usual "shortest question possible" (the idea I steal over and over again from the TED talk which has had a tremendous influence on me--Dan Meyer's 'Math Class Needs a Makeover').  My short question was "How do we help our staff experience what we observed at High Tech High?".  I have found that when you involve a group of people with the mindset of  "How would I learn this best?" around a short question, they tend to come up with tremendous ideas--and again, I was not disappointed.

Three of main themes that we observed at HTH were:

  • a relaxed, can-do, and collaborative environment attitude where educators help one another  
  • peer-editing and iteration based in 'warm' and 'cool' feedback
  • a selfless, 'service to others' mentality
  • everything with purpose
But how could we re-create these themes at a faculty meeting?  A couple of things fell in to place for us: first of all, our team of teachers that went to HTH were champing at the bit to get started on some projects in their classes, and secondly, we were in the process of co-developing our school improvement plan.  As a result, the faculty activities that we came up with for the April Staff Meeting (after Good News and a few logistics) came to look like this:

Part One:  
  • Each of HTH Exploratory Team member got 1-2 minutes to speak about their experience at HTH, with a picture-heavy slide show (co-developed with another school here in our district) up in the background to provide some visuals and help us describe what we saw
  • Three of the team members presented their ideas for projects to be completed between now and the end of the year.  Their projects were:
    • Students creating a collaborative kinetic sculpture to demonstrate the concepts of Physics 11 and 12.
    • Creating/redesigning a library space where 'everyone wants to go'.
    • Creating travel blog posts about the Maghreb region, a French-speaking region of Northern Africa in order to be able to apply and get a job at www.worldofwanderlust.com to travel the world and write blog posts.
  • The three project leaders asked the staff to be a part of a Project Tuning Protocol so that they could get new ideas and help to make their projects even better.
  • The three other team members (and myself) facilitated the Project Tune (listen in on one of the discussions here)
  • The staff members self-organized into three collaborative groups according to the project they felt they were interested in and/or would have something to contribute and 'tune' project for their colleague.
  • Each group reflected on the process of "Project Tuning".
Part Two:
Peer-editing our School Improvement Plan
In each activity, I saw rich dialogue.  I saw people laughing, smiling, and working hard.  I saw people digging in and really trying to give critical feedback to their peers through the project tune and the peer-editing because people needed the feedback.  I saw frustration, and people trying to figure our the best way to articulate their thoughts to each other, and to the potential student and community audiences that will be participating in the projects and viewing our School Improvement Plan. I also saw a couple of people that were sitting back at different points and taking everything in, and that too was good: people have different ways of processing, and we need to honor that.  However, because each staff member knew that they had a task to accomplish for someone else, each staff member got involved.


By doing this activity, our faculty members 
  • got to work with each other in a relaxed, non-threatening manner
  • did two different styles of peer-editing through the project tune and through the SIP analysis
  • helped each other and did peer-editing with a purpose--they did it because they wanted to help their colleagues -- people needed their feedback in the form of a second set of eyes.  
  • got to do a great deal of "Learning Beyond The Content" (my next post--stay tuned).
While I would have loved to have taken our entire staff to High Tech High in San Diego, it was just not possible.  And although we will continue to send exploratory teams to California as we travel the PBL journey that we have embarked upon, we need to keep our entire faculty engaged and involved along the way.  By determining the most important pieces that we observed and developing activities that would help our faculty experience what we observed in the spirit of "learning by doing", I hope we whet people's appetites even more for Project-Based Learning!

I would like to acknowledge the work of Jordan Backman, Susanne Blohm, Jen Cacaci, Tanya Cail, Cecile McVittie, and Kirk Smith, our HTH Exploratory Team.  The leadership they continue to show about PBL has been truly inspirational.

