The Failings of Leadership

Posted in Leadership,Uncategorized by iwonderstand on July 9, 2016
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I entered my WordPress editor intent on writing a post about the importance of work-life balance, the importance of visioning for the future but taking care of today… and then the title just wrote itself. Now where did that come from? Do I think I am a failure? Do I think that my leaders are failures? Not at all… so what is rumbling around in my mind on a Saturday morning??

Just like expertise does not imply that someone is an expert, failings do not imply that someone is a failure. I have been fascinated by root words and word origins lately (my FB post on awful is another blog post entirely), but I think that failings in leadership are important to consider, analyze, and learn from. Life is not a Lego Movie, where “Everything is Awesome”.

Life is real, and leaders are continuously trying to vision and step forward. If we look at failings as learnings, we can move away from deficit thinking for ourselves and others.

As a full time professional learning facilitator, I firmly believe in “Walking the Walk” rather than simply “Talking the Talk”. One example is facilitating workshops on differentiation. I remember having a long discussion with a school division leader who was frustrated that “we have told our Principals over and over again for multiple years that their teachers need to differentiate. Differentiation is the key to student learning.” I am sure you can spot the irony in this statement. It is the irony of attending a lecture about how lecture is one of the most ineffective teaching methods. My question back to that school division leader was “how are you differentiating the learning for the Principals in your learning time with them?” Unfortunately, we know that too often the answer is – we are not. We have all attended professional learning about math tasks without ever engaging in a math task; we have attended professional learning about formative assessment without the facilitator ever using formative assessment and responding appropriately. So, in a workshop on math stations, you should experience stations; in a workshop on comprehension strategies, you should use them to learn the content of the workshop. This is my firm belief, and we in our professional development unit work hard to live that belief in every workshop that we do…

How is this related to the failings of leadership? I think about another strong belief that I have – that family and life and people are more important than tasks and email and work… and my failing as a leader is that I don’t “Walk the Walk”, I simply “Talk the Talk” about work-life balance or whatever other analogy you use. I encourage my staff to have work-life balance, and then promise that I will work on it after I get caught up. I don’t model that it can actually be done. I don’t provide a living example that my team can say “Hey, she gets her work done within the confines of the work day.” or “Look, she has taken ALL of her holiday time!” or even “She hasn’t sent an email at 10:00 PM on a Friday night lately!”

So… a failing is something to consider, analyze and learn from. I need to consider the gap between belief and being a living example. I need to analyze what actions are within my control that I can do less of/more of/stop/start. I need to learn from that analysis, and for the sake of the most wonderful team and family possible, I need to learn and change. I need to begin the Walk…


Photo by Auzigog – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License https://www.flickr.com/photos/8039488@N07


Curriculum Leadership

Posted in Uncategorized by iwonderstand on December 22, 2015


There are many resources that support instructional leaders in Saskatchewan. This page is meant to supplement the SPDU “Curriculum Leadership” workshops occurring in January, 2016. Eventually, a complete list will be available on the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation website http://www.stf.sk.ca

General Instruction and Assessment

Formative Assessment

Clarifying, Understanding, and Sharing Learning Intentions

Eliciting Evidence of Student Achievement

Providing Feedback that Moves Learning Forward

Activating Students as Instructional Resources for One Another

Activating Students as Owners of Their Own Learning

Early Learning

Better Beginnings, Better Futures

Emerging Literacy Checklist

SPDU Early Learning Dec, 2015


Understanding Curriculum English Language Arts


Grade K to 4 Curriculum Conceptual Through-lines

Grade 5 to 9 curriculum Conceptual Through-Lines

Continuum of Essential Learning Outcomes Grade K – 10

NCTM: Figure This – Families and Math

Arts Education:

Arts Education Across the Grades 6 – 9

Arts Education Across the Grades K – 5

Renewed K-9 Arts Education and Treaty Essential Learnings

The Capacity of Asessment in Arts Education

Physical Education:

Building Stronger Citizens through Physical Education

Physical Literacy Summary

Senior Science:

SK Science Curriculum Topics 2015

Saskatchewan Senior Science Curriculum Renewal Parent Presentation

Inquiry in Science Education

Assessing Inquiry

Science Education Outreach Organizations – NOV 2015

SPDU Science Workshops Dec, 2015

Senior Mathematics:

Grade 7 to 10 Curriculum Conceptual Through-lines

Grade 9 to 11 Curriculum Conceptual Through-lines Including Modified

Grade 9 to 12 Workplace and Apprenticeship Conceptual Through-lines

Grade 9 to 12 Foundations Conceptual Through-lines

Grade 9 to 12 PreCalculus Conceptual Through-lines

Continuum of Essential Learning Outcomes Grade K – 10



What My Mother Taught Me About Leadership

Posted in Leadership,Uncategorized by iwonderstand on May 12, 2014
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Mom and Dad in HawaiiOf course, it is Mother’s Day and my thoughts go to my Mom. Actually, my thoughts turn to her and my Dad often. Just last week I referred to some life lesson that my parents taught me. Now well into their wonderful retirement, life wasn’t always ‘all about them’. My parents sacrificed many comforts so that my brother, sister, and I could have what we needed (and often what we wanted as well!). Through it all, my parents modeled characteristics that we didn’t even know we were aspiring to. My parents taught each of us how to be leaders, preparing us for the careers and life that we  now have.

