Day 11

Speaker 2 ~ Bill McDermott


As I reflect on McDermott’s interview, I came away  with three resounding quotes:

1) The Brave ones are the ones who show up and become better every day


Showing up is easy ~ we take the same route to school/office, we go through similar morning routines and spend the rest of the day doing what we did the day before.  It’s making an intentional decision to be better today than we were yesterday, that’s the challenging part. That takes Bravery.  Depending on our role, what does that look like?  Are we capable of digging a little bit deeper, looking for more effective ways to meet the needs of our students or our staff, reading more or being open to having someone challenge us mentally and emotionally?

2) Complexity is killing companies

I would imagine that whatever role we find ourselves in, we have, at one time or another been tempted to comment on the bureaucracy that tends to slow down the good work that we are doing.  When you think about your role in education, are there ways that you can decrease complexity.  We all know that there needs to be checks and balances to ensure financial accountability, but at what point, does complexity impact our ability to be creative and innovative?

3) Trust is the ultimate human currency.

Without trust we have nothing worth working towards.  If our students don’t trust that we have their best interests at heart, then they will not be engaged in their learning and without engagement, it is rare to see them reach the heights of student achievement. If our staff don’t trust us as administrators, then they are less likely to take risks, to reach their potential as educators or to join us on our school wide learning journey. If administrators don’t trust senior administration, then system wide initiatives will not have the same impact and a world of secrecy and fear will prevail.


What do you do to ensure that when you show up every  day, you are better than you were the day before?

Come write with me……


Never Give Up on a Dream

Day 10
2015-05-09_2342 Today’s post is in honor of Mother’s Day and specifically  in honour of my mom. I’m not sure if my mom reads my  blog, but I know that my dad certainly does. When it was  originally connected to my school newsletter he would  be the first one to call and notice if it wasn’t published by  the first of the month.   So I’m hoping that he finds this  post, and shares it with my mom.

As I have shared in the previous posts, my mom grew up with the dream of being a Phys. Ed. teacher, but my arrival into the world ended that dream.

At a very early age, it was off to nursing school and then directly into the workforce to help support the family. My mom recently retired after an esteemed career which took her from nursing to an incredibly successful bakery owner and then back to the world of nursing and medical office management.

Throughout her career she set an amazing example of how to be a mom and a Nan and still have a passion for her career.  Her and my dad recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

As a result of her reputation in the world of medicine as an efficient office manager, she was asked to teach at Fanshawe this past January.

With grit, determination and persistence, she learned how to use the technology associated with the course, including the SMARTBoard, and she now seemlessly talks about Dropbox and online assessments.

During a recent conversation about her students, she turned and said, “Now I know why you do what you love and all of the challenges associated with it.”

It has taken 50 years but my mom is now a teacher. Not that she hasn’t been teaching me incredible life lessons throughout my life! What a great example of never giving up on one’s dream.

I am so immensely proud of her accomplishments and I never forget for a single second how fortunate I am to have her as such a powerful force in my life.

On days like today, my heart aches for friends, family members and extended family members who do not have their moms in their lives.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of those moms who have made their dreams come true and who have supported the dreams of their children.


Leadercast 2015

Day 9

IMG_2686 From a Super Bowl Quarterback to the  former Mayor of New York and from a 17  year old girl who wouldn’t be silenced to an  author whose blog I read daily,  this year’s  lineup of inspirational speakers at Leadercast  2015 did not disappoint.

The theme of Friday’s Live Simulcast from Atlanta, Georgia was “The Brave Ones” and each speaker wove examples of bravery into their thought provoking, heartfelt and at times humourous stories. Social media was abuzz with Facebook posts and threads of Twitter feeds throughout the day and into the evening as audience members around the world shared quotes and connections which resonated with them both personally or professionally.

There was such depth and personal connection to each speaker’s presentation that I didn’t feel that I could do them justice by combining them all into one post. So I’ve decided to dedicate the next few posts, with each one focusing on one of the speakers, to my Leadercast experience.

Speaker One

This was my first experience hearing Andy Stanley, a pastor and author from Atlanta, and I was immediately drawn into his world of analogies. His first connection of a leader as a conductor of an orchestra is one that I’ve read before. I believe that Fullan uses something similar in The Principal ~ Three Keys to Maximizing Impact. In my role, working with such talented Coordinators, TOSAs and Coaches, I love his conductor connection to leadership. My team has such passion and depth of knowledge of Literacy, FSL and ESL, that I could never do their job. My role is to ensure that, when we are all doing our jobs in harmony, we are serving the needs of the system as an united front.

