self-evaluation 2017

It's the end of my first year in a new role. I had been primarily an English teacher for more than 20 years, and then became the Diploma Coordinator, also teaching Film (for the third year) and TOK.  As DP coordinator, I looked after the administration of the IB Diploma programme, but also the teaching and learning of students in grades 11-12 generally. It was a big move for me, and so this is a good moment for reflection.

What went well:

Creating structures. 
This was a major part of my coordinator work this year, and I knew it going in. I created a website so that we could keep track of policies and processes year to year and make practices transparent. I required the staff top create a coursework calendar, identifying major due dates for students. I restructured and defined the process by which incoming students choose their courses, with the intention of making that more open and meaningful. This is a work in progress -- I've identified a few things I want to write up during the summer -- but generally we are in a much better place than we were before.

Collecting data.
I spent some time with grades, exam scores and assessment feedback, which was often useful to find trends. But individual and group conversations were equally important. I met with each teacher individually at the beginning of the year to find out about their courses and how they approached them. I met with students, individually and in groups, to get feedback from them about how they were learning and what they thought might be helpful. I gave me a more detailed understanding of how things were going, plus it gave me a chance to build relationships.

Working with special needs.
There were a lot of unique situations this year, students who had needs, and I had to work with the Individualised Learning team and teachers to see their needs got met. This was not perfect -- we have a long way to go to really see that all student needs are fully met -- but we made a lot of progress, including creating structures and gathering detailed data about each student. But the best method for dealing with these situations was to listen and to be positive.

What was challenging:

Seeing teachers as learners. 
Working with teachers at this level, especially in subject areas I don't always know, is a new aspect of education for me. How do I help teachers be their best? How do I respect their need to make progress while still making sure student needs are being met here and now? How do I help teachers who themselves don't recognise their own limitations? This is hard now, but hopefully will get easier.

Urgent vs important.
I heard this distinction described in a PD day, and it stuck with me. I find that I spend so much of my time responding to things that have to get done in the moment that I don't have the time to implement big picture stuff. Some of this is about sharing responsibility, but I think this just a challenge of the job as well.

Dealing with student concerns.
I found that students were willing to come and talk to me about problems, and some of those problems had to do with relationships with parents, friends and teachers. I needed to learn what to say in some of those circumstances and figure out what they really wanted from me. I got better at it, but I still find it hard tom know what to say, especially when it is about a teacher not meeting their needs but the student asks for confidentiality.

Goals for next year

I want to work on the culture of the school, and the Core class (a from of advisory) is a way to do that. I want it to be highly student directed and a location where we focus on learning and living in a positive way. Also rebuilding the teacher mentor programme.

With teachers and with students. Not so much formal processes, but more being present -- keeping more explicit office hours -- and the tone and purpose of those communications.

Pedagogical leadership.
Being the voice of good practice and finding ways to bring that out in others. This blog will be a place to record some of this thinking, for myself primarily, but also to share with others.