Thursday, 14 December 2017

Sharing a school with my son

This summer was a stressful one in our household for a variety of reasons. My eldest son was clearly apprehensive about the big move from elementary school to middle school. This transition is quite a major worry for many kids but we managed to make it even worse for my son by pulling him out of his catchment middle school and placing him in a school where he knew no one.


My boys have always know that once they hit grade 7 they would leave their catchment school to come over to my school. I know that the middle school years are very difficult and that it's during these years that students make crucial friend choices. I also wanted to try and streamline our lives a little bit; my husband teaches at the high school, my youngest son is at an elementary school and having myself and my eldest son together would mean that we would only have to keep track of 3 school calendars instead of 4. Sometimes it's a bit much coordinating everyone's spirit days, assembly schedules, and shortened days.


I don't think I really realized how stressful the transition is for kids until my own son went through it. Towards the end of August, there was a constant barrage of questions. What is the block order? How will I know what class I have next? Where do I go for lunch? What about lockers? How do term electives work? I think it took my son two weeks to get into the groove of middle school. At the end of the first month, I asked him what he thought of middle school. The one comment that caught me off guard was that he mentioned that there is always something going on and sometimes it was difficult to keep track of everything. It's something to ponder, I think. Society comments on parents overscheduling their kids, but I wonder if the schools are also guilty of always having something on the go and trying to entertain.


The change was hard for me too. When I walk into school, I turn my 'home' brain off. It caught me off guard at the end of the day, to be called Mom. It was simply just out of context for me. And then the first few times I saw my son during school, I was surprised and found myself thinking, "Oh, right, you're here now". The most difficult part has been after school as my son is waiting to head home but that 30-45 minutes after school is when I get to chat with teachers about library time and projects.
We've figured out a balance and I must admit that I really do like having my son at my school and I think he enjoys being there. Though that all might go out the window once grade 8 hits.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Administrators and staff morale

When I was in the Leadership Academy some years ago, I learned that it is important for administrators to make sure that they had the ear of the individual on staff who is vocal, sometimes critically. I think it is important to make sure you don't surround yourself with people who think the same way you do. It's similar to the filter bubble that happens on-line; you hear only what you want to hear because you are only listening to like minded individuals or people who simply want to please by agreeing to whatever it is you say.


Although I have been teaching for 18 years, I have unfortunately come across only a couple of incredible administrators. Reflecting on my time at the school when those administrators were in power, I've been trying to pinpoint what they did to make me feel so determined to work harder to make the school a better place. I think it boils down to being valued.


An administrator that values his or her teachers understands:

1. That staff is working as hard as they possibly can
2. That he/she will always support the teacher in conversations with students and parents
3. That when a staff member ventures into the office to talk, that he/she should listen carefully
4. That time is precious to everyone
5. That it is important to communicate information with everyone


When I think of the best principal I've ever worked with, the best thing about him was that he didn't play favourites. There was no inner posse. There were no negative comments made. There was a sense that we were all working hard to make the school the most dynamic place we could. We all tried to improve our craft and make lessons more student centred, more engaging, and more innovative. And we dreaded that raised eyebrow from the principal which conveyed so much disappointment. We worked hard. At the end of the year, we could look back and see how much we had grown as professionals and how much the students had progressed. There was the sense that all that hard work had paid off.


But memory is a strange thing indeed and perhaps my memory of it all is a little shinier that it truly was. What I do know is that I absolutely loved going to work each morning because I knew I was making a difference. I'd love to find that feeling again.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

New year, new goals

After last school year, which I decided was the worst year of my teaching career, I decided I needed to make some changes and fast. I am happy to report that so far I've done well to stick to the following the new goals for this year.

My goals have been:

1. 10 minutes. I have asked that teachers not bring their classes into the library for the first 10 minutes of class. Often teachers who were doing project work in the library would have their students just meet in the library and we would proceed from there. Great in theory but in practice it meant chaos. Those first 10 minutes are when teachers are sending me test writers and random students requesting items for staff. I've communicated with teachers that I want that time for students to be able to sign out books to read. It's meant that I can have those great conversations with students about books because suddenly I'm not being pulled in as many directions as I was before. That 10 minute buffer also means that I can deal with those emergencies that pop up such as tech not working, a crying student, or a jammed locker.