As he continued, Stanley posed two questions:

“What do I believe is impossible to do in my field … but if it could be done, would fundamentally change my business?  And “What breaks your heart?” It’s almost as if he knew me ~ challenge my head and then hit me hard in the heart. When I think of our work in the world of system Language leadership, I know exactly what breaks my heart ~ children leaving our educational system without functional literacy skills or not embracing the power of loving to read.  What seems impossible, but would be a game changer? If we could empower every teacher to see themselves as readers and writers and to love reading and writing and to share that love with their students, that would certainly change my world ~ and for the better.

IMG_2689 Listening to Stanley and thinking about being  braver than I’ve been, I have a renewed sense  of mission and passion for our work.



How would you answer those questions?

Come write with me….

I Told Two Friends and so on….

Day 8

big 100 This past week, I published my 100th post  “Stop Pretending #MakeSchoolDifferent”, as I  accepted the challenge from Doug Peterson to  continue this meme.  As a part of this blogging thread, I tagged 5 colleagues and challenged them to create their own list of five suggestions and to tag others.  Throughout the week I have enjoyed reading my colleagues’ innovative ideas and have been encouraged to “stop pretending” on a number of factors involved in our work.  I appreciated the learning from each post, but I could never have anticipated the other outcome of Post #100!

As I’ve shared in past posts, one of my challenges continues to be, “Who is my audience”?  I started this blog as an extension of my monthly newsletter as a school principal, but then it continued to morph into a landing spot for various ponderings within the broader world of education.

Lately my challenge has expanded to not only “Who” but to “Why”.  A colleague recently shared that she felt that blogging was a self-indulgent exercise which provided the writer with a personal platform for posturing. Yikes….That was never my intent, but I had yet to see any evidence that my posts were making a difference.

All of that changed with Post #100.  Within the last few days, as a result of my tagging or the tagging of those who were tagged as a result of my initial tag (like the old Faberge commercial ~ I told two friends and so on and so on) I am thrilled that others have not only taken on the challenge of generating a list, but have started their own blog.  When I think about my role in education and what I’d like my legacy to be, it has and always will be supporting others to demonstrate their leadership.  I feel strongly that today’s educational leaders need to make their thinking visible and what better way than to publish their thoughts for others to read and comment on.  These new bloggers have shared their “fear” about hitting that publish button, but they did it and I’m so proud of them.


Now, my next challenge is to find a way to  nurture and support them as they continue to  think, write and hit the publish button.  How cool will it be when they can share the impact of their 100th post?

Have you thought about starting a blog?

Come write with me….


Voice ~ In Any Form

download           Day 7

Last week I attended a Ministry session and had the pleasure of joining a table with two deaf    educators and their ASL interpreters. I was in awe of the brevity of the signs and how those  hand gestures translated into such well-defined lengthy responses.  It quickly became apparent  which ideas were being emphasized as the educator’s movements became more demonstrative,  with the occasional banging to the chest or on the table.  Respectfully engaging in a conversation  with a hard of hearing or deaf person requires one to watch the “speaker”, but listen to the  interpreter. As a society, we naturally look at the person speaking to us, but not in this case.  So it took a while to get a rhythm going, but the more I watched and listened the more impressed I was.

As the session continued, our collective conversation focused on challenges with Literacy instruction, both at the student desk and when it comes to supporting educator learning.  This teacher started to share her frustration when teachers for the deaf/hard of hearing rush to sign for the students instead of letting them figure it out on their own, especially when it comes to demonstrating evidence of their learning in a written form.  She wondered how much of the teacher’s input was being reflected in student work.  Although her teaching assignment is unique, in that the teacher’s role includes the added dimension of signing, the challenge of knowing when support translates into changing the message is a common one.

I remember a story that a friend shared about her daughter and a story that she had written.  The teacher mistakenly thought that her daughter has misspelled the character’s name and proceeded to change it throughout the story and send it off to the “publisher” in that form.  Although this example is a minor one, it was a significant “faux pas” in the eyes of the student.   To her, the name and how it was spelled had a special meaning and the teacher had changed it.

I wonder how we ensure that we are honouring student voice and not impacting or changing it by imposing our thoughts and ideas. That is always one of the challenges when we model any skill for our students.   What conditions need to be in place to ensure that our students’ authentic voices (in whatever form they use ~ words or signs) are reflected in their work?


