From a Tweet comes some Inspiration….

How many of you Tweet? How many of you follow Twitter? My iPhone has quickly become one of my favourite connections to the outside world. Instead of starting my day reading the London Free Press, I find myself scrolling through Twitter and reading the short posts from some of my favourite educational gurus. As an aside, within the last few weeks, I’ve had to add “Breaking News” as one of the sites that I follow, after having a coffee with friend and being embarrassed that although I could tell him where Todd Whitaker was speaking and the latest educational techno app, I was oblivious to the disaster that had just occurred in Norway that morning. So I now feel that I have all of the important bases covered ~ education and current events!

Some tweets are basic information such as “Heading out to the ball game” or ” Just ate at the best restaurant in town”, but others truly make me stop and think about my role as an educator.

Todd Whitaker, who I had the pleasure of hearing speak while I was in my first year as an administrator, has quickly become one of my favourites. I wonder if it’s because I have that “personal” connection with the man. When he spoke at our board office, he was truly engaging. This guy stands about 6’6″ and is the epitome of a southern gentleman, complete with his distinctive southern drawl. He enthralled a room full of administrators with his comical and heart-warming tales of his days as a teacher and as a principal. He was sharing his book, What Great Principals Do Differently  (read much of it on Google Books) and all of his examples made perfect sense to me. The book is a quick and easy read ~ I still find myself thumbing through it on occasion when I need a quick “pick me up!”

When it came to lunchtime, Todd sat down at our table to join us and he seemed genuinely interested in what we did and the challenges and successes within our school board. I still remember feeling that sense of “Wow ~ he chose our table to sit at!” It was similar to the feeling that a teenager would have if Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift stopped by for a chat….smile

A few questions to ponder……

Do our students need that personal connection in order to really get excited about reading and writing? How do we provide that type of inspiration when our students come from such varied backgrounds with such a vast spectrum of prior knowledge, interests and abilities? How do we create those “rock star” moments?

Today’s Twitter check-in was no exception and Mr. Whitaker provided me with a few things to ponder as he tweeted ~ When Einstein came home from school his mother never asked, “What did you learn today?”…. but rather, “What questions did you ask?”

In my current role as an administrator, I love it when teachers send their students to my office to share their work. As our school goal is writing, there is always a written component to the work that makes it way to my door…smile! This year we have been focussing on providing students with feedback which will assist them in improving their writing. So, after the students proudly read their masterpiece, my usual question is, ” Share with me how you improved your first draft in order to produce this piece of writing?” I’ve quickly learned that this is the greatest way for me to determine if our students are actually internalizing the goals that we as the teachers have created. A school goal is just a bunch of words on a page unless those we are working with actually understand what it is and how to reach it.

I’m also modelling asking questions and making our students think about their writing. As I walk through classrooms, our students have quickly learned that Mrs. Bruyns will always ask a question when she stops by your desk.

But, am I modelling this tactic with my staff? At our monthly staff meetings how much information do I share versus how many questions do I ask? Does my staff walk out of a meeting learning new information just by me talking to them about it or is the new information developed as we discuss it and challenge each other to come to the best solution? If I could video our staff meeting a week prior to the actual date and the outcome would be the same, then something is not right. I recall reading a book a few years back, Death by Meetings by Patrick Lencioni. (again check out Google Books) In that book, he states that people would rather go and watch a movie where the outcome is predetermined and they are passive participants than sit through a meeting, where they could potentially have the opportunity to interact with others and change the course of the meeting.

So my question for today is….

How do you create a culture where staff are encouraged to ask questions? How do you create a school culture where our students are encouraged to ask questions and not just sit passively in their seats while we spoon feed them information?

What do you think?

Come write with me!