2. Re examining commitments. Last year I felt like I was constantly going to meetings and at the end of the school year, when my library assistant and I were talking about what needed to change, she said, "no more meetings." Unfortunately I do have to go to a fair number of meetings but I looked at my district commitments and scaled those back, determined to focus on my library and my library program. When school based meetings come up, I take a moment to reflect and check if it's necessary or useful to me before committing to attending.

3. No. I've been saying, "No" this year a fair bit. With an increase in teaching staff but no increase in library staff, I've had to curtail all the extras. I promised myself that I wouldn't agree to covering people's classes (unless there was some emergency). Last year, I was being asked every week to cover someone's block for some reason or another and I realized that covering classes meant much more work for me. I was caught off guard this year when I was asked to cover a class on the very first full day of school. I stood my ground and said no, and I've kept saying no for the last 8 weeks. It hasn't just been covering classes that I've been politely declining to do. As a teacher librarian, I get a lot of odd requests from ordering classroom supplies to doing photocopying. I'm standing my ground and calmly articulating what my job is exactly.

4. Reading. Last year I didn't read as many YA books as I would have liked. I found that I was spending my evenings on school work and simply too exhausted to read. I love books and I enjoy discussing great books with students. Eight weeks in to the school year and I have 24 YA books on my "What Ms Hart has read this year" bulletin board. Not fabulous but a much better start than last year.

I'm pleased with how well I've maintained my goals and hope I can continue working on making them habits. I still have so much work to do.


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Same old mismanagement

I know it's the end of June, and teachers are on edge as summer can't come soon enough. Students saw the beginning of summer around the corner weeks ago and packed up what little work ethic they had and kicked it to the curb. End of June at CNB this year though is one for the books.

It's June 22nd and we still don't have a master timetable. It's in the works. We have a large student population projected for next year and we don't have the classroom space to hold all the classes. We have yet to hammer out a bell schedule. We don't know what Career Education is going to look like. We are unclear as to the state of our mentorship/homeroom classes. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. So how did we get to this point?

Administrators are just teachers. Teachers who have decided to move their career in the direction of management. The trouble is that administrators never shake their teacher-ness and feel this need to connect with the student body and make a difference. Nothing wrong with that, the problem lies with the new generation of administrators who believe that making a difference means ensuring that every student makes it through the traditional public school system with nary a hiccup. Administration is constantly being tripped up by student issues and any attempt at vision and school wide philosophy is quickly undermined by a pile of minutia. Suddenly, students who desperately need structure are coming into the school and instead of entering a place of structure they are entering a dysfunctional system.

Don't get me wrong. CNB is a fabulous school. Indeed, I will be the first to yell from the rooftops how amazing the CNB teaching staff is. The teachers work too hard, care too much and wear their hearts on their sleeves. The teaching staff is the reason I'm ripping my eldest away from his peers and placing him an out of catchment school. I know his teachers will always have his best interests in mind. The administrators won't. Harsh? Maybe. True? Sadly, yes.

As we get ready to break for summer, I don't dwell on the negatives. I know, hard to believe if you've just read this post. But I honestly don't as focusing on the negatives will get me nowhere. What I roll around in my head are the gems - the incredible teachers, the cutting edge projects that people are designing, and how far we've come in terms of assessment. CNB teachers are constantly pushing themselves to make the learning environment more authentic and more engaging.

In the end, what matters most are the teachers in the classroom as they have the greatest impact on students.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

#yabookchat Bang questions

1. What did you think of the layout: history, present and tomorrow?

2. Sebastian is such a powerful narrator. What makes him so?

3. Let's talk about Sebastian and Aneesa.

4. How is Sebastian's friendship with Evan different?

5. Sebastian loves old things. Why?

6. What was your reaction when Sebastian revealed he remembered?

7. Sebastian doesn't believe that time heals all wounds. Is he correct?

8. Favourites? Scene, line, character?

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon #yabookchat questions

Q1. Initial reactions to the book?

Q2. Favourite secondary character?

Q3. Image search. Pick a character and find an image that suits him/her.

Q4. Did you like the italicized chapters? Who did you think it was?

Q5 Birds are present throughout. Why do you think birds were used?

Q6. Xan believes sorrow is dangerous. Is it?

Q7. Let's talk about how love is central to all the characters.

Q8. Favourite quote/scene?


