Our Change Agents Celebrated

educator self assessment

As the school year rapidly winds down, teachers and leaders from the entire district are engaged in asking the question, what impact did we have this year?  These educators, myself included, are analysing the evidence from observations, conversations, and products that have resulted from our “students” (both adult and youth) engaging in learning, in the classrooms, in the professional learning and inquiry groups, with our Student Work Study Partners, in our Leadership Learning Team, in our weekly principal meetings, around special education, mental health, growth mindset, Conditions for Learning, etc.  So, to what extent have we met the goals established in our Board Learning Plan for Student Achievement and Well-Being?  Did we each meet the learning goals that we established for ourselves in our Annual Learning/Growth Plans?   How do we know this?  What have we noticed about our learners and about ourselves as learners? …About our learner mindsets?


This self-assessment is critical for us to engage in for a number of reasons. One, when we can measure our success, it gives us motivation to keep going.  Success breeds success.  Two, to learn from the past, we need to reflect on the past.  It is crucial.  What went well (so let’s try it again!)?  What didn’t go well?  We need to remember that we learn more from failure than from success (take a risk!).  Three, to know where we are going, we need to know where we have been.  This may be the same as Two, however it bears repeating as this makes me think about how we are all beginning to plan for next year already.  Don’t forget to keep what happened this year in mind though!  And finally, if we aren’t able to engage in this type of self-assessment, the question is why not? Did we forget to make our goals specific and measurable?  Did we not have criteria for success? Did we get distracted by other things and forget about our goal?  Are we disappointed?  What do we need to change, to get better at, to think more deeply about?

Let’s return to my first point.  We have so much to celebrate as there are so many educators who are working relentlessly to improve the learning of those in their influence.  These people are all teachers, whether they are people who are leading in the classroom, leading system implementation, leading schools or student leaders who are brave enough to voice their thinking…everyone’s role is to teach and to engage in learning.  We are so grateful to them for the countless hours that they have spent reading and researching, blogging, Twittering, listening to their peers, attending professional learning and then acting on that learning, sharing with others, inspiring others, and helping others to join this movement. These leaders remind me of this video: http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement?language=en#t-17630

Yes, I believe that this is a movement in our board…leaving the past and shifting towards the focus on learning. school vs learning This learning focus is growing among both the adults and the students in our district.  Both groups, some of who were lonely learners at one time (fondly known as the “keeners”), are growing rapidly and are, I would suggest, being joined quickly by more and more learners on this continual growth journey.  When I attend conferences, the excitement, the energy, the inquiry stance and the relentlessness in the room is remarkable.  The province of Ontario is known throughout the world as an educational leader, and SGDSB is growing alongside this province; we have our change agents to thank for this movement.  They are modelling the Conditions for Learning in their student centered learning environments in an ongoing and supportive way.  They are:

  • Involving students in deep conversations about crucial topics such as growth mindset and what it means to fail (failure during the assessment for learning phase is seen as possibilities for growth), whereby the students have a voice that is listened to.
  • Seeing themselves as facilitators of learning – they are exploring how to construct “learning” to allow for students to figure it out and to thus be responsible for their own learning, rather than seeing their role as “distributors of information” and having the students rely on them completely. They are in the process of shifting the focus from the teacher teaching, to the student thinking and learning.
  • Emphasizing the interests, abilities, and learning styles of their students so that student success and motivation is maintained.
  • Making their own thinking and learning visible, modelling what it means to wonder/inquire, to take risks, and to collaborate with other learners.
  • Encourage all of the above by using the strategies of the assessment for and as learning cycle; their students engage in diagnostic assessments in a variety of ways so that the teacher clearly understands how they can narrow the topic (and thus the curriculum), they then co-construct the learning goals with the students based upon the areas of interest and gaps in understanding, success criteria is carefully crafted and revisited frequently to peer-and self-assess the growth in learning, feedback is always used in relation to the success criteria and learning goals, and students are engaged in setting individual goals according to their needs in relation to the success criteria. Learning results because learning happens with the student, not to the student.
  • Enjoying their work; thus growing in confidence and efficacy.

passion and stress Consequently, these educators are deeply engaging and empowering students (which has been identified as our most urgent need and thus is our ultimate goal) and in some cases, other teachers within their sphere of influence.  School and system leaders are also engaging in these strategies as they understand the need to “practice what we preach”, the need to model these strategies as they too attempt to further engage the adults with whom they have influence.  Collectively, these change agents are ensuring that our Board Learning Plan for Student Achievement and Well-Being is moving forward.  We haven’t met our BLP goal YET, but it is coming along.  If this movement continues to grow, our student achievement data will be a cause for celebration in the future (as it will take time to grow this culture and to have it deeply impact learning for ALL).

So at this time, we say a sincere thank you to our change agents.  These educators not only deserve our thanks, but our respect, our support and our following as they are discovering how to spread their passion for learning to our students, which is our collective urgent need.   We wish you a summer filled with an opportunity to slow down this learning, to explore new technology, to influence others to join this journey, to challenge the thinking of those who doubt the direction that we are taking, and to simply savour the focus on your self-directed learning.  If you aren’t YET on this journey, don’t let the gap grow…don’t “miss the bus”, but most importantly, choose the Learner Mindset as the impact on students and student learning is tremendous…which will positively impact you as an educator.  It is amazingly rewarding to sit and listen to students who are in this type of environment share their learning.  Happy Summer!!

curious and learning

11 responses

  1. Thanks for the year or learning through this blog. It has sparked dialogue and reflection as learners within our system. It is time to be reflective and hope for more to join our learning journey. The multi faceted ways that we have added to our learning has been great. I look forward to additional time to reflect one our individual schools learning plan and how to move forward in our learning! Thanks for creating the forum to learn and reflect on our practices. Happy Summer!


