CILO Time – Wednesday June 20th, 2012

June 20, 2012

Today is our last CILO time of the 2011-12 school year. After a wonderful morning of Activity Day activities, wonderful barbecued hot dogs, and just plain fun, I am sure you will be able to put that time to fantastic use today!

Please feel free to use the time as needed. I know we are all crazy busy, so time is exactly what the doctor ordered. If you would like to use it for planning for next year, that would be fantastic. I know we have a zillion other things happening so make sure you use it for whatever is needed most urgently.

Please enjoy the time, share some great camaraderie, support each other, and let’s continue to develop those wonderful innovative learning opportunities for our students, whether it is for this year or next!

Have a stupendous CILO afternoon,


After One Full Year as Principal – A Ton of Lessons Learned…

June 11, 2012

This was the fastest year ever, and led to a ton of lessons learned, probably to many to discuss here. Here are my top lessons learned…

We Need Great Teams…

One of the biggest and most fun challenges that we worked on this year was the creation of a great team as a whole school as well as within different grade levels. Morale was something that we worked on specifically and intentionally so that teachers could come to school and enjoy their work as much as I love my work. Our staff has shared with me over and over and get how much they love coming to work and supporting the students of our school, especially as they are feeling supported. What an amazing feeling when you know that your work has such a beneficial component to the lives of others. Our school is now a team with the goal of improving and enhancing student learning for our students. This was demonstrated on the weekend as a ton of our staff, in between report cards, came out for the soccer tournament our students were participating in.

Creating a Vision of Excellent Learning…

Currently, we are working on creating a key vision and guiding principles for the work we do at Keeler school. We are working with parents, students, and staff to identify key factors that must be focused on through our work. The vision has been at huge area of development and will continue to drive the work at Keeler School. Looking at areas of resiliency, literacy, learning competencies, and purpose will help to drive learning for all students at Keeler.

Consistency, Accountability and Instructional Leadership…

As a new principal, I actually think it is easier in some ways to look at new ways of improving teacher professional practice. I am able to look at and integrate new research and best practice, without having to overcome old habits of mind that might make it difficult to undertake instructional leadership. We have been working on increasing the time we, as an admin team, spend in the classroom focused on teaching and learning. There have been a ton of outcomes from this work, including the provision of formative feedback and ideas for improving professional, a huge decrease in behavioral issues in classrooms, greater and better relationships between students and teachers, as well as a huge decrease in absences among staff. As an added benefit, it is these times are probably my favorite times of the week…

Developing a Greater Understanding of Curriculum…

An area where we have spent a lot of time is the development of our understanding of what the Alberta Program of Studies is as compared to the concept of “Curriculum.” We are working to examine how to make clear choices as to creating and developing the curriculum we undertake and closely examining how we may be creative with the Alberta Program of Studies. Teachers are starting to examine the areas of high impact for our students versus areas of low impact that previously were felt needed to be “covered.” Grade teams are working in collaborative manners to be able to discuss and examine how this will work, as well as working among the grade teams to share and enhance the work of the whole school.

As a Principal, Being Visible and Transparent…

As a principal, the biggest lesson I have learned is that transparency and visibility of myself, my vision of teaching and learning, my openness to conversation and feedback, as well as “all of my too numerous to count mistakes” that were made this year are out there and shared. Our staff understands that they are utilized and needed in a collaborative manner, and that (shockingly) I don’t have all of the perfect answers and solutions to all of the issues that come up either day-to-day or in the big picture of our school. They have consistently seen and wonderfully demonstrated how the use of all of our heads is always better than one… the ideas we have come up with as a full team have consistently blown me away!


Looking back on this, my own professional learning and development has gone through the roof, and I would not have it any other way!

Blogging for Professional Learning as well as School Development

June 7, 2012

After about half a year of blogging and now reflecting on its use, I must say that this has been a wonderful experience. Blogging has allowed me a place to put my thoughts down on “paper” as well as be able to share them with the world at large. There may not be 1 million people looking at this blog, but it is meeting the outcomes that I set out for it.

When I started the blog, it began for completely different reasons. We started looking at how could we enable our teachers the time to do the work that they were passionate about but that they never had the time for. At first it was a new way of thinking for us, but our staff has really gotten into it. We call this time Creating Innovative Learning Opportunities or CILO time. The intention is to allow freedom, autonomy, and passion to come through so that teachers can look at development of learning opportunities beyond just planning for the next week. So, if you always wanted to look at doing some inquiry thinking around mathematics, but just never had the chance, now you had the time. Take a look at my previous blog for more information about CILO (

The outcome I wanted originally was to have an easy place for teachers to share what they were working on during CILO time. Doing a quick blog posting allowed teachers to post comments where it was easy to see visually because they were all together, versus having to look at separate postings for each team. That was it, that was my original intention…

As I went along I started playing with the idea of using this as a professional learning tool. The blog allowed me a chance to share out what I was thinking as well as to be able to talk about some of the work that we had been doing as a staff.