Leadership Learning #1:

Do your best. Always. Regardless of whether the job you are doing is flashy and fun, engaging, or something you want to do – work hard. Someone is depending on the work you are doing whether you think it is important or not. People deserve better than a bare minimum effort. This means that we as leaders need to have high expectations for ourselves and for our colleagues. It is not sufficient to expect others to perform at a higher level than we do ourselves, or worse yet expect others and ourselves to achieve a lower standard. Leaders need to be role models.

My Mom always worked – in an era that many of my friends had Moms that stayed at home. My mom worked for the last decades of her career taking care of senior citizens. Mom’s work was physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding – she worked hard every day, even when lifting residents almost destroyed her shoulder; even when the shifts were so long that she sorted her life by ‘days on, days off’ because on her work days all she could do was work and sleep. No matter how big or how small the task in front of her, Mom did it because she knew that what she did made a difference in the comfort and quality of life for the people she cared for.

Leadership Learning #2:

Love people and let them know you love them. The world is based on relationships. Wearing your heart on your sleeve – laughing, crying, being joyful, and sharing pain is all a part of the humanity we live in. Showing your own vulnerability will help others to reach out and ask for and accept support when they need it.

My Mom was the person whose colleagues would come to for conversations, sharing, bouncing ideas off of one another. She was like a mother/counsellor/sounding board for her colleagues. She also cared so much for the senior citizens she cared for. She used to call some of the gentlemen “crusty on the outside and tender on the inside” because they had harsh exteriors that she would see right through. Mom was never fooled by the crust – she could see the heart and soul of the residents in her care and made a connection to them.

Leadership Learning #3:

You have the right to question everyone and everything around you, no matter who you are, or what position you hold. Without questioning actions, policies, or mandates, we can follow structures and people that are hurtful. If we don’t believe something is morally or intellectually right, we should not follow. History tells us that following blindly is as dangerous as leading a hurtful initiative. As leaders, we need to question in order to ensure that where we are leading is in a morally and intellectually ‘good’ direction.

My Mom and Dad encouraged me to question them, the media, and social norms. They believe that we all have the right to our belief and opinions, as long as we are not hurting others. As a result, I believe that we have the right to question when others’ beliefs and actions are imposing on our own freedoms and actions. I remember when the Colin Thatcher Trial was on the News, and I went on a rant that only a 14 year old can have around the media and society prejudging him simply based on his political position. I questioned “Who are we to judge and declare him guilty?” Needless to say, my parents listened to my ideas and questions without ever hinting that I was “just a kid”.

And so, on this Mother’s Day, I celebrate my Mom. I celebrate all that she has taught me about humanity, about learning, about leadership and about myself.

Every Teacher Needs a Champion

Whether we are teachers of teachers or teachers of students, we need to build relationship with our learners in order to understand and know our learners. I am reminded of Rita Pierson’s talk.

Through relationship with our learners, we can figure out WHAT they need to learn and HOW they learn best. Relationships also help learners and their teachers understand WHY they are learning something. Without having a ‘why’ that links what learners want and need to learn with the learning expectations of curriculum, administration, or school division leadership, it is less likely that learning will be authentic and meaningful. We know this for student learning. What about adult learning?

In her talk, Rita Pierson says, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”. Is this not true for us as adults? Is it not difficult to pause and open our minds up to new possibilities when the person speaking is someone we don’t like, respect, or trust? I would argue that adult learning must be built on relationship as well, and refer to the mindset of facilitators in Wonder #7: What Does it Mean to Be a Community Facilitator. Rita quotes Stephen Covey’s idea that “We need to seek first to understand, not seek first to be understood.” This is the premise of Jim Knight’s Partnership Principles, where facilitators approach colleagues as partners in learning, and actively believe that we will gain knowledge from our peers rather than expecting that we as experts have nothing to learn from the teachers we serve.

Know LearnerRelationship is built on listening. Listening is possible when you have relationship. Relationship and listening allow us to know what our learners need. In Rita’s talk, she asked herself, “How do I raise the academic achievement and the self esteem of a child at the same time?”. We need to ponder this question as facilitators of adult learning as well. We need to ensure that we build (or at least not damage!) the self esteem of the teachers we work with, and at the same time allow them the opportunity to learn in the area they need. Rita encouraged children to have the mantra of “I was somebody when I came, I will be a better somebody when I leave.” This needs to be the mindset of professional development facilitators as well – that our teacher learners are good and know how to teach, and our only role is to support them in becoming ‘better’, remembering that ‘better’ needs to be defined by the teacher themselves.

Without relationship, it is hard for adult learners to feel safe to discuss their foundational fears, worries, and issues they face. Without that deep and honest conversation, facilitators and leaders cannot support teachers authentically. Through relationship, facilitators and teachers hold joint responsibility for learning and making changes that students most need us to make. At the end of her talk, Rita said that teaching and learning should bring joy. To requote her statement in the context of adult learning, replacing ‘kids’ and ‘students’ with ‘adults’ and ‘teachers’…

“How powerful would our world be if we had teachers who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion. Every teacher deserves a champion, a leader who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. Is this job tough? You betcha. But it is not impossible. We can do this, we are educators. We were born to make a difference.”

A New Beginning

Posted in Uncategorized by iwonderstand on March 22, 2014

As I search for a way to publish my thinking, I turn to WordPress.