From Pineapples to Pinecones ~ PQP Ponderings

Today was the final day for our PQP 2 course through OPC.  I had the absolute pleasure of learning alongside of 11 candidates who brought passion for the work, commitment to improving their craft and a genuine desire to create a professional learning community each and every time we came together over the past 12 weeks.

As a result of the current state of leadership in our school board and other school boards, there has been a shift in the journey of the candidates who are now taking their Principal’s Qualifications courses.  Not too long ago, the majority of the participants were individuals who were considering transitioning into formal leadership roles sometime within their future.  Today, the majority of the participants have been on a treadmill of courses and are already in acting or in some cases formal VP roles.  They bring a lived experience to each module which enriches the conversation each and every time.


That wealth of experience shifted my role as the facilitator. I found myself truly learning something new following each module.  We had a lens into the inner workings of 11 different schools and were privy to tough decisions, delicate situations, humourous scenarios and heart-warming narratives involving students, staff and families.  The group presentations were outstanding and the Book Talks were engaging.  As a result of being in the audience I have added so many new tools to my leadership toolkit. One of the participants is currently sitting the same VP chair where I started my admin career. I loved hearing about the culture of the school ~ how some of the pieces that we put into place 14 years ago are still alive and well and meeting the needs of the current student body.  Other participants are now supporting staff members whom I’ve worked with in the past.  Catching up on their stories made for some interesting conversations.

For most modules we invited guest presenters (Superintendents with responsibilities for Human Relations, System Staff Development, Safety Specialist and a panel of experienced VPs) who shared current practices and a variety of anecdotals.  Our panel of experienced VPs brought incredible depth, honesty and humour to the discussion.  Their individuality was apparent, but their shared sense of passion for the role rang through loud and clear.  One of the phrases used to describe our role was that we have the responsibility for “stewardship of people”.  I love what that entails.

The selection of topics for PQP2 is intentional and structured in a way to elicit rich dialogue and hopefully align with what school boards are expecting of their administrators.  For the most part that alignment was evident and we found ourselves reassured in the work that we’re doing.  However, at times, I found myself wondering if our system folks who are responsible for New Admin have access to the information in the OPC modules and if there is a deliberate plan to ensure that our school leaders are being provided the same guidelines. The job is challenging enough ~ we MUST ensure that we all believe and support what the heart of our work is.   There have been many times over the past 6 weeks that I’ve been proud of our board (for the alignment) and a few times that I’ve walked away wondering about the reasons for perceived misalignment.

As with all rich professional learning which leads to a renewed sense of curiosity, my next leadership move as an OPC instructor is to explore more deeply the messaging that is coming from our system and how it aligns with what our provincial council has identified as what our work should look like.

As we said our final farewells today, I gifted each participant with a copy of Simon Sinek’s, “Together is Better”.  I received a copy of this book from a treasured colleague and love sharing it with others.

The group then demonstrated their gratitude with a gift certificate, a donation to the Food Bank and a lovely holiday floral arrangement complete with golden pine cones.   The card was adorned with a sparkly pineapple ~ which symbolized a form of Professional Learning that we had discussed over the past few weeks.


Although I’m looking forward to sleeping in on the upcoming weekends, I can honestly say that I will miss the fellowship, the discussions, the debates and the rich learning that has become a mainstay for the past 12 weeks.

Thoughts about alignment with PQP and current system messaging?

Come write with me…

From Read Alouds to Number Talks

One of the promises that I made to myself when I made the decision to transition from a system role back to a school was a commitment to ensuring that both Literacy and Numeracy would be equally highlighted, celebrated and supported at Sir Arthur Currie.  I firmly believe that a skilled, caring educator has the capacity to create both an engaging literacy experience for their students through the selection of a powerful text and memorable activities as well as an exciting math experience through well-crafted tasks, access to math tools and everyday applications.   The similarities between the pedagogical moves for both subject areas far outweigh the differences when we dissect what quality instruction looks like.

The other promise that I made was to spend as much quality time in classrooms as possible and to continue to hone my practice as an educator.   In the fall I set a goal to share a special Read Aloud in each class by Thanksgiving. I absolutely LOVE reading to classes.  I’ve learned a great deal over the past number of years about how to effectively share a story ~ when to stop and ask a question, how to engage the listener and what are the salient parts that need to be recognized. The Friday before Thanksgiving I read a book to the final 7 seven classes and my goal was met.

For my next goal, I decided that I wanted to lead a Math/Number Talk in each of our 24 classes, for my own learning.  It’s been 15 years since I had my own class and math instruction has radically evolved of late.  As I shared with the students when I visited each class, back in the day my math class was usually the quietest class of the day.  I would demonstrate the lesson, a few students would try a question or two and then the remainder of the time was spent with independent practice based on questions from the text book.  In knowing that one of our strategies on our school goal relates to students’ articulating their math thinking through number talks, I decided that I needed to have first-hand experience.

I created a set of Number Talk tasks for learners from K-8, discussed them with our Instructional Coach (who provided me with my additional guidance), downloaded them to a jump drive and set off to visit each class within this past week.  I was very honest with the students and shared that I was learning how to lead a number talk and needed their help.

It quickly became evident that Number Talks are an everyday occurrence in all classes. I was overly impressed with the high level of participation, the number of strategies that students used to  determine “Which One Doesn’t Belong”, the mystery pattern, balancing the mobile or the most popular task, Esti-Mysteries and their active listening to each other as they shared their thinking.

I was thrilled that Steve Wyborney’s Esti-Mysteries site was a new one for our SAC Crew. They are such a superstar team ~ it is rare that I stumble upon great finds before them.

There’s something powerful about setting and meeting goals, but it was far more powerful to see the excitement, participation and depth of thinking that our students demonstrated with each Number Talk.  I found myself gaining more confidence with each class.  The intentional questions, which open the conversation to multiple strategies, seemed to flow more naturally and I found myself genuinely loving each experience.


Now on to the next goal!!

What goals have you set?  Come write with me….