It’s About Time

September 9, 2016

(I had the opportunity to write for CBE182 again this year. It is a forum to share great learning coming from the Calgary Board of Education, and it is great to follow!

It’s about time…

It’s all about time. It takes time for great learning, whether its students engaged in learning to be amazing citizens or teachers engaging in professional learning.

Ponder how you personally learn best… My greatest learning happens through:

  • Discussion with amazing colleagues
  • Building on ideas we create and shape
  • Working on innovative enhancements for learning (which is my passion and my work)
  • Taking risks and being willing to fail
  • Writing for and sharing with an authentic audience (
  • Reflecting on success and failure and the work I do every day

How do we set up conditions for students to learn in the same best ways that we ourselves learn?

  • Discussion with others
  • Creating ideas and building understandings
  • Becoming passionate about their work and learning
  • Learning to take risks and fail (and learn from failure…)
  • Writing for and sharing with an authentic audience (not just their teacher)
  • Reflecting on success and failure and the work they do every day

This year, we are creating time for our teachers:

  • For discussion, creating ideas, working on passions, risk taking, sharing, and reflecting
  • The admin team is releasing teaching teams so that teams have more time to work together
  • We are limiting staff meeting time and using a Google Doc for information items
  • Staff will have time to BUILD (BelPark Unleashing Innovative Learning & Doing) to work on ideas and research to make learning even better! (Sorry, I love acronyms…)

Hopefully, the “timely” risk taking pays off!

Keep learning tons!


Derek Rakowski (@derekrakowski) has been a CBE student, teacher, and principal. He still thinks he has the best job in the world, as he is learning each and every day…


The (Very Underutilized) Power of Teacher Leadership…

November 5, 2012

The Triple Threat to Teacher Leadership (Persistent Barriers To Teacher Leadership)

  1. Protecting Autonomy (private, isolated & closed door classrooms…)
  2. Ensuring Egalitarianism (all teachers are equal…)
  3. Reinforcing Seniority (I “know” more because I have been here longer…)

Do our schools face this triple threat? How do we ACTUALLY support the development of teacher leadership instead of paying lip service to it?

This will require a major shift in culture, where leadership is not always formal, but can be informal (as well as positive or negative).

The URL below share the work of a group of educators who met to talk about how to best identify and foster teacher leadership.  The group was especially interested in examining how teacher leadership contributed to student and school success.

The Teacher Leader Model Standards seek to generate collective leadership by fostering professional discussion about best practices and advancing new roles for teachers to serve.

Within every school there is a sleeping giant of teacher leadership, which can be a strong catalyst for making change.” (Katzenmeyer and Moller, 2001)

An effective teacher is the strongest in-school predictor of student achievement. Teachers teach more effectively when they work in professional cultures where their opinions and input are valued. In such environments, administrators support teachers as they exchange ideas and strategies, problem-solve collaboratively, and consult with expert colleagues.

Their work envisioned Collective Leadership where teachers can support and inform school leaders, creating a culture of success. Working with their colleagues, teacher leaders can implement strategies that improve student learning. Research shows that collective leadership has a stronger influence on student achievement than individual leadership.

When I went to Keeler, the culture was very much based around the principal role as the “leader” and was looked to for the right answer. Keeler School has an amazing staff with a ton of collective wisdom around learning, more than any individual person or principal can hope to bring by themselves.


Educational Leadership, in the September 2007 issue, identified Ten Possible Roles for Teacher Leadership. I assume there are others as well.

  1. Resource Provider – sharing instructional resources.
  2. Instructional Specialist – helps colleagues implement effective teaching strategies.
  3. Curriculum Specialist – understanding how various components of the curriculum link together, and how to use the curriculum in planning instruction and assessment.
  4. Classroom Supporter – implement new ideas, demonstrating a lesson, co-teaching, or observing and giving feedback.
  5. Learning Facilitator – facilitating professional learning.
  6. Mentor – for novice teachers as role models and advise new teachers about instruction, curriculum, procedure, practices, and politics.
  7. School Leader – shares the vision of the school, aligns his or her professional goals with those of the school and district, and shares responsibility for the success of the school as a whole.
  8. Data Coach – lead conversations that engage their peers in analyzing and using this information to strengthen instruction.
  9. Catalyst for Change – visionaries who are “never content with the status quo but rather always looking for a better way.”
  10. Learner – model continual improvement, demonstrate lifelong learning, and use what they learn to help all students achieve.


My aim is to enable our staff to be:

  1. engaged in frequent conversation with each other about their work,
  2. have easy access to each other’s classrooms, and
  3. take it for granted that we should provide feedback on each other’s work.

The culture at our school has changed drastically and teacher leadership is definitely encouraged. Do I, as a leader, encourage and enable that leadership? I definitely try. Do I, as a leader, utilize that teacher leadership to improve our school and our collective work? Not nearly enough…

Work hard, learn tons…

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