What is Leadership?

This post has been brewing in my brain for quite some time. I have struggled to find the words or even figure out what I want to say.  The reason for this is that this year has been a personal struggle for me. There has been a lot of struggle both professionally and personally.  I have struggled with how to put into words my feelings and thoughts about these struggles. I didn’t want to come across as blaming or pointing fingers and I didn’t want to have a pity party either. But these struggles have really made me question the role of leadership and more importantly my role in education.

I have struggled to find a balance between innovating and doing what I think is best for my students while balancing what others view as important. At times, I have felt very alone this year.

However, today I was reading the Lost Art of Listening and came across this quote:

Please ignore the single letters for words, Twitter does only allow 140 characters. The book is by Micheal Nicholas. I haven’t finished it all but so far have been struck by many of the thoughts.

This particular quote struck me because it summarized my feelings and struggles. As someone who likes to consider himself an innovator, I have been struggling with the question, “who supports the innovators? Who helps them when they fall or struggle?” Personally, I think that falls in the realm of leadership but from experiences and stories, this is not often the case. Too often I hear struggling stories like mine that innovative voices can be squashed or told to hold back. Now there are so many great leaders out there and many of reached out to me throughout these struggles to help and offer advice. I also know there are many reasons and I understand them but there needs to be a balance as well.

In hopes of not pushing the blame to anyone, I want to relate this back to some of my learning as a leader. I have had the privilege of being part of two Teaching, Leadership, Learning Programs or the TLLP (this is an Ontario Grant for experienced Teachers). These projects are to help experienced teachers have their own PD run by teachers, for teachers. As the lead learner, it has taught me so much on how to help my fellow colleagues feel the same passion as me and to also buy into the projects I proposed.  When I first started with the project I often felt, people should be doing this because it is good for kids and is the best pedagogy. I often took the bull in a china shop and tried to firmly persuade colleagues to follow me. I quickly learned this is not how you handle people. As the quote suggests it is not you trying to change people but you changing yourself to help others grow. This has been my biggest learning as a leader: where is everyone else and how do I as a leader help them grow?

Being part of the project has reshaped my philosophy on being a leader. I try to build better relationships, I try to connect more with various people and yes I try to listen more. This last one I am not as successful as I would like but I am working on it.

So how does this all come back to struggles? As leaders, we need to be there for our colleagues, staff, and school. It isn’t hey do as I say and not what I do. It isn’t here is my buzz words but in reality, this is what I mean. And it isn’t I want your input but only if it agrees with mine.

For me, leadership is defined by the relationships you build. It is about allowing others to grow their own way, while you offer the security blanket for them to try new things out. It is about being there when they fall, listening (truly listening) to struggles and only offering advice when they ask. I can relate it almost to raising a child. You can only do so much teaching eventually you have to let go and be there to support. You want your fellow colleagues and staff to know you are there without being there. The quiet sage or guide. A leader also knows when to pipe up with words of advice or a question but without coming across as judgmental or demanding. It is a hard balance and I know I don’t always do this but I was reminded about this today while reading the book.

My hope with this post is just to make us reflect on our leadership. I firmly believe that we are all leaders in our own right. We have the potential to help and change the profession. The question is how will you do this?

The question is how will you do this? If you’re a leader how will you or how do you support all your staff and learners?

I’d also love hear your thoughts on this. If you have any please leave a comment below.

It just clicks some times

My daughter has been trying to ride a bike for the last three years. For the longest time she just couldn’t get it. We tried everything but she just couldn’t do it or would get frustrated and move to her scooter. 

Two days ago I decided to just take her training wheels off and tell her she wouldn’t fall. Well she did it! Something just clicked and bam she was riding her bike. Today she decided to ride with one hand. 

It got me thinking about learning in general. How often do we push our students or say they are behind because they aren’t meeting a so called standard. Now I know sometimes those standards are warranted but I just wonder what if we left them for a bit and see if it clicks. 

How can we as teacher support natural development of students? 

Just some more pondering during the summer. Hope everyone is enjoy their well deserved break. Love to here your thoughts.

