Listen, Question, Listen some more

This past weekend I attended my first BCPVPA Supervision for Learning sessions.  I signed up for the Penticton Cohort and it was great to meet other principals and vice principals from the Okanagan and Shuswap areas.  The opening two days – we learned and discussed:

  • Supervision for Learning vs Supervision of Learning vs Evaluation
  • Leading the Learning
  • Values and Vision
  • Organizational Change
  • Learning Walks
  • Questions and Feedback
  • Active Listening

This was definitely a full agenda but our facilitators (Woody and Jessica) used some great activities to present the information and then let us reflect and talk about what we were learning.

There was lots of talk, lots of thinking and I had some great take-away learnings and reflections.  A couple of reflections that involve action on my part are:

1.  From an activity we did on values about learning, our group shared our individual value words and then had to come to an agreement on 5 values of learning.  One statement that has truly stuck with me from that group talk is “Respect the Learning Spirit”.  The statement encompasses people learning in different ways, value different information and all learners have a unique starting point.  While I recognize this in students in my school, what hit me the hardest was – why don’t I think this for my staff?  Our staff are learners as well, and I appreciate the hard and good work they do with all our kids.  At times, I have been frustrated when a staff member “doesn’t get it” with concept we are discussing or strategy we are trying to implement.  Instead of being frustrated, I need to have a better understanding of that staff member’s perspective.  I can only do this by more conversations, more listening and more support.

2.  The power of learning walks in a school.  I work at a great school where I feel comfortable going into any class and asking students about their learning.  I love these conversations with kids as they explain what they are learning and how they are learning.  Learning walks provide a great entry way into discussions with students and staff about the learning going on in our school.  It is important to schedule time, ideally each day, but minimally each week to do your learning walks.  While I love the conversations with kids, I need to do a poor job on providing feedback to staff after my learning walks.  And feedback is not just a cursory good job or I liked that but a conversation that includes praise and questions.  Kids like feedback on how they do, teachers would like that too.  I need to find the time to have these important conversations with staff, they are important.

3.  Listen, question, listen some more – can’t go wrong with this strategy.

What I am most encouraged by is the use of triads (or in my case a group of 4) to have discussions and learn from each other between our cohort meetings.  We are to have a triad meeting (via phone, skype, google hangout, etc) once every two weeks.  The roles are in the group are learner, clarifier and reflector. Each person gets a turn to be in the roles in each meeting.  When you are the learner, it is your time to share your story and how things are going in the area you want to focus on.  As clarifier, your role is to ask the learner questions to further the conversation and have the learner reflect on their thinking.  As reflector, you listen, summarize the conversation and ensure that the learner has an action to focus on before the next group meeting.  We were able to have our first meeting face-to-face and I found the process fantastic.  When I was the learner, it was great to share and be challenged on my thinking.  It made things clear for me and knowing I have 3 members of my group to give an update to at our next meeting, that will definitely hold me accountable.  I enjoyed the roles of clarifier and reflector and I found the questions we asked and suggestions we made to each other thoughtful and useful.  For me, this on going conversation is going to benefit my learning the most.

Go Team K.A.B.B. !


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