Sunday, August 8, 2021

Final Leadership Blog?

    Although I did not realize this when I created it (some 12 years ago), I think this blog has always been a little bit about leadership. Being an informal leader has always been a part of my nature - and leading by example (sharing, being vulnerable, holding myself accountable) is embedded in sharing a blog with the world wide web.

I really do hope that posting these entries for my course brings me back to using this blog more regularly as I go back into my teaching role after being on leave for a year (and not posting much in the year or two prior to this). I want to go back to sharing my assessment & evaluation journey. Both to document it for myself and to share my practices and reflections with others.

Writing for a blog allows you to do some reflection on some leadership skills and think about how and why you are sharing with others. When I write for others I think more about wording I am using and the purpose of sharing the information or anecdote. Using a blog for leadership purposes can help you to develop communication skills, which would be especially beneficial if you work on sharing things like a vision and are able to build a learning community that interacts with you.

I would like to think that by being honest, sharing strategies and openly reflecting on my practice that I can inspire others to do the same (even if they do not do it publicly). Reflection is an important process for classroom teachers and leaders - the difference is that as a leader we want to reflect on leadership skills and seek feedback about our leadership. I hope that continuing to write in my blog (and using a leadership lens) will help to inspire me to seek feedback about my leadership in addition to continuing to seek feedback about my classroom practices.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Leadership: New Teachers and the Ethical Standards

    In Ontario teachers are governed by the Ontario College of teachers. Part of being an Ontario Certified Teacher (OCT) means that you are held to the standards of practice and the ethical standards, outlined in the hyperlinks provided.

There is so much to learn as a new teacher. It is flat out overwhelming - even when you have dreamed of becoming a teacher for years and feel you were born to do it, once you get started and really see how much there is to thinking about and consider; the learning curve is steep. 

Here I will analyze the ethical standards in the context of Growing Success to show how it is embedded in the 2010 policy. By following the assessment & evaluation policy, you are upholding the ethical standards (care, respect, trust and integrity) of the Ontario College of Teachers.


"The ethical standard of Care includes compassion, acceptance, interest and insight for developing students' potential. Members express their commitment to students' well-being and learning through positive influence, professional judgment and empathy in practice."

"Developing potential" and "professional judgement" make me think a lot about the purpose of assessment: to improve student learning (Growing Success, pg 6). If you are working to improve student learning through a genuine desire for success for each individual student you will show compassion and interest for developing student potential and you will be committed to student well-being. In addition, the phrase "professional judgement" appears in Growing Success fifteen times, starting on page 2.

On page 8 of the policy (which is providing context for the fundamental principles of assessment and evaluation) it states, "In their important professional role, teachers show students that they care about them, and model a love of learning that can deeply influence their lives."


"Intrinsic to the ethical standard of Respect are trust and fair-mindedness. Members honour human dignity, emotional wellness and cognitive development. In their professional practice, they model respect for spiritual and cultural values, social justice, confidentiality, freedom, democracy and the environment."

The first of the seven fundamental principles of the Growing Success policy is that "...teachers use practices and procedures that are fair, transparent, and equitable for all students." Additionally, you can only have a sound handle on assessment & evaluation when you are able to build trust with students and parents.

On page 147 the policy defines its use of the word equity as "A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean that people are treated the same without regard for individual differences."


"The ethical standard of Trust embodies fairness, openness and honesty. Members' professional relationships with students, colleagues, parents, guardians and the public are based on trust."

Some of this is addressed above in the analysis of Respect, as it uses trust and fairness in its definition. Moreover, we can build trust through openness by making sure to be transparent in our assessment practices. Another of the fundamental principles states that "...teachers use practices and procedures that are communicated clearly to students and parents at the beginning of the school year or course and at other appropriate points throughout the school year or course."

Page 2 (the Introduction) also uses the term trust: "Successful implementation of policy depends on the professional judgement of educators at all levels, as well as on educators’ ability to work together and to build trust and confidence among parents and students."


"Honesty, reliability and moral action are embodied in the ethical standard of Integrity. Continual reflection assists members in exercising integrity in their professional commitments and responsibilities."

We use a criterion-based approach to assessment and evaluation in Ontario. It is important to understand what this means and to use this approach, as this is how we help students to make progress in a reliable, research-based approach. When we fail to maintain a criterion-based approach to our curriculum we are comparing students to each other instead of evaluating their learning based on the expectations themselves.

When growing success defines professional judgement it states that " In professional practice, judgement involves a purposeful and systematic thinking process that evolves in terms of accuracy and insight with ongoing reflection and self-correction" which highlights the importance of ongoing teacher reflection.