*cross posted at The Sa-Hali Educational Sandbox

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Educational Intoxication

This week, a team of six teachers from our school and I were fortunate enough to attend High Tech High in San Diego.  Several years ago I had heard Larry Rosenstock, the founder of High Tech High, speak at a conference that I attended.  I was captivated by his ideas around the equity in education, and the importance for schools to engage the heads, hearts and hands of children and teachers through project-based learning.  In order for our school to begin the process of articulating a guiding vision, I brought HTH teachers Chris Wakefield and Anthony Conwright to Sa-Hali last May to introduce the concepts of PBL to our school, and to open up a dialogue about the possibilities that a PBL approach could have for our students and staff.  And this February, after our Instructional Rounds observation team helped us discover that we need to develop tasks that enable our students to demonstrate our attributes of creativity, collaboration, and resilience, I knew it was high time for us to get to High Tech High. And as I sit here on the plane ride home looking back on the last three days, I realize that I will fail miserably at doing justice to describing the feelings I had during the experience, however, in the innovative spirit of “don’t worry, be crappy” from Guy Kawasaki--here goes my set of random thoughts. (I will blog more about more 'structural' things and 'what nexts', but this one will be more about the ‘feel’ of the place).


The moment that our stepped on to the campus (or campuses, as there are five schools on the property), we immediately felt welcome.  That might sound a tad cliche, so let me qualify ‘welcome’:  people were not just happy to see us, they were eager to see us.  High Tech High gets hundreds of visitors each year, yet students, staff, directors, support staff and, well, pretty much anyone around the campus wanted to talk to us.   And then, like a wave, this palpable and tangible culture washed over us.


Some random thoughts and memories...


  • Students sitting in classes would invite us (and even pull us!) into their classrooms and immediately start talking about what they were doing and why they were doing it.  They would grab a couple of friends or classmates and say things like “look at Alicia’s comic strip, it’s REALLY cool”, and then Alicia would tell you about the why they were doing the project and about feedback and iterations she went through to make her project better.  There were dozens and dozens of kids in hallways and open spaces that would say hello and would take the time to answer questions, or give directions, or ask about you and where you were from. Classrooms were open to anyone.  
  • Teachers I met (and I met dozens) in a hallway or meeting would say things like “Don’t forget, my name is Rob, and I teach in the end classroom of the far hallway.  Make sure you see what we’re doing today.”.  Or they would ask you what you were interested in, and then say “You know who you need to talk to?  Tom.  He is doing something that’s right up your alley with his kids today.  He’d really want you to see it.”.  And when you went to see Tom, he would say to you “Cool, I saw Jeff at lunch today and he said you would be stopping in, come sit with a couple of students!”
  • If you made a request, maybe something something like “Would it be possible to chat with a Director (we call them Principals) for a few minutes?”, our host Angela would set up meeting with two Directors from different schools so that you could get a few different perspectives.  Everyone made time for you, and no one was flustered or exasperated to do so.  Quite the opposite in fact, they wanted to share!  When I asked a senior Humanities teacher about this, he said “I do a lot of work to prepare my day so that I can spend time talking to people like you so I can learn more.  The kids are working and learning, and I am working and learning.  It just seems to make sense.”  
  • When teachers were chatting with you, the students were WORKING--peer critiquing, walking into another classroom to get something, sprawling across desks, and helping eachother.  But they were also RELAXING.  In fact, one of the Grade 6 teachers said that he didn’t want his students to “go too easy or too hard”.  When I asked him why, he said because learning is supposed to be enjoyable, NOT work.”
  • If you had an idea for a project, the school get a chunk of time to do a tuning protocol seemingly out of thin air.  Suddenly, there would be a group of HTH teachers who were on lunch break or prep gathered around you in a room, and the protocol would begin, and 20 minutes later, ideas were amplified, modified, critiqued, and made better.  Much better.
  • If you had a question, staff members would ask more questions of you, give you ideas, give you a book reference or an online resource, and then physically take you immediately to someone else who might be able to help.
  • All Meetings were wide open to visitors.  I went to a planning meeting, and even a faculty meeting.  At the faculty meeting, every single person made me feel welcome there, asked me questions about our school, and wanted me to participate in the activities.  “Why wouldn’t you?  We always need more good ideas!” people would say.  The tone was relaxed, fun, friendly, and the work got done.  One of the staff members led a fun primer activity about Pi Day to get people talking to others that they hadn’t seen all week.  Then, in the carousel activity we did, the leader didn’t assign people to groups or tell them to start in different spots, but instead said “I know you all of you will want to make sure you visit each of the stations to see if  the ideas people are sharing spark new ones for you”.  And who’d believe it, people moved about the room to the different stations, dialoguing with whomever was there, bouncing ideas off each other, and jotting thoughts down.  At one point, one teacher commented on the attendance to the student sign-up X block that HTH has in their timetable.  Another said, “I guess we should be doing something worth doing then!”, and the other person agreed, and they moved along.


