I have had an incredibly busy week with our graduation, and I began another University class: Seminar on IT which is proving to be very interesting. I had class twice this week, Tuesday and Thursday evening, and I have to drive two hours to get to the city for class, which means I don’t get home until almost midnight. My professor is from India and she is in Canada as a guest for only six weeks to teach a couple of University classes. She has said that there is a vast difference regarding education for Indian children as compared to Canadian children. Some village schools may have only one or two computers for an entire school of 500 students. There are inequities that need to be addressed. My prof spends much of her work time at the her home University writing educational scripts (storyboards) for CAI – computer assisted instruction. They have graphic designers to use flash to create the programs she writes. It sounds like many Indian schools rely on CAI for an important part of their fulfilling their curricular needs. I would love to do this kind of work. I took a course through the University of Saskatchewan where I created a program which I have used several times with my ELA classes using Authorware about literary devices. CAI allows the learner to direct his/her own learning within a set of parameters. The best types of programs will allow the learner choices, and allow the student to repeat and/or advance through the activities. The program should also be able to determine when the learner needs to advance or continue with reinforcement.
Besides my new University class, I have been preoccupied with thoughts, ideas and some issues which I plan to address within my new position as principal for the fall.
1 – Bullying – it is constant and it is in every school. Everyone – staff, student leaders, and parents need to be alert. We need to be very conscious of bullying. If we have a little gut feeling that someone is being bullied, then chances are the problem may be large.
2 – Responsible use of technology - There are several issues which impact on the process of change and the implementation of technology as an educational tool. One of these issues include teaching students to be responsible citizens when it comes to the use of technology. Students need to understand courtesy, respect and responsibility. If a teacher asks a student to close his laptop or turn off his calculator, then he should do so out of courtesy and respect. There may be several reasons why a teacher asks a student to follow these directions. The teacher needs to be respectful and firm. If a teacher asks a student to create a pseudonym for a classroom blog, then a student should do so. The teacher should explain issues of privacy and respect. I have started another student blog about Shakespeare with my ELA 9 class, and we have spent some time discussing respect and privacy. We have created “user names” and we are working on our fist trial posts and comments. Today I asked my students to comment on the postings of other students. We discussed what and how. One of the students asked if they should point out spelling/grammar errors to their fellow classmates. There were several suggestions, and we have decided that the best way to correct our peers is through modeling. For example if one student notices that every possessive apostrophe is missing in a post, then he or she should address this. As a class, we have decided that it is best to model the appropriate grammatical/spelling error use through a reflective and corrective comment. All of the students agreed that this might be the best method. We are going to experiment with this.
I am currently teaching one class about the use of wikis. They have not “joined” my space, but I have provided the website. Almost immediately we had an issue with names being erased as we tried out the editing. At first I thought that the names were being erased on purpose, but this was not completely the case. There was only one name erased on purpose, but the kids were willing to help me try to solve this issue. I feel less confident with some of the younger students with regards to security with some of the technological applications including blogging. Securitn needs to be a priority, but not a deterrant.
3 – Attendance – It’s the end of the year and we are all getting tired, including the students and staff. It is probably likely that other schools find this a bigger concern at this time of the year. Even though my University class seems to have the requirements of a thesis, I’m doing my best to be the cheery leader that everyone is looking to for modelling. This isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish after driving eight hours to classes during one week! I will continue to support, smile, and of course, continue on with my great wit and charm – haha. Seriously, I am working on creating a new attendance/late policy for the fall. I have tried to create something that will solve all the issues, but it’s just not happening as easy as I thought it would. I have decided that I will delve deeper into this after my Univ class is complete. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
4 – Caring and supporting people. I want to help everyone do everything and this has always been my personal motto. I think this is because of my own personal experiences (and the natural instinct of a mother) as a student and adolescence. I always felt like I had little support shown to me during my school years. There were several years I truly felt like I wasn’t going to survive. I did, and now I want to help anyone and everyone, but over the past few years as an administrator, how many times should I continue to encourage and support some of the parental behavior which I deem to be less than nurturing? I don’t ever want to impose my values and morals on others, but sometimes this is hard to do. One common situation which I encounter is parents who will cover for their “absent” children. Parents will say, “Oh, yes, um, he had a doctor’s appointment. I just forgot to send a note.” I’m a bit confused as to why parents are often unwilling to allow their children to be subjected to minor discipline. I haven’t fully comprehended this. Of course, I can come up with a list of possible reasons for this, including: overprotection, or shame. But, I will continue to be supportive, encouraging and helpful because those are the people who may often need it the most.
5 – Staffing – I am hoping that our staffing, both numbers and people, can be determined before the first part of June, but this may prove to be difficult. Many of the rural schools have declining populations, which may mean staffing cuts and/or transfers. Our May 31 deadline for teacher resignations is also looming. Teachers may need to relocate or change their job descriptions. All of these factors can create some stress.
6- Professional Development – PD for teachers need to be ongoing and self-directed, and I feel that many teachers need a “push”. My husband works for a Coal company and if there is a new safety issue, everyone is involved. Everyone receives the necessary training. He probably spends about twenty full days each year receiving training of various kinds. If teachers need to learn how to use IT, why do we leave it up to them to see if can do it. Some can, but many cannot or do not. I believe this is for various reasons including time, learning styles, relevance, … Are you more comfortable going to a doctor who has been working for ten years with no professional development or a doctor with thirty years experince and who has continued to learn and keep him/herself up-to-date? Do you really care how the professional development is done? Does it matter to you whether it is through various short courses, a second degree, professional reading? The relevant issue is the fact that the professional continued his or her learning.
7 – Physical Fitness – I would like to get our school to “get in motion”. I would like to see every student exercising each day by jogging/running/walking at least a mile. This distance could be reduced or increased depending on the age of the kids.
8 – Nutrition – our nutrition program is fantastic, thanks to the help of the staff, and I would like to see it expanded. Currently our nutrition program includes a toast and a snack program, and the kids love it. I think that we're making a real difference in creating healthy eating habits.
9- Literacy – Our kids have to read more. I would like to see book displays everywhere.
10 – Day Care – We have a very energetic young woman in our community who added preschool into our school, which has worked out very well. There has been some discussion around trying to have a daycare within the school, which would also be a great asset to our community. We need to try to structure our day/school for today’s family and today’s family often has two parents who work full time.
11 – Music – I would love to be able to reintroduce the a music program to our school. I’m not sure exactly what or how, but I’m going to try. This weekend my family is off to Saskatoon for two main reasons. My son is golfing in a provincial golf tournament and my daughter is auditioning for a summer musical. Music has brought such joy to her and our lives. She sings and plays the piano. She has learned self-confidence, discipline, creativity and courage. I want all of my students to have these kinds of opportunities.
I could go on and on, and I know that I can’t possibly do it all. I’ll try. I want Coronach School to be the best it can be. Now, I just have to convince everyone else!