Come write with me….

Letters from the Heart

Day 6


This evening our school board recognized several  staff and community members by bestowing the Award of Distinction upon them. It was a diverse group of students, custodians, volunteers, office managers, teachers, educational assistants and principals. Each nominee and recipient was selected based on their package of letters of support; selections of which provided the narrative for each person or group of people as they walked across the front of auditorium and shook the hands of the Director and the Trustees.  The committee did an outstanding job of weaving together portions of the 10 or so letters, (which would have made up the nomination package) into a cohesive, heartwarming tribute.  There were similar themes of dedication, innovation, commitment, caring, compassion and love for their job and yet each narrative was personalized and shared with such regard and respect.

I tip my hat to the composers of the letters. It takes skill and creativity to craft a meaningful letter, when you greatly admire someone and want to express why they deserve such an honour.

And what an incredible gift, each one of those nominees and recipients will be receiving as their package of letters is presented to them. We often talk about the power of words.  They have the ability to heal, to hurt, to calm, to enrage, to unite, to untie, to love and to deny.  For tonight’s honourees, the words within those letters will bring a range of emotions.

I wonder why we often wait for special occasions to use our words to uplift others.

When was the last time you crafted a letter to someone, sharing what a positive influence they’ve had on your life?


Come write with me…… or better yet, write to   someone who needs to know how much they  mean  to you!

Inquiry Based Learning…. Inquiry Based Leadership

Day 5

images (1)  You don’t have to go too far these days before  you hear IBL ~ Inquiry Based Learning. Simply   stated, IBL is a process whereby the students’ interests and questions provide the springboard   for the learning.  Their curiosity becomes the catalyst for the gateway into the curriculum.  If     your students are enthralled with the world events, such as the earthquake in Nepal or a construction site that they passed on their way to school, the challenge for the teacher becomes   taking that excitement and curiosity and blending it with learning activities that coincide with  curriculum expectations.   Passion projects and Genius Hour are also examples of IBL or Project Based Learning.  Educators, who have embraced the concept of IBL, acknowledge the challenges, but they also see the benefits and are willing to learn alongside of each other and their students.

So…. In reflecting on Inquiry Based Learning and seeing first-hand the benefits, I started to think about Inquiry Based Leadership and what that might look like in a school setting.  Do we purposefully create the conditions for our educators to be curious about something in their practice and if so, how do we effectively support that curiosity?  When we think about ways of supporting educator learning, do we predetermine what that will look like or do we allow for “passion projects” and differentiate how we, as leaders, construct learning for our educators?  We know that, just as the learning that happens in a classroom needs to be aligned with the curriculum, the learning of our educators needs to be aligned with our school and board improvement plans.  How do we effectively navigate those discussions while still maintaining our educator’s passion/curiosity for professional learning?

And finally, in a world of Inquiry Based Leadership do we model our own curiosity and passion for wanting to learn the “why” behind achievement gaps, public perception of our schools, attendance rates etc.?

It may not be an earthquake or a cement mixer, but wanting to gain a deeper understanding of our world of educational leadership and knowing how to go about getting that deeper understanding is a skill that we all need to embrace.

Do you model curiosity with your class or with your staff?

Cultivate Curiosity Resized

Are you an Inquiry Based Leader?

Come write with me…

The Gift of a Story

Day 4

tell them your storyIt never ceases to amaze me how my encounters with others enrich my life in the most unexpected ways.  Last week, following a day long Ministry session, I had planned on making a quick visit at our Native Language teachers’ staff meeting to share information about next year in terms of teaching assignments and building capacity within our team of Oneida speaking Occasional teachers. The discussion ended up taking much longer than I had anticipated, so I decided to stay until the end of the meeting while the team talked about plans for upcoming professional learning sessions. As the formal part of the meeting finished, the discussion continued and became very personal as our teachers reflected on their childhood, their parents, their grandparents, experiences with residential schooling and how those experiences impact their work with their students in today’s classrooms.  Our current team of Native Language teachers, our FNMI Student work study teacher, our FNMI Learning Coordinator and our new FNMI Educational Advisor are all extremely committed to exploring every avenue possible to educate not only our students, but all educators in Thames when it comes to developing a deeper understanding about First Nations culture.

