Thursday, 17 April 2008

What Does a Good One Look Like?

ePrincipals & their mentors gathered in Wellington to spend a week of intensive Professional Learning at the PDPC.

Our objectives for the week:

“To establish communities of learning amongst e-principals to provide ongoing professional growth and support:

  • To use an action learning model to underpin our approach (transfer)
  • To clarify expectations of the role of ‘e-principal’ (e-leader)
  • To provide e-principals with knowledge of personal learning styles and how this may impact on their role
  • To provide knowledge of and practice in some key interpersonal skills that relate directly to leadership in their role:
  • Coaching/mentoring/teaching/directing
  • Effective questioning/active listening
  • Difficult conversations/learning conversations
  • Action planning and change management”

We are a group of people who already have formed the basis of a strong supportive network through our collaborative work in schools and clusters though this opportunity has provided the forum to further strengthen our working relationships. It has given us the time to focus on our own professional learning needs, the skills & strategies to work more effectively in our leadership role and a springboard and structure for ongoing dialogue & collegial support.

Our first task was to introduce ourselves to the staff at PDPC with our own personal vision and cluster vision. We have vision statements, strategic plans & action plans that our TaraNet Principals have developed over the last year but rather than share these verbatim I chose to talk about my thoughts beyond our stated goals and documentation.

I think that elearning has always sat on the boundary of schools because we don’t seem to quite fit existing school structures (especially secondary schools) and that we need to move to the centre dovetailing into all aspects of school life (elearning becomes seamless within a whole school vision & charter without the need for separate strategies & supports all other initiatives within schools) Someday we may look back and laugh that we should ever put an ‘E’ in front of anything (elearning, eprincipal, ementor…..egads!) Though schools and clusters are beginning to collaborate to greater or lesser degrees it is time now to really do this in more strategic ways. Discussion that I picked up from others that I think is important is that we need to get away from the idea that VC is the only way to participate in elearning. There are a range of tools available that support online learning (Adobe Connect, Elluminate…) Encouraging schools to offer classes in other ways would be a healthy option for Virtual Learning and especially so for a handful of eteachers who are still at the stage where they are replicating traditional classroom practice within a VC environment. We should also look more widely than catering for the Senior Secondary Curriculum. What other areas of learning can be enhanced through our network and in what other levels of school? – through to junior levels in Area & Primary Schools.

There is too much to report directly back on and maybe some of it not suitable for blogging (in the words of Steve Dembo – be careful what you blog/podcast – your boss might not like it)

The practical sessions I have worked through here at PDPC will see me in good stead for the challenges I have ahead. These are things like handling difficult conversations, being a coach/mentor, time management etc. I don’t feel, though, that my thinking or my beliefs have been challenged at all or that I have been pushed outside my comfort zone (so far – still another couple of days to go).

As a group that are used to setting their own timetables, moving around frequently, multitasking & being permanently wired I think we have coped really well with being stuck in a small room in an air-conditioned building for 9 hours with no cellphones or internet. We have had a lot of laughs to help us along the way:

How specifically can we generalize? (Chris)

I’m proud of my E-ness! (Conor)

Are you going to strip now? (Conor to CAM)

You are so hot you are just about combusting. (Sue to Vicki in a game of Hide & Seek)

Yes I have lots of people telling me that ;-)

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