I could honestly go on.  And on.  And on.  And in future posts I will. But in our closing meeting with our host Angela, she asked for each of our ‘takeaways’ for the week.  And as we were sitting there, a thought hit me.


Many people may think of High Tech High as a sort of unattainable educational utopia.  They erroneously may feel that it is some sort of elite, private, wealthy school with limitless resources and ‘gifted’ students (whatever that means…). They might be blinded by pictures of projects and palm trees, robots and resources, and some bit of technology in every child’s hands.  And because of this, educators in other, more ‘traditional’ schools might easily become discouraged with what ‘they don’t have’ compared to the perception of the resources they see at High Tech High.  


But High Tech High is not private, it is publicly funded according to daily student attendance. Their students come from every zip code in the San Diego area, regardless of socioeconomic status. The school has funding constraints just like my school does.  They do not have endless piles of money or resources--they have to make cuts and tough choices just like the rest of us. Their students are just kids like any other kids; they talk, text, laugh, get bored, and have attention spans identical in length to every student that I have met.


But there IS one thing that would make me think of High Tech High as ‘elite’.  There IS something that our group wholeheartedly agreed that was truly limitless in supply, and that has changed my thinking as an educator and as a person.


High Tech High is elite in its limitless commitment to the idea of service to others.  From students and teachers alike, we felt this culture in each of the schools from the moment we got there.  People were helping people. They were celebrating risk-taking and amplifying ideas for the greater good. And for a brief couple of days, we seven were invited to be a part of it. It was educationally intoxicating, and to a person in our group, this culture of service was why none of us really wanted to leave.

I look forward to the conversations and questions that will arise from our visit to High Tech High going forward at Sa-Hali. To try to replicate what High Tech High does would be impossible, and not something I would wish to do. Before I came to HTH, I had my own driving question that I was hoping to have our school community take on as a project, which was "How can we enable our people to do their best work?". However, HTH has inspired me to change my driving question to "How can we enable our people to do their best work in service to others?" and co-create our own feeling of 'educational intoxication' for our students, staff and community.

I want to thank our team that attended HTH - Jordan Backman, Susanne Blohm, Tanya Cail, Jen Cacaci, Cecile McVittie, and Kirk Smith.  The professionalism that you showed, the questions you asked, and your willingness to learn would make any Sa-Hali student, staff member or parent proud.

I also want to thank Chris Wakefield for inviting us HTH, Angela Guerrero for her passion in being the most accommodating host, and the entire HTH community for opening your doors and your arms to us!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Instructional Rounds -- What are they?

*Note - this is not the standard '1000 words or less' blog post--Rounds are much too difficult to describe in 1000 words :)

Last week, our school hosted 24 teachers, administrators, and district staff to do Instructional Rounds at our school.  Over the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to have be trained to do Rounds at Harvard and facilitate the Rounds process in schools in Canada and the US.  However, last Thursday was different: for the first time, I was on the 'other side' of Rounds as the host Principal. Over the course of the weekend, I had a chance to reflect on Rounds at our school.   As well, I received some questions about Rounds from the great group of administrators that I worked with in Langley on Saturday. As a result, I thought I might try to give a picture of what Rounds looks like and feels like from the perspective of an 'insider'.

Before Getting Started: Don't DO Rounds.
The process of Instructional Rounds is not something schools or districts should "do".  When people ask "How can we get Rounds into our school/district?", I usually answer with another question like "Why would you bother with Rounds?".  The answers usually involve phrases such as "it would be good for our staff", or "we are looking for some way to see what is going on in our classes", or, "we need something to bring meaning to collaborative conversations".  And while ideas like these these may constitute some of the positive side-effects of a school going through the rounds process, they are not reasons to "do" Rounds.  Schools and districts need to "use" Rounds because the end goal of Rounds is not to "do Rounds": the end goal of Rounds is to help a school or a district adopt a learning stance to solve an instructional issue they have been unable to solve.  In Rounds, this is called the Problem of Practice (POP).

