School Leaders Who Blog

School Leaders Who Blog

As a blogging principal, I was honoured to be featured in the June 2021 issue of the BCPVPA Principl(ed) journal.  It is interesting to read about the many reasons that school leaders choose to blog and the things that they capitalize on.  It is also interesting to ponder the responses that come into play in the decision to make our thinking transparent as leaders.  Blogging has been important pathway for me to develop my reflective practice and to create my own narrative as a school leader.

The role of the principal, particularly in the days of COVID, is threatened to be taken over by the overwhelming amounts of managerial tasks.  Although I agree that school leaders need have well developed management skills, this was not what drove my decision to become a school principal.  My strong belief is that educational change requires instructional leaders.  Instructional leaders need to be knowledgeable and current.  Being current requires strong support for the management work and a strong emphasis on the development of instructional leaders who are clear about moving their school communities forward to support, challenge and keep our students safe. 

Instructional leadership is a process, not a finite destination.  The OECD principles for educational change have continued to be solid goal posts, but the path we navigate is continually changing.  Although social emotional learning has been a part of many school plans for many years, COVID created more immediacy in focusing our attention on what our students require to be able to learn.  George Floyd’s death and the discovery on the remains of Indigenous students at a Kamloops residential school provided a powerful catalyst for creating systemic change in our schools and in our communities.  Tremendous work has been done by principals and vice principals that are aware of the issues and how to navigate a pathway forward. 

This does not happen in a void.  We encourage our students and our staff to actively engage in inquiry and take risks in their learning.  We encourage bold questions and predictions.  We also teach them to take a step back, reflect on their conclusions, and change their mind.  In his book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant eloquently creates a case for thinking in scientist mode so that we can remain flexible in our thinking.  This person is actively open minded and searching for reasons why we might be wrong, not for reasons why we must be right.  Revising our views based on what we learn and changing minds are considered to be acts of intellectual integrity.  Blogging allows me to step beyond my Things To Do list and assume the stance of a scientist.  

I have been cautioned and questioned about the wisdom of stating my ideas publicly.  Adam Grant describes the person who adopts the “politician” stance and acquiesces to the group in a bid for popularity at all costs.  As school leaders, our decisions cannot always appease the group.  Sometimes we are called upon to make difficult decisions that are unpopular.  Our role requires we have reflected on the issue and have develop a strong rationale for why the decision serves the greater good in our school community.  That takes time, reflection, a professional learning community to help you navigate the terrain and support from upper management. 

I feel fortunate in many ways this year.  I have colleagues and district staff on speed dial to discuss issues, problem solve and possible pathways forward.  Julie Pearce, my Director of Instruction, has the background knowledge and wisdom from years of experience to pose questions to extend my thinking and the will to support her principals.  And I have my practice of inquiry and reflection to define and redefine who I am as a school leader and what matters most.  Articulating who we are as school leaders and a willingness to rethink our positions in the face of new information are practices that are integral to establishing ourselves as leaders in the educational community.  Blogging is one pathway.

Grand, Adam (2021).  THINK AGAIN.  The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.  New York, Viking.

Principl(ed) Vol.2, Issue 3 – June 2021 – The Journal of the BC Principals’ & Vice-Principals’ Association, “Leaders Who Blog”.

To Livingstone Grade 7’s as Your World Expands

Grade 7 Leaving in Hollywood Style

In June 2020, we tried to replicate the Grad Ceremony in an online meeting. This year we tried to create a celebration for our Grade 7 students that would capture their interest and excitement. This was my farewell speech to our David Livingstone Elementary Grade 7 students as their principal.

Students, teachers and our online viewers, welcome to Hollywood North!

You are leaving the smaller pond our elementary school and swimming into the much larger pond of secondary school.  However you are taking with you the background experience unlike anyone who has come before you.  Last year, Grade 7’s left under the haze of COVID starting in March 2020 but a year filled with fairly typical Grade 7 experiences until that point in time.  You are leaving with the previously undefined experience of fear, caution, lockdowns, expanded online learning, physical distancing, masks, cohorts, restrictions, air high fives and air hugs.  Previously uncharted terrain for your typical Grade 7 student.

As people are being vaccinated and cases of COVID lessen, there is less focus on fear and apprehension.  There is more focus on looking forward.  People are already writing books about what it has been like to live through a modern day pandemic.  But what is most significant is that YOU can write that book.  All of your experiences and the feelings could fill many volumes.  Of the 36 students leaving Grade 7, there are 36 versions of that book.  Each version carries its own truth.

I’m currently reading a book called Think Again by Adam Grant.  The subtitle – The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.  What is most intriguing about the book, is the fact that it isn’t the smartest people who are most able to cope with adversity or change.  It is the people who are able to rethink the situation and pursue a different pathway.

Mike Lazaridis dreamed up the idea for the Blackberry as a wireless communication device for sending and receiving emails.  In middle school, he made local news for building a solar panel at the science fair and won an award for reading every science book in the public library.  In his eight grade yearbook, there is a cartoon of Mike as a mad scientist, with bolts of lightning shooting out of his head.  By 2008, his Blackberry company was worth $70 billion dollars.  By 2014, the market share had plummeted to less than 1% of smart phone users in the US.  What happened? 

In 2010, when one of Mike’s colleagues pitched the idea of sending encrypted messages. He passed.  What’s App saw the potential of text messaging to the tune of $19 billion dollars.  When the idea of typing on a glass screen rather than on the tiny keyboard emerged with thumbs.  He laughed.  Steve Jobs saw the potential.  Apple was off and running.  Clearly Mike Lazaridis was a smart guy.  He just couldn’t rethink or adopt another perspective.  He couldn’t unlearn what he already knew. 

Adam Grant talks about four approaches to the way people think and live their lives: 

  1. The first type of person digs in their heels and argues their point of view is right.  They ever question their ideas.  This type of person takes offence at other perspectives or anyone questioning their conclusions.
  2. The second type of person completely focuses is on proving others wrong.  This person focuses on discrediting rather than discovering.
  3. The third type of person will appease the audience at any cost.  This is the politician in the group.  Popularity rather than accuracy dictates their views. 
  4. The final type of person assumes scientist mode.   This person is actively open minded;  searching for reasons why we might be wrong;  not for reasons why we must be right.  Revising views is based on what is learned. Changing minds are acts of intellectual integrity for a person in scientist mode.

Intellectual curiosity and openness to new discoveries.  This is the skill set you’ve been taught since kindergarten.   This goes hand in hand with curriculum in British Columbia. All those inquiry studies.  All those questions to pursue.  All that predicting and testing hypotheses.

The COVID pandemic has certainly thrust you into the full understanding of uncertainty.  Yet, you are equipped to not only handle it but to pursue your very own version of truth.  I look forward to reading about it.  Or perhaps watching it on a screen in Hollywood, California. With that,  I wish you all of the very best as you swim off into your next pond.