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Administration, Education, Leadership, Technology

What am I doing?


cc flickr photo by striatic

This week, I attended the Virtual Schools Symposium (iNacol) in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Attending conferences, and leaving with a nauseating mix of frustration, excitement, confusion and a multitude of questions has become a common occurrence.  This conference was no different.  I am sitting on my return flight to Phoenix, sorting through a plethora of notes and ideas, and struggling to identify the next steps for our school.  My cognitive dissonance is actually the result of conversations, and a session I attended,  with a fellow administrator I have been following on Twitter – Stephen Harris (@Stephen_H).

Stephen is the Principal at the North Beaches Christian School in Sydney, Australia and the Founding Director of the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL).  I think you will find a quick view of the following video about Stephen’s school both thought provoking, and inspiring.

The Quest: Tomorrow’s School Today at SCIL from SCIL on Vimeo.

During his presentation, Stephen made the comment that we don’t need to tweak the current educational paradigm, we need a new paradigm.  After only a short time visiting with him, and hearing about his school, it became apparent that Stephen, and his staff, are serious about revolutionizing education–they are truly engaged in innovative practice.  Almost immediately, I began considering my role as a new principal, and what I might be able to learn from Stephen, and a school that is half a world away.

Our school is in the beginning stages of developing a blended learning program, and while I have a vision of what that might look like, I still struggle to clearly identify the steps required to develop a truly innovative school.  We are flying the airplane as we build it, so to speak, and it is quite possible that our destination will change mid-flight.  After attending VSS, and hearing Stephen discuss his school, and hearing Brian Bennett (@bennettscience), talk about how he implements a flipped classroom model, I am concerned that I may not being doing enough to push the envelope.  Am I working toward the development of a new paradigm, or just using technology to “spruce up” an old one?  So now what?  I need some answers, but right now, I just have a lot of questions.  As a school leader, am I meeting my responsibilities in the development of a blended learning environment that will inspire our students and address their academic and social needs?

What am I doing…

…to create a school climate that encourages innovation and creativity?

…to develop a school culture that allows staff members to feel safe taking appropriate risks?

…to give teachers and students access to the technology tools that allow them to engage in a meaningful and collaborative learning environment?

…to be creative in the acquisition of resources – time, technology, professional development, etc.?

…to encourage staff members to participate in reflective practice?

…to give staff members access to meaningful professional development and exposure to innovative practices occurring elsewhere?

…to drive instruction to the level of the individual student – personalizing learning for every student that attends our school?

…to encourage change in the way we use physical space at our school and communicate how those changes might dramatically impact our learning environment?

…to go beyond evolutionary change and advocate for a revolutionary approach to school improvement?

The answer to the majority of these questions is “not enough”.   I have come to the conclusion that trying to categorize our blended learning program, or make it fit into a box defined by others, is not only fruitless, but detrimental (thank you Stephen).  I am comfortable with it being a work in progress, using what works for our students and setting aside what doesn’t.  I believe my job in this process is to serve as an advocate – seeking resources, challenging current thinking and practices, and removing barriers, so that our students and staff are able to build an educational environment that meets the needs of our learning community.  In order to do that,  I will have to keep asking myself: what am I doing?

Please share…what are you doing?


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


6 thoughts on “What am I doing?

  1. Oh boy. Last night I did not sleep because I kept saying to myself “now what?” And I don’t know. We’re in the same boat, Jeff, but you have a title of “admin” and me, as I believe, “squeaky wheel”. We can’t do blended just to do blended. It’s like I asked you this morning, WHY? We BOTH KNOW why but that doesn’t mena we can articulate it to anyone — at all. I do not yet know how to process this all. And I did tell Michelle we need to meet with Ken before I leave for NCTE Wednesday, so that’ll help a bit. But I need to process it for me, first. We can’t do it just to do it but we know how important it is IF/WHEN we do it right– for the kids.

    Posted by Devon Christopher Adams | November 11, 2011, 10:12 pm
  2. An important step is to creatively carve out time in the schedule for teams to collaborate around central questions, practice, vision and goals. Our school just enhanced our PLC model so that we have more time more often. They also added an additional time that my grade-level team can collaborate together. Further, the system laid out a list of SMART goals to lead our collaboration, effort, research and professional development. Teachers want the best for their students and when they have time to thoughtfully collaborate under an umbrella of flexible vision and goals that best serve students, amazing results occur.

    Posted by Maureen Devlin | November 12, 2011, 6:29 am
  3. Hi!!!

    My name is Kathryn Finklea. I’m in Dr. Strange EDM class at the University of South Alabama. I want to advocate and not a teacher. What am I doing is a good question to ask yourself. If you can not figure out what you are doing you don’t need to be doing it. You do not have to know the answer right away but you should have an idea on how to come up with the answer. Schools will be taught differently in a couple of years. Teachers will have to be three steps ahead of technology. I think teachers should have a list like yours to help them be better at their job.

    Posted by Kathryn Finklea | November 13, 2011, 6:47 pm
  4. Hey Pal,

    First, FANTASTIC questions. I’ve wrestled with the tension between what school leaders SAY matter to them and then the realities of my life in the classroom. If you find the answers to your questions here, you’ll create a school where your actions and your ideas are neatly aligned — which is a school that any teacher would love to work in.

    Second, here’s a “build the plane while flying” video that you may find useful in your work:


    It’s something I use to encourage audiences to get started whether the plane is ready to fly or not.

    Rock on,

    Posted by wferriter | November 19, 2011, 6:28 am

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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