Developing the Problem of Practice
Our Attributes Assembly - Kicking off CCR!
Our school began this process more than 15 months ago. We began by using 'the shortest question possible', which for us was "Are we preparing our students for life beyond Sa-Hali Secondary?". From that discussion (and dozens more), our staff found that we needed to determine, define, and develop our Attributes of a Graduate, which culminated in our co-created Sa-Hali Attributes Assembly and resultant Attributes Survey of our students and staff.  From these surveys, our students and staff told us that the of the three attributes of creativity, collaboration, and resilience we needed 'to work on right now' was resilience. And so, the driver came for our Problem of Practice, which looked like this:

"Anecdotal data from staff indicates that resilience, particularly academic resilience, is the area where our students struggle:  when faced with tasks that involve multiple-steps or skills, students frequently look to the teacher for help rather than overcoming challenges to solve the problem themselves.   Survey data showed that nearly 70% of our staff were neutral or felt less confident that they were intentionally teaching resilience, or whether the tasks they were assigning to students required them to demonstrate resilience.  
At Sa-Hali, we have defined ‘academic resilience’ as persevering, advocating, taking risks, and utilizing resources to overcome adversity, stress, challenge and/or pressure to successfully meet outcomes in an academic setting."

From that point, we needed to define resiliency in each of our content areas in terms of what students and staff would be doing, saying and writing, as well as to describe the types of tasks that required students to be resilient.  And as a result, we co-created a POP with definitions and examples that would tell an external Rounds team where we were at and what we wanted them to focus on when we invited them to our school.

The week before Rounds:
The Principal of the school does not typically facilitate the Rounds day of their own school--the host school works with an external facilitator (in this case, another Kamloops Principal, Jake Schmidt, who had been trained in Rounds).  During the week prior to hosting the visit, I chatted with Jake a great deal about the make up of our groups, classrooms, length of observation times, and any other details for which I might have needed a sounding board or some different thoughts.  In developing a schedule for observations at our school, I had asked for volunteers who would be willing to have their classes observed by a group of educators from other schools.  I was amazed at the positive response--we had more than enough volunteers who were wanting to have our external Rounds team come in to a diverse cross-section of classes.  Junior classes.  Senior classes. Core academics. Electives.  And seeing that we had 24 educators coming to do 80 minutes of observations at our school, we knew we would get a great snapshot.

It was important to ensure that our group of 24 observers was trained in classroom observation, so I gave a 90 minute session in the week leading up to our visit on things such as 'learning to see, unlearning to judge' and the 'ladder of inference' (from Rounds training).  We also did some video observations to hone our ability to look for observation data specific to our Problem of Practice.

In order to do a final check on Problem of Practices created by schools using Rounds, our district created a 'Problem of Practice Tuning Protocol' (inspired by and loosely-based on the High Tech High Tuning Protocol) so that schools could bring their POP to a large group to 'tune' it.  This process was designed not to change the POP for the school, but rather to modify or deflect it so the POP gives the host school the best data possible.  This was powerful for me--we got specific feedback and helpful questions from the tuning group that concentrated our POP in to a much tighter lens to help our external team examine resiliency for us.

I also felt it was important to send a welcome out to the team who was coming to help us: we wanted to give them information about our POP and our context, as well as logistical things such as parking, start times, where they would be working for the day, lunch, and answers to whatever other questions they might have.  But most importantly, we wanted to let them know how excited we were to have them come to Sa-Hali!

The night before Rounds:
Wednesday night involved a lot of running around--I was gathering post it notes, markers, chart paper, tables, chairs, projector, laptop, school maps, groups, and whatever else the team might need to observe, make patterns, predictions, and provide us with direction about the next level of work. Having learned from the outstanding organization of logistics at Richland Middle School in Fort Worth, I have seen the importance of making sure this 'little stuff' is taken care of prior to the day--it just makes the process run much more smoothly.
The Rounds "table toolkit" from RMS - a good exemplar! 

