Taking Time to Say Thanks

This week held some really important events for me, and I need to thank a few people for their part in it.  You see, I was pushed.  I was pushed in my thinking, pushed in my self-confidence and pushed to share something I am very passionate about that until now I couldn’t share.

Last Saturday, I attended #edcamp35 and hoped to connect with many educators, parents and students who would challenge my thinking.  I wanted to sit back and listen, but Chris Wejr pushed me to facilitate two sessions.  I had opportunity to lead a break-out group from Chris’s session on “Starting with Student Strengths” and also lead a session with Tracy Cramer about student e-portfolios and our experience with using FreshGrade.  The discussions were rich, challenging and thoughtful.  Thanks, Chris, for pushing me to take the lead instead of sit back and be a spectator. I am always grateful for your encouragement and friendship, gently pushing me to share my strengths.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending Surrey School District’s Digital Dinner at the invitation of Elisa Carlson.  I appreciated the opportunity to connect with teachers from Surrey, hear some great Ignite presentations and hear George Couros and Superintendent Jordan Tinney present.  As a district, Surrey has inspired me.  I see them taking risks in their learning.  I see them wanting to be better educators and do what is best for students.  I have learned much from them, and I am pleased that they have “adopted” me as a co-learner.  Thank you Elisa for inviting me to be a part of the evening.

Hearing George Couros speak, I found myself nodding.  A lot.  Every time I read George’s blog I am challenged.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes, but he makes me think and rethink about what I do and how I do it.  Thank you, George, for being that conscience I need to question everything I do.  I appreciate that you are willing to dialogue with me when I have questions and I need to figure things out.

Thursday was a big day for our school.  Our superintendent, Kevin Godden, came to visit.  Rightly or wrongly, there is always a tension when “district admin” come to call.  There is the stress of “will he think I’m doing a good job?” and “what if he doesn’t like me or what I am doing with my students?”  Kevin came into my room and stayed for close to half an hour.  He was interested in what I was doing with FreshGrade and communicating student learning with their parents.  He was excited when my students wanted to show them the things they were building and he was encouraging and receptive to the things I had to say.  Thank you, Kevin, for taking the time to visit.  I know your job does not allow a great deal of time in the classroom, but I was happy to share with you a project that I feel passionately about.  Through the use of FreshGrade, I have been able to make connections with my students’ parents that previously weren’t possible.  I look forward to seeing how our district embraces the concept of the e-portfolio and goes forward, helping our students graduate with a representation of what they have learned and what they are proud of.

Kevin was so excited about what he saw in my class, that he asked Gino Bondi, an assistant superintendent in our school district, to come and visit me the very next day.  Ok, no pressure!

Gino came to Abbotsford via the Vancouver School District and he brings a fresh perspective.  It was a privilege to spend an hour with Gino, taking him around our school, sharing some district and school history with him and sharing the vision we have for the transformation of our Library into a Learning Commons.  I got to show him how I use FreshGrade with my students and how exciting it is to send snapshots of learning home to parents even in the middle of the day, as students are working. Gino was able to share with me the district e-portfolio project that he has been working on with the secondary schools, and we talked about the possibility of someday having a K-12 portfolio for each student.  Thank you, Gino, for spending time talking with me.  It’s not often that teachers and admin just have time to talk and share.  I think that’s an important piece that is missing when we have “formal” meetings.  I felt our time chatting was very inspiring and I felt that you valued what I had to say.

And thank you to my principal, Cameron Friesen, who allowed me to take the time to share my work with both Kevin and Gino.  Your support of my use of FreshGrade and your excitement about this new way of sharing student learning has been what has kept me going when it has been hard to be “the one” to try FreshGrade in our district. Thanks also to Julie Rousseau (Director of Instruction) and Cindy Romanowski (District Principal for Early Learning) for being the first to give me the “Yes!  Try it out!” message.  I appreciate your trust in me to really give this pilot my all and show the possibilities an e-portfolio can present for teachers, parents and students.