  1. Communicating our work during CILO time
  2. Reflection and communicating my own professional learning
  3. Reflecting on and sharing the collaborative work we do during PD days
  4. Sharing out thinking, vision and ideas to our wonderful stuff
  5. Reiterating big ideas that need to be heard or seen beyond only speaking about it in a staff meeting

I am sure that this tool will grow and develop as I go along, as I am still working on it’s progress, but it gives me a great place to share. My next goal is how can we turn this into a parent communication tool as well, not just for informational items like when this event will be happening or such, but as a tool for sharing out educational reasoning and thinking and helping parents to understand better why we do what we do.

I hope that you feel free to use this idea and modify it for your own purposes, just as I did when I learned of the work that Laurie Cullen, Principal at Erin Woods, was doing. Her blog is called and is definitely worth checking out.

As well Steve Clark at Marlbourough School has also started his own blog at

Thanks for coming along on the ride, and feel free to share and post comments!


CILO Time – June 6, 2012

June 6, 2012

I can’t believe it but this is our second last CILO time of the year. I have to say I have been so impressed with the outcomes and the collaboration and the hard work that has come out of these times. You have demonstrated to me repeatedly that having the time and opportunity to pursue the passionate part of our work is extremely positive and leads to excellent outcomes for our students.
I know we are coming up to the end of June, but this is probably the biggest time to work at maintaining your own engagement, as well as that of every one of our students, so that they stay engaged and are working purposefully while they are at Keeler, whether it is June 6 or June 27…
Thanks for posting up your blurb on the blog. The sharing that has ce from this has been wonderful to see and to share in. Thanks as well for making sure you are making great use of this gift of time, and for proving that flexibility and autonomy lead to better growth than me needing to direct and tell you how to do your work. You are an awesome team!
Have a wonderful afternoon and I look forward to seeing the ideas passionate work in the blog. Enjoy!

Time to Enable Teachers to be Innovative…

June 2, 2012

One of my goals for this last school year was looking at how to be flexible around the use of time, to enable teachers to be able to be innovative, and to take on the work that truly allows students to go deep and become engaged in their learning. Often, our work is so focused on the day today trivialities, so how do we give teachers the time to be able to focus on the “Important” work, rather than the “paper” work?

One of the best strategies we used was the idea of opening up time so that teachers could collaborate and could do the work that they always said “I wish I could…” so this school year this is exactly what we attempted to do.

We decided that on every second Wednesday, when we have early dismissal, teachers would be given time to undertake work that was purposeful, engaging, collaborative, and beyond merely planning for next week. It was not to be used for things like writing up field trip forms, day-to-day planning, working on report cards, cleaning off your desk, or other mundane paperwork or planning tasks. The time was directed to be for all those wonderful things that you always wished you had time to undertake…

We called this time Creating Innovative Learning Opportunities time, or CILO time. Using this blog, teachers posted up a comment about what they or their grade team or a collaborative group were working on so that others would be able to share ideas or get ideas or collaborate in ways that built the work up.

After over half a year of doing CILO times, teachers were overwhelmingly in favor of continuing, and the outcomes definitely support that. They shared with me that they felt that they were being utilized as professionals, that it allowed them to take up work that they were passionate about, and that it was leading to excellent professional development and collaboration among the staff.

From my own experiences, as a principal, we all know that it is so easy to get caught up in the paperwork. I forced myself to work in the same way as our wonderful staff, and made sure that I was also working on those things that I have always wanted to do, but never have the time. This blog is an example of that. I have also used the time for re-examining how we schedule time, re-looking at how we provide feedback and professional support to teachers, as well as delving in and working on both educational technology and communication strategies for the school. These outcomes have all had a very positive effect on the school, but I had to force myself to take the time…

What was the best outcome of all of this work around CILO time? It is the fact that a number of the teachers are now starting to enable our students to work in this way as well. Although we are still in early days around allowing students some flexible time, teachers have reported that student engagement and passion has gone through the roof during times where autonomy and purposeful work was allowed for the students. Knowing that, I am very excited about the possibilities for next year that will come as students become more familiar and more self-involved in their learning.

Daniel Pink, in his book “Drive,” described the three elements of true motivation, which are purpose, autonomy, and mastery. The best thing about utilizing our time in this way is that it is enabling teachers to increase their mastery of our professional work and improve student learning, provide autonomy for some amazing educators, and to allows them to work with purpose and passion.

Please take a look at some of the CILO blog postings from this year. Take a close look at the comments, and notice the passion that comes shining through from most of the comments from our staff. You may not be able to see the work in person, but you can definitely feel the effect it has had on teachers pursuing innovative and collaborative work in designing learning for students at Keeler School.


For further resources, check out Larry Ferlazzo’s blog on The Best Resources For Applying “Fed Ex Days” To Schools:

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