Thursday, 28 August 2014

Professional Learning Communities as a Way of Improving Learning

You would had noted in my previous blog that I mentioned that we have formed a curriculum group to look at well being. This is not the only curriculum group that we have formed, there is also one for Maths, literacy and the Social Sciences (Science and Social Studies).

The idea for these groups is that they are formed to strengthen particular areas of the curriculum, with a focus on learning while at the same time, capitalising  on the strong sense of collaboration that we enjoy at Bradbury. Shared practice, knowledge and a professional interest in the area are also hallmarks of our curriculum groups. These are really what are called, in educational lingo,  'Professional Learning Communities' (PLCs)

I like the way the Ontario Ministry of Education defines  PLCs  as "a shared vision for running a school in which everyone can make a contribution, and staff are encouraged to collectively undertake activities and reflection in order to constantly improve their students’ performance".

As you may know, the concept of a shared vision is important to my own personal philosophy of leadership as well as to the way leadership operates here at Bradbury. One author I have really enjoyed over a period of years is Peter Senge. In his book 'The Fifth Discipline', he states: “The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared ‘pictures of the future’ that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance. In mastering this discipline, leaders learn the counter-productiveness of trying to dictate a vision, no matter how heartfelt” (1990, p. 9)

So true! And unearthing 'pictures of the future' for our students is a challenging task! So often, we are bogged down by the day to day tasks of running a school or a classroom. To have a picture of where we are going, to have aspirational goals for our students and remembering that we are teaching our students for their future, not our past, is crucial to an effective school.

So our PLCs here at Bradbury aim to move practice forward in each area by giving staff dedicated time to reflect, discuss and move forward their area, all within a collaborative, sharing culture.
Each PLC is scheduled to present to parents over the year, so do keep an eye out for these meetings. They are  intended to inform and have you be a part of our shared vision for each curriculum area as well.

  • Senge, P. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Being healthy in mind, body and soul

Welcome back to a new academic year. I trust that the Summer break was refreshing and relaxing for you all! Over the Summer, I have been reading some very interesting books and articles in preparation for a school curriculum focus on well being...both for students and staff.

The reason we are looking at well being for staff is because of a fundamental belief that we hold- teachers need to be healthy in mind, body and soul in order to be able to deliver high quality programmes to our students and have a healthy personal life. We often call this managing a work/life balance. Maybe you like me, have always thought of this as being a balance between the number of hours spend at work as compared to the number of hours spent at home. However, Simon Sinek, in his book "Leaders Eat Last: Why some teams pull together and others don't", says that a healthy work life balance has nothing to do with the hours we work or the stress we suffer. It is about where we feel safe, where we feel we belong and whether or not we feel (emotionally)protected in both.

Powerful stuff! And this need to feel safe, to belong and feel protected is equally important for our students. Without this emotional stability and confidence, I do not believe that the conditions are right for children to learn and to thrive. At Bradbury, as you would know, we have always had a culture of care. I often have visitors comment on 'the feeling' at Bradbury, how there is a positive vibe and how welcome they feel. Staff are happy to be here- we are strongly supportive of each other and there is a healthy culture of trust, mutual respect and camaraderie. I love coming to school each day- it is a pleasure and a joy!

In the  latest ESF questionnaires, 100% of our students told  us that they consider Bradbury School to be a welcoming and friendly place.Wonderful! We want to grow this feeling of being safe at Bradbury, to bring well being to the forefront of our thoughts rather than it being an instinctive action, or as a result of becoming a part of our school culture. For us, this focus is about strengthening an area we already do well, rather than addressing a weakness. We want to become more knowledgeable about the many strategies, programmes and resources out there to help us and so will concentrate on this over the coming year. A special curriculum team has been set up, with one teacher from each year group represented on it to look at this area- both policy and practice.

Before the school year started, we held a CPD day on well being. The morning looked at well being for students, the afternoon looked at well being for staff. It included a two hour yoga session, much to the horror of some! However, everyone joined in and enjoyed it- it was very gentle. Below are some photos of the session.