Thursday, August 31, 2017

Don't Be A Wolf!

This year, we had the idea to do a "homegrown, local, keynote extravaganza" as the launch to this year's summer institute, ReFresh, which was held yesterday.
Several of us, from our own board, volunteered to speak briefly, with a personal slant, on the topic of Collective Efficacy. John Hattie has identified this attribute as the one with the single highest effect factor, and we wanted to focus on several aspects of Collective Efficacy, based on a recent book by Jenni Donohoo. Below are my remarks...

Good morning everyone! My name is Anne Shillolo and I am the TELT contact for the east and west, and a program coordinator. My topic, as part of our amazing local keynote extravaganza, is Culture of Collaboration – Focus on Instructional Improvement.
Let’s begin with a look at me, early in my career. As an aside, this is probably the first known selfie of me. But I could just as easily have depicted myself as this:
I totally admit that I was a lone wolf. Uh, next, I was going to say, raise your hand if … but I won’t:) Because, I know this room is filled with people who harbour a small part of themselves that totally loves the independence of the job. We take pride in the work we put into our program, into making personal connections with individual students in order to learn how they learn, our intense work to do our absolute best by each and every student we teach.
So over the years, there certainly have been some changes for me, and not just the picture! Looking back, I can easily pinpoint two projects that turned me in a 180 as far as my approach and beliefs.
My first experience where I felt that I was truly working as part of the team was about 10 years ago, as a member of a TLLP project on blogging. I was sort of the project leader. This was because I had approximately five minutes of experience with blogging. I had responded to someone’s blog - once. So as you can imagine we were all more or less on an equal footing!
However, what changed my outlook as a lone wolf for once and for all was the fact that TLLP paid for our group to meet once a month. This helped us learn together, share our questions, brainstorm about solutions, and come up with creative ideas for the use of our amazing school blog. People became comfortable with the collaboration that was going on. It helped us take some very big strides forward with educational technology. And by spring, other teachers in the building were asking for access to our blog site, to incorporate these activities into their own practice, because they could see both the pedagogical value of what we were doing and the level of student engagement. PAUSE In hindsight however, I can really see that we were at a disadvantage by not knowing the CI structure.
But, a few years later the next big project that we undertook at our school was a killer CI, if I do say so! Of course, it was not perfect, as it was our first one. But it was truly memorable for all of us. For me, once again it was the availability of release time for co-planning and a timetable that accommodated co-teaching that made all the difference. As well, because the focus was on writing, and the room was full of very experienced writing teachers, the exchange of ideas from a planning, teaching and assessment perspective was tremendous. With all that insight, based on years of experience, we also had a strong sense of our goal and what an improvement in student achievement would look like. Our discussions were certainly not framed in an academic sense by the concept of "collective efficacy – culture of collaboration focused on instructional improvement," but that is exactly what we were doing, and, to me, why the project was so meaningful.
So, in conclusion, I challenge you all to kiss your inner wolf goodbye. I also challenge you to do better than I did. Ten years have gone by since that first TLLP and we can all benefit from what we have learned during that time. Be more intentional than we were. Gather more data. Join many professional learning communities, both in person and online. But above all, each year, value your school-based colleagues and dream big - together!


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