I was very fortunate to be able to attend ConnectED at the Calgary Science School (CSS) on May 25. I wasn't able to attend on Friday the 24th, but was thrilled to participate as a receiver, and also a facilitator at the conference on Saturday. Glendale Sciences and Technology School (GSTS), where I teach and learn, is connected to CSS, and I've heard many good things about the school. Ours is a collaborative connection that we would like to grow into an even more collaborative partnership that allows both of our schools to mutually benefit from the other through sharing of resources, ideas, projects etc.
I facilitated a session on Glendale's Empathy Reboot Project on Saturday afternoon. It was great to share with folks from Alberta and British Columbia who attended the session, and I learned a lot from them as well. What I wanted to share here though is a really cool story about instructional leadership. I attended a session hosted by the Superintendent of CSS, Dr. Gary McKinnon, and Dr. Pam Adams from the University of Lethbridge. I had the pleasure of learning from Dr. McKinnon four years ago during a summer leadership program for beginning school administrators at Olds College, and have been working with Dr. Adams this past year on an administrative growth plan project within my school, so knowing how knowledgeable they both are, I was curious to hear what they had to say. Their discussion revolved around leadership in schools. At one point Dr. McKinnon spoke about instructional leadership and openly asked the question, "can students be instructional leaders?" (For the record I believe they most definitely can.)
We wrestled with this question in small groups for a few minutes, and then Dr. McKinnon asked for examples of instructional leadership that may have been mentioned in our small groups. I offered a very cool example of instructional leadership that I encountered minutes after arriving at CSS that morning. As I entered the school with my family, (my wife who also teaches at GSTS, and our kids were with me as they wanted to see what CSS was all about too,) were greeted by a man we knew as Felipe based on the name tag he was wearing. He greeted us politely and then asked if I was there for the conference. I told him I was, and then he leaned in to let me know that the conference wasn't for kids. I answered that I knew that, and that my wife and I teach at Glendale. I told him that our kids were curious and wanted to take a look around before they left me for the day.
Felipe smiled and said that was no problem at all, and proceeded to give us a very thorough description of what goes on at CSS on any given day. He very articulately described who the people are at CSS, what they do at CSS, how they do it and why they do it. He explained about the inquiry philosophy at CSS, how the kids operate within a one to one environment and invited us to look around, and to especially take notice of the student work pasted all over the walls, mostly in the form of small posters with QR pointing to a video, blog or website providing further details about their work or project. Felipe was an excellent ambassador at the Calgary Science School who was obviously connected to its mission and vision. He was a very capable instructional leader promoting all the great things that happen at his school. After about ten minutes, when he finished talking to us, Felipe went back to sweeping the floors.
Felipe was a custodian at the Calgary Science School. How completely awesome that the custodian at CSS felt so connected to the purpose and philosophy of the the school that he was very comfortable taking personal responsibility to share them with my family and I. He bought in; he was participatory; he was knowledgeable and happy to share what he knew; he was positive and energetic... this is what instructional leadership is all about.
Can students be instructional leaders? Of course they can, and so can janitors. A great school is one where every member of the school family considers themselves to be instructional leaders, people who buy in, participate, share what they know and are positive and energetic about teaching and learning.