Leadership: Ethics in Public Education

    The fifth module of our Teacher Leadership Specialist course is on ethics in education. We looked at environmental stewardship and social justice as part of this topic. I would be hard-pressed to find an argument against public educators making sure to include environmental stewardship and ethics as part of their classroom culture. The subject(s) that you teach should not be a factor; not to mention that the environment and social justice are in the ethical standards of the Ontario College of Teachers.

Setting a positive example for social justice and environmental stewardship can come in some small but significant choices. They might include talking about recycling (and the importance of reducing and reusing ahead of recycling) and being an advocate for appropriate language use in the classroom. Students should feel accepted and included in our classrooms.

As leaders we should be cognizant of the same ideas in interactions with colleagues and students in other areas of the school. We can set a positive example for using anti- racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic language. We can intervene when we hear this language and educate others about the effects of it. We can introduce ourselves to others and give our pronouns to help normalize this practice and make others feel more at-ease.

These are not big asks, but they can make a huge difference for individual people.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Leadership: Why Every Teacher Should Be a Researcher

    The theme of this module in our course was teachers as researchers. While my previous entry was specifically about action research (AR), ultimately it is important for all teachers to think of their work in the classroom as research and to be intentional about using a framework and making decisions based on data.

Action research uses the following process:

Phase 1: Planning (Come up with a testable question, do some secondary research, design the process) 

Phase 2: Action (Complete the primary research and data collection cycles)

Phase 3: Analysis (What does the data show?)

Phase 4: Conclusion

and from phase 4 we can cycle back to phase 1. Ideally action research would be completed collaboratively (and there are other models we can consider, such as Collaborative Inquiry, which ultimately have a similar process and the end goal - to try new things and learn from it - is the same).

If we are not able to engage in formal AR (collaborative time is not always given, common goals may not be determined) then we should make a best effort to engage in this process on a smaller scale for our own educational practices. I can see this process being used in two ways. Many educators likely are doing this very informally, but we could all benefit (as would our students) from thinking about it in more depth and making sure to complete the process.

In our day to day teacher we are constantly assessing student learning, collecting data and making decisions based on that data. Often this process is based on intuition and anecdotal data that is not tracked. This does not make the  process wrong, but likely we could be making more efficient decisions to improve student learning by being more intentional. I see this process as:

  1. Plan a lesson including intentional decisions for assessment for and/or as learning
  2. Do the lesson and collect the data (it could be fully collected such as a simple exit ticket using Google Forms/Quizzes or it could be as simple as using a thumbs up/side/down survey where you jot down the counts)
  3. Reflect on what the data tells you (record your reflections, especially if it informs something to do differently in the plan next time)
  4. Make an informed decision about student learning and use it to inform the next cycle
By using the process more formally on an individual basis we making an effort to limit our biases (which we all have - and what makes them a bias is that we often don't recognize them).

On a larger scale, as educators we often have a goal for ourselves for a semester or school year. Sometimes this goal is more personal in nature (i.e. to improve work-life balance) and sometimes it is purely about student learning (i.e. to improve on giving descriptive feedback). Although this goal may not be a collaborative effort we can still engage in a more formal process to work through this goal. We are more likely to hold ourselves accountable and, I would guess, are more likely to succeed. The point in both the day-to-day example and this is the same: be intentional!

Plan (don't skip the research)
Collect the data
Reflect (write it down)
Make informed decisions

Where this can (and does) become difficult is that by not being collaborative we can remain stuck in our isolated classrooms. It becomes important to have conversations with others in the building about your work to keep away from that bubble and to seek feedback from others. If we all engage in work like this it will start to lead to some meaningful collaboration, or at least will allow us to support each other in individual endeavours!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Leadership: The Value of Action Research

    This section of our course looked at teachers as researchers and the importance of grounding our work in educational research. We actually had to consider a topic and to create an action research outline. This prompted me to tackle a topic that we talk a lot about but will require some pointed effort and time: critical thinking.

If we are going to spend valuable time trying to improve such a vital skill, then it is important for the strategies we choose to be based on research and to do the work across the subject areas. By involving teachers from across the building students will see this work happening in most (if not all) of their classes and will start to see how those skills transfer. The ultimate goal is to change mindsets/habits of mind of staff and students, which often comes after starting to see results.

It we are going to be teacher researchers then it is important to have a framework to use for our work. Action research provides a framework that forces us to consider a formal plan that involves specific actions, data collection, analysis and reflection. Without these steps we are not likely to make improvements in our practices and we will not know if our actions are likely to make a lasting impact on students and student learning.