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Blog: Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Powerful Conversations

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

My reflections in this post come courtesy of my most recent meeting with teachers in the Abby Family of schools, in relation to some changes I have made to my school visit routine. Rather than stop into a few classrooms, and run the risk of interrupting learning (there are only so many times that I can explain what a superintendent does to a group of primary children!), I now have a face to face meetings with teachers about student and adult learning.

The outcome of this practice has been quite positive. While on the one hand, I don’t get as much opportunity to connect with as many students, teachers and support staff, my interactions are much deeper. True, I do not get a chance to see some of the truly interesting things going on in classrooms, but I have traded that for something which has been more insightful. Without the pressures of the moment, we can have more meaningful conversations about the changes underway in our district, the successes that schools have enjoyed, and the support teachers need to advance their practice.

Here is the routine: I ask the principal to invite three or four teachers (I provide a couple of teachers on call to make it easier). The only ask is that they come prepared to share their experiences and thoughts about their practice. I also invite them to be forthright. Sometimes the principal joins us and sometimes he/she cannot (especially if they are covering one of the classes to make the meeting happen). My questions are relatively straightforward:

  • Tell me how your practice has changed with the re-designed curriculum?
  • Give me some examples of what had worked well?
  • How has your assessment practice changed?
  • How does our new report card support your practice?
  • How have students responded? How about the parents?

The last question is typically: How can we help you further to advance your practice? (This one always creates furtive glances between the teachers, followed by something like, “Well, since you’re asking...”

I have found that I rarely have to ask all of these questions. The conversation invariably takes off as people openly share ideas, ask questions of each other, and affirm the things they are learning as they take positive risks to improve student engagement and learning. I can say that after having done this now over forty times now, I have developed a keen sense of how teachers are experiencing the re-designed curriculum. Here are some emerging ideas:

  • Teachers feel more empowered to take risks;
  • Teachers perceive that their judgment is more valued;
  • Student passions are more engaged;
  • The curriculum enables more inclusive practice;
  • Technology has been helpful but is not the panacea;
  • Thank goodness we got away from letter grades!
  • Parents need more time to understand the changes.
  • Indigenization is valued, and teachers want to do it justice;
  • Teacher collaboration, particularly with resources, will ignite better practice.
  • To new teachers, it is just THE curriculum.
  • To experienced teachers, it is long overdue, but time is needed to consolidate it

I could share many more ideas that have been presented, but I think these are the key ideas. I will acknowledge that we are all embracing this grand journey to make all kids more successful, and our teachers are pouring their hearts and minds into it.

KEVIN GODDEN
Superintendent
 

By Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.