  2. And thank you Heidi, for always reading, thinking deeply, and taking the risk to respond. I know that I can always count on your readership!! It is truly appreciated…and it is people like you who keep me thinking, reflecting and writing. Thank you for that!! Happy learning!


  3. Nancy Petrick | Reply

    Nicki, as Heidi has already sent huge thanks, I also would like to thank you for the weekly blogs and our Weekly Friday reflections. I imagine that over the summer our leadership teams will have a moment or two to reflect on their learning as they enjoy their new reading and will take the opportunity to re-read your weekly blogs as I know I will. I am looking forward to our conversations over the next weeks in preparation for next year, I can hardly wait to see where our journey will take us next!


  4. Leslie Blackwood | Reply

    I love the Ted Talk video and have to say that I respect your work as the “Lone Nut” I think that you have done a great job in transforming many of your followers into leaders and am looking forward to being a part of the learning again next year. A good friend of mind just said to me that her thinking these days is “Go where the energy is good.” – I wonder if our group of change agents is growing because it is built on a foundation of “good energy”?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I truly love the notion of “good energy”. I completely agree – this is a key piece for us. I link that type of energy to the Learner Mindset…to me, when I am in that mindset, everything is interesting and positive because it is about the many possibilities!!!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!


  5. Nice work as always Nicki. Very reflective and calling upon us to match that.


  6. One thing I look forward to at the end of the school year is the chance to reflect on my learning and my students’ learning. It’s worth the time to look back and think about the progress we’ve made since the start of the year. I agree that there is cause to celebrate – there is more and more movement within our board toward the learner mindset. This is exciting! I think back to a previous blog about refining our practice as professionals and how we are always in the process of doing so. One thing I find difficult at times is identifying the next step – I’ve got evidence of this learning, and that’s great, but what do I need to push my thinking to the next level? What supports can I put in place for myself to make sure this happens?


    1. Hi Jenn, You made me think about how the continuous development of content knowledge is a key piece in identifying next steps…and how we can take our wonderings back to the curriculum or to the SEF document and “search” for possible thinking. Katz cautions us to take time to deeply analyze our evidence so that we really know what it is telling us, and we need to remember to consider observations, conversations and products to engage in this analysis. I appreciate your thinking as it signals to me that you are thinking about slowing down the process and really thinking about the student learning needs/gaps, but don’t be afraid to try something (short term) and measure the impact!! Remember, student work is the key to our work, and the Guides to Effective Instruction, while elementary in nature, can provide significant information to help us with the content and thus, perhaps the next steps. Would love to talk more!


  7. Heidi Patterson | Reply

    I think that the video also makes us reflect on what it is exactly that we need to do to get people to be excited and wanting to be that excited, passionate collective. Certainly something to ponder and to work collectively. It is a nice link to the article “Collaborative Professional Learning” – really looking at what is an effective collaborative inquiry and how important co-planning and co-creating can be in the process.


  8. The power of positive energy! I spent the day today immersed in positive celebrations – successes, analysis of our impact, deep reflections on what isn’t YET going the way that we need it to go, and how we are going to respond to that evidence. The day started with the Secondary Leader’s Teleconference and a discussion about ensuring that learning is progressive, and how perhaps we might achieve this. The struggle to ensure that true learning actually occurs so that educators each year can build on preexisting knowledge. It is a huge shift in understanding that requires us to work with divisional partners, truly understand how our curriculum builds each year and seeing ourselves as faciliators who help students to make connections between curriculum so that the learning is deep, and permanent! I then moved to the Board Learning Plan Meeting where our system Leads shared their evidence of impact. It is incredible to think about the work that has been accomplished – we truly have CHANGE AGENTS throughout this board. I came away from this day so incredibly grateful that I have the priviledge of working in a school district that has people who are passionate about creating the conditions for learning for EVERY pupil and EVERY adult. Our leads are here for us, and want to know what our students need so that they can respond. They are collaborative as they work along side us, supporting us every step of the way in a gradual release model. They are risk takers- constantly visioning for the future and communicating this vision without fail – even when some truly question that vision, they hold fast as they are dedicated and committed to that vision. It is easy for them as this is who they are and what they truly believe. And to them, their relationships are something that they are working at daily. Today was a day filled with evidence of this leadership. It is ending tonight reading the comments that you have shared on this blog – more evidence of the conditions for learning being modelled by you! I see these reflections as evidence of who we are as learners, how we are connecting and sharing thinking, and putting our wonderings out there for others to think along side us. We are on a path SGDSB!! We will continue to grow, to refine our practice, to move further into applying what we know from theory to our practice ….and to move forward. Our learning culture has taken hold!! Thanks to you!!!!


  9. Diane Malashewski | Reply

    What an incredible job you have done, Nicki, in sharing your learning. I believe in doing so, you have succeeded in maintaining focus and purpose. Your blog is evidence of a community of learners who are truly walking the walk by engaging in discussion, reflecting and taking appropriate action to share their knowledge. It appears that you have a number of very excited leaders who are sure to see positive results as they continue their journey. Excellent work Nicole! You inspire me…


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