Today, Dean Shareski tweeted the following:

Absolutely, a RT can be seen as that admin valuing the work or opinion of a teacher.  The same can be said for a teacher RTing an admin’s work, too.  We all need to value each other and push each other to be better.

And yes, Gino, the visits from you and Kevin this week did give me a “charge”.  Those visits validated the hard work I have been putting into making FreshGrade the type of e-portfolio I am proud to share with parents, students, and educators.

Isn’t the education system so much stronger if we can all encourage each other?  We are better together.  Thank you to all those people who made this week so positive for me.  I hope I can return the encouragement to you, challenging you to be your best selves every day.

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9 thoughts on “Taking Time to Say Thanks

  1. Love this Michelle! You are right, those gentle nudges forward, getting us to move beyond our comfort zone gives us the opportunity to discover and affirm new things about ourselves.

    I am so pleased you had the chance to share FreshGrade with senior administrators in our district. You have worked so hard on it, and been such a passionate learner with it, you deserve the accolades for everything you have done to put it into practice in your classroom. You are a trailblazer, my friend!

    I feel so fortunate to have connected with you over the past year, to learn from you and to share with you. Looking forward to learning more great things from you!

  2. Well, I finally got to sit and speak with “MauiMickey” after all these years following you on twitter. Thank you so much for allowing me to come into your classroom, appreciate your “real time” mastery and engage in a free flow of ideas that had hope and optimism as a recurrent theme.

    A while back, I read a great post from Gwyn Teatro’s entitled, “Leadership…And All That Jazz”. She started by quoting Warren Bennis:

    ‘I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it. It’s more like jazz. There is more improvisation”

    I like to believe that there is an important place for improvisation (what we would call outside the box creativity) in education – both in the classroom and the larger school district. However, and here I quote Teatro, “as with jazz, improvisation on its own will not create a joyful noise. It must find its way back to the primary melody no matter how far afield it may go … the primary melody lies in the organizational vision, its purpose and the values and principles it operates from.”

    As a leader, I appreciate the jazz analogy. As part of a quartet (trio/combo) I want to collaboratively establish a melody and then let my fellow musicians explore, discover and create in ways that stretch my thinking, helps the system reflect upon new possibilities and most importantly, helps our students discover their own admirable purposes.

    Thank you again, Michelle, for finding the time to meet with me: belief, imagination and trust provided the rhythm to the visit but your “Coltrane like chordal complexity” made it special – now there’s a memorable riff!

    • As I read and reread your comment, Gino, I have Coltrane playing. I am deeply humbled by such a huge compliment. There is something so very special about the experience, expertise and proficiency with which Coltrane improvises and dances over the notes of music he is playing.

      My favourite current jazz artist, Chris Botti, plays Flamenco Sketches in every one of his performances and though I have seen him perform it many, many times, it has never been the same twice. Yet, those basic chords always provide the core of the song off of which he and his bandmates riff. This is, I believe, is a great example of the analogy you quote from Warren Bennis. So too, our core district beliefs and values and the provincial curriculum are what guide the design, redesign and different iterations of how we teach and how we differentiate learning to address all of our students’ needs.

      I appreciate the jazz analogy…improvisation is what makes that style of music so exciting. I have always thought teaching was an art, one that when practiced really well, allowed for tangential learning and experiences differing from day to day and year to year for each student. Yet, in everything, we (I hope) keep our students’ best interests at heart. What is best for my students drives every decision I make in my classroom.

      Thanks for being part of the admin team that sets the vision for the Abbotsford School District. Through your leadership with Kevin and the others at the board office, we are working together to provide the best education possible for our students.

  3. Pingback: Taking Time to Say Thanks | Educational Leaders...

  4. What a wonderful way to say ‘Thank you’!
    I will continue the theme by saying a huge thank you to you Michelle… You leave positive ripples be it in your classroom or online. Thanks for being such an important part of my P/PLN – my personal/professional learning network. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Dave! The feeling is mutual. And I can’t wait to visit your Inquiry Hub to be inspired by all the incredible things you are doing there. It will be great to share a vision of how best to communicate student learning particularly in your forward-thinking environment.

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