My Guest Post on Starr Sackstien’s Blog : A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of the series for Starr’s blog. Hope you enjoy

Going ‘gradeless’ hasn’t really meant that I have no grades but that I am rethinking what it means to learn in school. Our kids are ready for change and need that change. The more we have them a part of the learning, the better. Read how Jonathan So has shifted his classroom.

Source: Guest Post: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 2)

My Guest Post on Starr Sackstien’s Blog: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1)

Here is part one of my guest post on Starr Sackstein blog post. It is a post about my journey ongoing gradeless. Part one deals more with my beginnings and initial thoughts and part 2 will deal with my classroom and student samples. Hope you enjoy!


Jonathan So shares his experiences of going ‘gradeless’ and offers some insights into his process. Read on to see how he reflected and adjusted his learning to better help students reflect and grow as learners.

Source: Guest Post: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1)

Banning…removing…or is there something else better


Picture from https://pixabay.com/en/ban-prohibited-no-warning-note-2133542/

It has been a very interesting couple of months. I have been reading about banning cell phones in the classroom and now we are talking about fidget toys. Banning things is not a new concept. Whenever some new craze seems to come along there always seems to be problems associated with it. Whether it was Pokemon cards, bottle flipping or even be blades, it just seems that age old argument of I cannot stop it so I will just ban it comes up. But is this the best thing!


To me it isn’t about should they be in the classroom or not. I mean there are logical arguments on both sides to me it is more about unilateral decisions that we seem to make in education. I mean I get it, as teachers we are in charge, right? but is being that authoritative presence the best for our students? How do you respond to someone or something telling you this is the way it should be? (Does losing our sick days ring a bell :))

Has banning anything ever worked? or has it just created more conflict to deal with down the road? So the question shouldn’t be one side or the other but is there a better answer?

For me there is. I seem to be talking a lot about this but ever since Izzy being in school my eyes have been open to classroom management. When I first started teaching I was very much, thou shalt do what I say! I was the boss, I was in charge and I took a hard line.  I still do for most safety and important matters but now I try another approach.

Dr. Ross Green Talks in his books about collaborative problem-solving.  This is basically, talking to your kids about how you would solve the problem and therefore the next time it occurs you can avoid it. In his books, he often questions what is the point of punishment? For me, it is to not have that behaviour occur in the first place. Dr. Green would agree with me. So if this is the desired effect of punishment then why wouldn’t we involve the students who are directly affected by that punishment.

Classroom management seems to always be a struggle for our classrooms. We seem to have harder students every year. But I’ll tell you this, there is always a reason for those behaviours. There isn’t one student that I would say is a bad kid. They don’t wake up in the morning and say, “ummm….how will I make my teachers life a living hell?”  No, there is a cause and effect for their behaviour. The problem is we as educators often don’t take the time to understand what that reason is or we often pre-think what that reason is.

Last month, I asked my students what has made the difference in their change of behaviour. They told me, “You listen!”

This has been a very powerful statement for me. I asked them what they meant by “You listen” they told me you honour our thoughts and opinions. You don’t care if it’s a pencil that we are fighting over or a real fight you listen. This has stuck with me as I ponder these debates over banning or unilaterally deciding things for our students.

Our students deserve a lot more from us. They are not just some people who come to our class but have their own personalities and opinions. We need to think more about what affects them and how it affects them in order for them to understand why we want them to do things. It isn’t that we are giving up our authority (for whatever that is) or that we are giving up control but in fact, we are building relationships and a community.

The more we involve our students in the decision making the more they feel a part of our community. The more they are a part of our community and the less classroom management we will have.

Now, collaborative problem solving is not a magic bullet. It takes work and time but what I know is that banning doesn’t work. Now, I know why we often resort to banning. We are often stressed and bothered by these small things in our classroom but banning will not help the situation. In fact, it can often cause more problems.

So as we head into our week, I hope that we can think about who our kids are and why they behave the way they do. Stop and listen to them and they will surprise you.