May's #yabookchat picks

Book Reviews and pictures from Goodreads. Vote here

The Shadows We Know By Heart by J Park

Leah Roberts’s life has never been the same since her brother died ten years ago. Her mother won’t stop drinking, her father can’t let go of his bitter anger, and Leah herself has a secret she’s told no one: Sasquatch are real, and she’s been watching a trio of them in the woods behind her house for years.

Everything changes when Leah discovers that among the Sasquatch lives a teenager. This alluring, enigmatic boy has no memory of his past and can barely speak, but Leah can’t shake his magnetic pull. Gradually, Leah’s life entwines with his, providing her the escape from reality she never knew she needed.

But when Leah’s two worlds suddenly collide in a deadly showdown, she uncovers a shocking truth as big and extraordinary as the legends themselves, one that could change her life forever.

Counting Thyme by M Conklin


When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

In Darkling Wood by E Carroll


When Alice's brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother's house. There's nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden - but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn't seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?

Speak of Me As I am by S Belasco


Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it's the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.

As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production ofOthello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.


Friday, 7 April 2017

Hanging on by a thread

It's Friday night of the first week back after spring break and I'm nursing a sore throat but I'm still working. Next week we get information about staffing for next year and I'm apprehensive to say the least. Initial mutterings suggest that we'll get 5 new teachers on staff which will be fabulous and that library time will remain steady at 1.0 FTE. And I know it's roughly what staffing should be for the BC public school library of 2002 and I understand that I'm fortunate to have weathered the last decade in the library so well but I'm tired. I've worked very hard trying to run a cutting edge library program and feel that a 1.0 FTE is greatly under-funding the CNB library of 2017.

As I write this, it's 8:30 pm and I still have to write up my April report for my admin - we need to meet about it next week. I also have a letter I need to write, a science 8 end task to draft up for Monday, and Tuesday's virtual field trip to shop for but I'm putting those tasks off until tomorrow because I need to reflect on the day that was. It was the usual: 2 requests for book resources to be pulled as soon as possible, finalizing some station resources, a test connection for a virtual field trip, a teacher concern about mature content in a library book, 3 teachers in to chat about projects we are collaborating on, book order arriving, supervising 3 grade 7 classes in to work on the Breakout box, a teacher in to request textbooks, and students in signing out reading material. A steady stream of people all day, plus emails and phone calls to handle.

It wasn't an abnormal day and I think that's why it's bothering me, because my new sense of normal is leaving me hanging on by a thread. And with the prospect of no increase in library time, more students, more classes, and more teachers in September, I need to change how the library operates if I want to continue enjoying my job and my sanity.

I have slowly started changing the library program but it is hard, especially when people always expect you to help. My CNB colleagues understand that I work very hard but at the end of the day, I believe that they still see me as a non enrolling teacher with the luxury of spare time on my hands.

I wish.

I've started to say "no" to covering classes. I've started restricting booking to no more than three consecutive days in the library. Now I need to re-examine how and what I teach, and how and what I assess. I have 12 weeks until the end of the school year - 12 weeks to redesign my vision of the CNB library program and I can tell it's going to be hard work.

Wish me luck.



Sunday, 12 March 2017

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

It's a long story, but the short version is that, in BC, we are looking at lots of new teacher hires as a result of a Supreme Court decision. With new positions opening up at each school, there is the potential for a lot of movement within the district which is something we haven't seen in over a decade. As a result, teachers are starting to talking about moving. 

Change is exciting and frightening at the same time. Because of the lack of movement over the years, there is a core group of teachers at CNB that have been working together for 10 years. Working together for that long means that you're comfortable in your surroundings and know how the building works. You know who you can lean on when needed and who you can rely on to push you forward. Moving means figuring out the invisible lines and divisions on a new staff and finding your own place and voice within the group. Yet it it also a refresh. Moving means you can leave behind expectations and forge ahead with new curriculum in a new space. The potential is there to reinvigorate your teaching and charge along a new path.

The next 8 weeks will be very interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing what our new timetable will look like and thus what class sizes will be across subjects. As always, I'm interested to see what library time will look like and what our M block (homeroom) will morph into.  I'm also looking forward to working with the new additions to the CNB staff and hope for me, that those changes will be enough to spur me on to try new things and recharge my own teaching.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

April #yabookchat picks!

For April, I picked 4 books from ALA's 2017 Youth Media Award winners. Book blurbs and pics from Goodreads

1. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father's extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill's only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.


2. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her



3. Tell me Something Real by Calla Devlin
Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel.

There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of time with her at a Mexican clinic across the border from their San Diego home so she can receive alternative treatments. Their world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal…

4. Arena by Holly Jennings
The RAGE tournaments the Virtual Gaming League's elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses. 

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be. 


Questions for A List of Cages

Q1 Initial reactions to the book?
Q2 Which character saw the most growth?
Q3 Is Adam realistic?
Q4 Was Adam's anger at Emerald justified?
Q5 On page 83, Julian talks about loss. How much truth is in his thinking?
Q6 What about those lists?
Q7 Favourite quote/scene
Q8 If you liked A List of Cages, you'll also like...

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Professional development

Yesterday was a Professional Development day in our district. I love PD. I love learning and I truly appreciate the time I have to explore whatever PD interests me.

This Pro D day, I opted to do self directed because I have been absolutely overwhelmed this year and just the mere thought of presenting at or attending a big district event made me shudder. What I truly wanted was a quiet day to read, learn, watch, and reflect. I know that the district doesn't want professional development to happen in isolation, but that's exactly what I needed. In my job as a teacher librarian, every day is a series of intense conversations with teachers. I'm constantly collaborating. I'm not complaining, not at all; I recognize that that is the nature of my job (and truly how I've crafted my job) and I wouldn't want it any other way. But for my PD day this February, I needed an opportunity to quietly move my learning forward on my own.

And learn I did. I caught up on all the posts in the FB group Future Ready Librarians. From the posts, I explored TL blogs, display ideas, and questions about teacher librarianship in general. What an incredible wonderful group to be a part of! I also checked out the #futurereadylibs tweets in Twitter to make sure I wasn't missing anything and watched a couple of webinars. I tackled some of my professional reading (my School Library Journals were starting to pile up). I spoke with colleagues about the new curriculum and resources we have to support it. It was fabulous to have time to invest in myself.

But my PD didn't end with the school day. Just like any other day, I spent the evening reading and trying to improve my 'craft' because learning never truly ends.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

BC's new curriculum

CNB is a grade 7 to 9 middle school and this year we have delved into the new curriculum. What I've noticed so far, from a teacher librarian perspective, is that teachers are approaching the curriculum differently. Teachers have really embraced the concept of big ideas and it has translated into very different resource requests.

Historically, teachers would move through the curriculum topic by topic and request very simple resource pulls from me. For example, I would pull all the War of 1812 books, or the shelf of ancient Egypt books. With the implementation of PBL some years back, I had noticed a move away from traditional research topics to more layered inquiry approach. This year, with the new curriculum, I've noticed a spike in more complicated resource requests which makes my job much more interesting while testing my knowledge of the collection.

Some examples of recent trickier requests:
- books on middle ages history for each continent (except Antarctica, phew)
- religion books. Not usually a difficult one but I had a list of 23 religions to find resources for.
- field guides but not just science field guides. I was delighted when I stumbled upon field guides for fairies and trolls.

Even when I do pull all the Renaissance books, it's still not quite like it use to be. This past week, students were studying the Renaissance and sure, some of them were just researching da Vinci but some were posing questions that they wanted to research. What was medicine like during the Renaissance, what was the change in architecture, and how were women treated were just a few questions students were using to guide their research. Suddenly, the resources pulled were not enough and students were back in the collection looking for more resources.

I must admit, I do like the new approach to curriculum. But the more inquiry based projects I see, the more I realize that it is imperative that teacher librarians be a part of the inquiry process and teach students the research skills they need to be successful in their exploration.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Coverage

This blog post is tackling a difficult topic for teacher librarians: coverage. I know that I'm asked every single week to cover someone's class, whether it be a whole class, or just a part of a class. And I get it. I certainly don't mind covering if there's an emergency of some type but I get my back up when I feel that I'm being taken advantage of. For the most part, I don't agree with pulling a non enrolling to cover someone else's classes because:

1. It suggest that I'm not busy in the library when clearly I am. For example, I currently have every single block booked in the library and reams of marking to tackle. When I cover a class, everything I should be doing is put on hold and I end up taking more of my personal time to get caught up.

2. I never get that time back. If an enrolling teacher gives up prep time to cover, often the classroom teacher will give up his/her own prep to cover a class in return. There would seem to be some give and take, give and take that doesn't extend to the teacher librarian.