As I sat quietly and listened to these women share story upon story about past pain and future healing, I was overcome with a deep sense of appreciation. Every time someone shares a piece of their history, it is truly a gift as it provides me with a perspective that I can only learn through their stories.  In my current role, I have come to develop such a tremendous respect for so many of our FNMI educators, as they work to ensure that this generation of learners know and honour their history.

Two hours later, my initial plan of a “quick” stop was a distant memory.  As I was leaving the meeting, one of our newly hired teachers, asked me to follow her out to her vehicle, where she proceeded to give me a beaded bracelet that she had made for me as a “thank you” for believing in her and hiring her for her current position.


To be given a gift seemed ironic, when in fact, I should have been the one giving our Native Language teachers and Educational Advisor a gift, as a thank you for their continued dedication to storytelling and inspiration.


When was the last time you gave someone the gift of a personal narrative which may have had an impact on their life?

Come write with me…..

BOOM…. History, the way it was meant to be taught!

PridePrejudice423x630         Day 3

In University, I majored in English. I loved the      Victorian Era, with Pride and Prejudice being  one of my favourites. Every time I watch, “You’ve Got Mail”, I begin to laugh as Tom Hanks’  character tries to impress Meg Ryan by making it through the first couple of chapters and then he challenges her with a reference to Mr. Darcy near the end of the movie.  My minor, however  was in History. I’m not sure why and my marks certainly reflected my lack of appreciation or  understanding of the importance in knowing World History.  To this day, I cannot match dates  to important world events. I always feel less than intelligent when conversation at social events turns to historical perspectives and as you can probably guess, when given the choice in Trivial Pursuit, I avoid the yellow pie piece every chance I get.

So, it was with some reservations that I attended the One Man Show ~ BOOM at the Grand Theatre last week, knowing that it was going to be a historical journey from 1945 – 1970.

But within minutes, I was drawn into the production and the historical importance of these events!  Rick Miller masterfully took three seemingly unrelated story lines and through music, powerful visuals and breath taking technological effects wove them into the most amazing history lesson.  old-magnifying-glass-word-history-13199603

It was once again a reminder about the power of story and personal connection to that story.  Miller took monumental events, such as the assassination of JFK, the Berlin Wall, the space race and Apartheid and he shared how they affected the lives of the characters in his story.

I wonder if History lessons in University had been taught that way, if I would have been more engaged?

Do you use the power of story to engage your students?


Come write with me…..


Stop Pretending…..#MakeSchoolDifferent

Day 2

Thanks to Doug Peterson for the tag in his Stop Pretending…..#MakeSchoolDifferent post.  I’ve enjoyed the posts from others on the same topic. They are bloggers whom I respect and whose writing continues to challenge my thinking, so I’m honoured to include my list among theirs.

In order for us to make a difference, we have to stop pretending:

1) That the most innovative ideas are generated by those in the most influential positions.
This past summer I read Dan Pontefract’s Flat Army and it resonated with me on so many levels.  I wonder if sometimes we turn to Superintendents and Directors with the assumption that they will have the most innovative answers to a challenge, based on their years of experience and broader to connections to education?  When in reality, it may be those ECEs, Educational Assistants, Teachers and Administrators who are working in the “trenches” with the best view and therefore the best insight into innovative ways of making a difference.

2) That all administrators intuitively know how to be instructional leaders.
These days there is an expectation that our school administrators have a well defined skill set in the area of Instructional Leadership. There are many administrators who indeed know how to inspire, motivate and lead a school community on a learning journey.  But, we also have to admit that some of our colleagues are great relationship builders and financial managers, but they do not have that skill set and what are we, as a learning organization, prepared to do to support them?

3) That the answer is always in the room.
We love to throw that line out all the time and I believe that we can certainly learn a great deal from each other. But I’m wondering if at times, we need to ensure that we are bringing “others” into the conversation and looking to the research to support us?  If we want to make a difference, we need to be able to look for answers everywhere possible.

4) That saying “I’m a life long learner” is enough
We’ve all heard it and maybe even said it out loud ourselves, but do we make it visible?  How do we share that we are life long learners?  Do we really embrace learning something new, which means that we will never do things the same way again?  How different would life look in our schools, if everyone was a learner? Talk about making a difference!

5) That it’s acceptable to avoid integrating technology into our lives as educational leaders.
In order to make a difference, every level of the organization should be embracing, modeling and inspiring others to see the implementation of technology as a mandatory component of how we do business.  Our students deserve committed educators who are willing to learn!


To keep the meme going, I tag @jen_aston @DavidFifeVP @marshakelly @pluggedportable @annettcann