Starting Somewhere

This week I have been thinking a lot about new teachers. I have been reflecting on the fact that every experienced teacher in a leadership role was at one time a first-year or beginning teacher. What were the experiences that helped as a new teacher the most? What was the best advice? Who were the people that provided support as a new teacher? Looking back, I am sure that every teacher can answer these questions and find some of the important factors in their development as a teaching professional.

For me, most of the answers to these questions were not genius tips or epiphany moments, but rather someone who took the time to be there on a consistent basis to guide me through the learning curve. It was the idea of mentorship where there is regular contact and honest feedback. I was grateful to the teacher who was willing to show me how to use the photocopier and how to book a sub.  I was also grateful to the teacher who gave me honest feedback on a lesson I was preparing or on how to deal with a discipline issue.

So, the question is… Are we providing the support and mentorship to our new teachers that we would have liked? Are we helping them to attain their potential? Are we spending enough time with them? I would like to think I am (with the help of our great team), but there are always commitments that intrude on this time.

There are new teachers starting in almost every community each year, but with shifting realities in job availability and career prospects it  is difficult to see where new teachers will be in a few years. I found this article by Dave Hancock interesting. Are the people who are graduating with education degrees even going to have jobs in education? The article states that we have 4000 teachers leaving each year for various reasons. Are we forming the educational professionals and leaders to take the place of those leaving? I would argue that the first few years in education have the greatest impact on this development and I am committing to focus on this throughout the year.


Taking off the Training Wheels – Lessons from my First Week

My first week as Assistant Principal has wrapped up and looking back, there are many lessons that I have learned. The past few days have been both busy and exciting. It felt a little like I was in Grade 1 again. Administration Kindergarten was the many days of being “Teacher in Charge” and taking part in committees. But now I was ready for the real program, it was time to take the training wheels off.  Some of the lessons here are new, but most were ideas that I thought were true and have now been reinforced by my experience.

Administrators wear many hats

Everyone said it, but now I know it to be true. When something needs to be done right away, the administration tries to make sure it happens. Some of the roles I have filled-in for this week are: caterer, custodian, building inspector, furniture mover, dishwasher, playground supervisor, lunch monitor, community outreach worker, barista, IT technician, not to mention teacher. The amount of activity that goes on in a school is astoundin and the different professionals who work with and for students are diverse.

Students are the reason we are here

Though it has been a busy week, students are the priority. I was happy to hear the number of times the question “would that be best for kids?” was used by staff. This shows that even though it might get hectic, the team sees the ultimate reason we are here.

You can’t do everything

There were times this week when I wanted to solve every problem myself. I was lucky enough to have some incredible mentors around me who encouraged me to let others try to deal with some problems first. I guess I just want to help, but I now see that helping sometimes means taking a step back and letting people work things out themselves. This is also about learning what to deal with immediately and what to let others do.

Balance is important

Again, I was lucky to have a great mentor who encouraged me to take time to be with my wife and for myself. I was able to leave at a decent hour this week and have supper with my wife (before getting some work done in the late evening). I was also able to take some time to process the week and the events that took place (which include this blog post). I could have worked until 10:00pm every night, but the school year is a marathon, not a sprint.

Good relationships make the job easier

I spent a lot of time getting to know people and discussing education this week. I have already seen the benefit of developing the relationship with the members of our school community. This is not a chore; I am truly excited to know and to work with the incredible team of educational professionals in our building. I also see how the relationships started this week are going to help us achieve our goal of providing the highest quality education to our students.

I know there are many lessons to come on my journey as a new administrator, but right now I feel very supported and confident for the year ahead.