3. I think it's disrespectful. I know that sounds harsh but I find that teachers will often come in the morning that they need coverage to talk to me and inform me that they need coverage. And most often it's just assumed that I'm okay covering their class. It's even more bothersome when I know it's the only time that teacher is going to approach me all year.

What it boils down to is the fact that I need to learn how to say no. I realize that the one teacher coming in to ask doesn't know that another teacher asked me the previous week, and a different teacher the week before.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Book picks for March

Book blurbs and photos from Goodreads

1.  A List of Cages by Robin Roe

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian--the foster brother he hasn't seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He's still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what's really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.


2. We are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen
Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends their entire lives. Cath would help Scott with his English homework, he would make her mix tapes (it's the 80's after all), and any fight they had would be forgotten over TV and cookies. But now they've graduated high school and Cath is off to college while Scott is at home pursuing his musical dreams.

During their first year apart, Scott and Cath's letters help them understand heartache, annoying roommates, family drama and the pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they want to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should be more than friends? The only thing that's clear is that change is an inescapable part of growing up. And the friends who help us navigate it share an unshakable bond.

3. Teach Me To Forget by Erica M. Chapman

This is the story of Ellery, a girl who learns how to live while waiting for the sate she chose to die.

Ellery's bought the gun, made arrangements for her funeral, and even picked the day. A Wednesday. Everything has fallen into place. Now all she has to do is die.

When her plans go awry and the gun she was going to kill herself with breaks, she does the one thing she has control over -- return it and get a new one. After tormenting the crusty customer service associate by trying to return the gun with the wrong receipt, Ellery gets caught by the security guard who also happens to be someone she knows--the annoyingly perfect Colter Sawyer from her English class.



4. The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane

According to sixteen-year-old Zander Osborne, nowhere is an actual place--and she's just fine there. But her parents insist that she get out of her head--and her home state--and attend Camp Padua, a summer camp for at risk teens.

Zander does not fit in--or so she thinks. She has only one word for her fellow campers: crazy. In fact, the whole camp population exists somewhere between disaster and diagnosis. There's her cabinmate Cassie, a self-described manic-depressive-bipolar-anorexic. Grover Cleveland (yes, like the president), a cute but confrontational boy who expects to be schizophrenic someday, odds being what they are. And Bek, a charmingly confounding pathological liar.

But amid group "share-apy" sessions and forbidden late night outings, unlikely friendships form, and as the Michigan summer heats up, the four teens begin to reveal their tragic secrets



Qs for History is All You Left Me

Q1 What were your first reactions to the book?

Q2 Did you like the dual timeline approach to storytelling?

Q3 Thoughts about Griffin? His first love, his OCD, and his grieving.

Q4 Griffin's parents were true YA parents: absent. Comment

Q5 Let's talk about Theo. Thoughts about him? And his death?

Q6 And then there's Wade. What did you like about Wade?

Q7 Favourite scene/quote?




Saturday, 21 January 2017

What I look for in an administrator

Last month I attended the retirement party for one of my favourite administrators. The evening's events have been tumbling around in my head and have caused much reflection. In my 16 years of teaching, I have had 16 different administrators and very few have inspired me. But should they have inspired? Is that their role as the leader of a school? I think so.

What I've come to look for in an administrator:

1. transparency. This translates into several things. You know where you stand with these administrators because they don't play favourites and is very clear as to what is going on with everything from budget allocation to district initiatives. There just are no games.
2. leadership. An administrator should be a leader and thus inspire teachers to up their game. In our district there is this trendy phrase that administrators are instructional leaders. I agree that they should be, but sadly they rarely are. I find that often, administrators are looking forward to where they want their careers to go and do not concentrate fully on their current assignment.
3. understanding. This is a tricky one. I know that administrators are management but I also know that they were once teachers. It's great when an administrator remembers what it's like to be in the classroom. What's better is when administrators use that knowledge to guide practice; they always listen to their teachers.
4. hard working. I know most administrators are hard working. What I mean here though is that they spend a lot of time in their school. Most often, fabulous administrators are in the building early and stay late because they spend a lot of time during school hours not cloistered in their office but out taking the pulse of the school.
5. detail oriented. My colleague Pauline always says that it is all about the details and I truly think she is correct. Taking care of the little details is just simply a sign of respect.

And that retiring administrator of mine? He sent every single person who attended his retirement party a handwritten, personalized thank you card. Talk about a class act. Halfway through my career and I doubt I'll ever work for another administrator quite like him. Here's hoping though.