The day of Rounds:
The team arrived at 7:30, and after a quick meet and greet, we got started at 7:45.  Our facilitator talked for a bit about the day, and then I reviewed our POP.  I talked about the process our school used in developing our POP, our definition of resilience, and some 'look-for' focus questions for the group.  I also described the structures that we have in place at our school to support student and educator learning for their reference. After a few quick bits of organization and some norms for observation, the groups were off!

Each of the six groups did four 20 minute observations in four different classes.  So, just over 90 minutes later, the group came back, took a quick break, and started going through their observation data to find points that were clear, descriptive, non-judgmental, and relative to our Problem of Practice.  Using post-it notes, they presented those data points to the other members of their group to vet them, and then they began to organize their observation post-its on chart paper in a way that would allow them to develop some patterns.
Making patterns from observation data

At this point, at the suggestion of Sarah Bruhn (one of the authors of Instructional Rounds who was with us on Thursday), we did something a bit different.  We brought an internal team of seven teachers from our school into the process: they came in to help the external team make some predictions based on the question "If students did everything that they were asked today in the classes that you observed, what would students have learned?".  Our teachers were also there to help the external team to create the 'Next Level of Work'-- a set of plans that our school could design and implement going to help us with our Problem of Practice.

I have a hard time describing the dialogue that took place between our staff member and the external team.  I was actually shaking my head in amazement at the extraordinary depth of the conversations, the talk about pedagogy, the analysis of tasks that were observed, and the level of professional curiosity that each of the educators in the room had about the practice in our school and their own practice back home.  There were teachers, administrators and district staff working side by side, asking questions and respectfully challenging each other with things like (and these are a very thin slice of the examples)
Grinding through the data--rich dialogue!
  • "What did the student do that made you think that?", or 
  • "Did that task require resilience?  What was our evidence of that?", or
  • "I agree with you, but how is that related to the school's Problem of Practice?"
  • "If we asked the school to design and implement this, would they find it useful?", or
  • "Wow, I really want to go back to my class and look at what I'm doing in my classes."
And in the end, our internal team saw the creation of thoughtful, evidence-based patterns and cross-pollinated ideas that we can work on with our staff to move us towards our goal of solving our Problem of Practice.  All of this carefully and thoughtfully prepared by 24 professional volunteers through an accumulated 30-plus hours of observation.

Wow.  

After a lot of thank yous, hand-shakes, laughter, and pats on the back that I find comes from a day collective hard work and struggle, our facilitator (Jake), Sarah and I debriefed on the day.  We chatted about things that we could have changed, timing, groupings, and anything that we could think of.  I also shared the feedback that I had already received from a couple of our staff members who were observed that day:


"Nervous at first but then settled in. My students (Grade 12s) also said at first it felt a bit weird (like they were being judged) but then they hardly noticed. I liked that the observers talked with my students...kind of wished they talked to me a bit more :) "

'The students really weren't phased by having the observers in the class.  I would say they were better behaved, though.  :)  As for myself, even though I wasn't being marked or judged, it still felt stressful.  Maybe after a few more observations that will subside and I can teach more naturally, but it felt a little forced at times.  The observers were excellent as well - very respectful."

"It was a great experience. Some students felt intimidated at first, but gradually warmed up to the process. They said it was cool and would do it again."

We chatted for a bit longer, I made a pile of notes, and the day was done.  And everyone was exhausted (or at least I was)! 

Looking forward to our upcoming faculty meeting this Monday, we are going to try a different method of working through the data with our staff, and we are confident that a number of the suggestions we got from our Rounds volunteers will help to shape where we want to go relative to our vision.  I will post about that next week, so stay tuned.

In summary:
Rounds continues to be the most powerful learning experience that I engage in as a Principal, and I only wish I would have been able to do it when I was teaching.  As a participant, as a facilitator, and now as a host administrator, I have seen the learning that has taken place by the observation team, the internal team, and the host school.  I find the process of Rounds to be unique and transformational in its ability to focus people on a specific problem.  If you have an instructional challenge in your school that you would like a new set of eyes to look at, Rounds might just be a mechanism that works for you!

Cross-posted at the Sa-Hali Educational Sandbox