Confessions of a Former Coding Teacher

Confessions of a Former Coding Teacher

Superintendent of Schools – My major in my B.Ed is in computer science. When I went to university in the late ’80s, I was the only new teacher (for about three years) graduating from from the College of Education that had a computer science major. At that time, computer science meant programming (or as we now call it, coding). If I did not get a teaching job after graduating, I was going to finish a B.Sc. in computer science and who knows where that might have led me.

Back in the day, when I first started teaching programming, it was BASIC and Pascal. I was pretty good at it and can still dabble in new languages like JavaScript and C++ given the transferable knowledge from those more primitive languages. I remember taking computer science in high school writing BASIC programs on Commodore Super-PET computers. When I first started teaching programming in Saskatoon, it started with Grade 10 students and progressed through to Grade 12. I was amazed by what my students could generate. When I left teaching coding in the late ’90s, we were using HTML and Visual BASIC.

Now coding is being embedded into curriculum starting in the earliest of grades. Just before I left BC, the Minister of the day announced that all students from K-12 would be involved in some form of coding throughout their K-12 career.

Five year olds, who cannot yet read, can learn and apply fundamental coding practices through drag and drop tools like Blockly. Apps can be created using fully online tools with no specific programming language knowledge nor specialized software. Groups are helping teach computer science concepts using popular genres like Minecraft, Star Wars and Frozen to appeal to young learners.

As you get older, coding skills are built and students increase their ability to be able to use computers not just to consume media, but to create apps to solve real world issues. The foundational concepts taught earlier are built upon and gradually become more sophisticated.

Very few teachers are trained in this world, but you just need the courage to explore with your students. There are many tools out there that guide you through an age appropriate process to get kids going. Let kids be the experts and allow them to support each other. Who knows, you might be the next teacher who can say, “yeah, I taught Suzie about programming and now she is the person who invented the latest killer app”.

 

Want to learn more? Try code.org as a first step. Try hosting an Hour of Code event during the week of December 4-10 where your kids can join over 460 million other students who have given it a try. You do not need to be an expert to try this as the guides and tools are built for novice teachers/students. We have had a number of schools in RVS host an Hour of Code event previously and maybe this year you can join them.

Greg

What are the Traits of Your Ideal Team Player?

What are the Traits of Your Ideal Team Player?

Superintendent of Schools – One of my favourite business/management-type authors is Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni has written 11 books, many reaching the national best seller list for his genre. His most ‘famous’ business book is likely The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but other popular titles include: Silos, Politics and Turf Wars; Death by Meeting; and The Advantage.

Lencioni typically has about two-thirds of the book written as a story/fable with the final one-third connecting the story to research/practice. His books address leadership practices, how to enhance organizational health and build effective teams. I’ve read almost every one of his books due to personal and professional interest.

In the last month, I powered through (on a bus trip to/from Lethbridge for hockey) his latest book – The Ideal Team Player. It was an easy read as Lencioni used his fable approach to walk through a fictional situation whereby a new leader had to hire a new member to their leadership team. At the end of the book Lencioni circles back and tells readers what he believes are the three most essential virtues that an effective teammate must demonstrate. He shares his thoughts on the best way to identify if a person possesses those traits and how you can develop/enhance those traits if they require strengthening.

So, what would you describe as the three quintessential virtues that an effective team member must possess to be part of a high functioning team? What should we look for when trying to bring new people into a team? We all know people who a natural team players, but what do they demonstrate that makes us feel that way?

Lencioni boils it down to three critical virtues: humility, hunger and people smarts. If people demonstrate those traits then he says they will be a team member that others will embrace and collaboratively they will produce results. These ideal team players take every opportunity to praise and recognize others and shy away from the limelight. They are driven and highly self-motivated to take more things on, help out in different ways, and fill gaps in the team. They just “get” people and know how to get the best out of them while maximizing the effectiveness of each individual. Lencioni contents that when you can find a person that is humble and hungry with people smarts then you want them to be on your team.

If you want to borrow my copy, send me a note and you can borrow it. Want to learn a bit more without reading the book? Follow this link to find some resources -> https://www.tablegroup.com/books/ideal-team-player.

Greg

New Board on Board

New Board on Board

Superintendent of Schools – On Monday, Oct. 16, voters from across Alberta elected new mayors, councilors and trustees and the shape of local government changed. In RVS, due to ward boundary changes and incumbents choosing not to seek re-election, we were going to have a minimum of five new trustees on our Board of eight. A few of us waited up until the wee hours on Tuesday, Oct. 17 to see the final results. At that moment we had three acclaimed trustees and five trustee elects, and within those eight we had three veteran trustees (we don’t call them “old” trustees) and five first time trustees.

On Friday, Oct. 20, the results became official and our eight trustees were sworn in / affirmed at a public ceremony at our Education Centre on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Upon swearing in, the “old” Board finished their work and a “new” Board was formed. Congratulations to our new trustees and thank you so much to our former trustees.

While the eight officially were trustees on Oct. 24, the work had already started. Emails were flying around 1 a.m. on Oct. 17 as I congratulated them on their elections/acclamation and asked them to book a bunch of dates in their calendar. We had two orientation type events prior to the election date for all candidates. We had our first official orientation session on Thursday, Oct. 19 where we spent time getting to know each other, walked through the orientation plan, dealt with some of the required paperwork and forms, got them setup with technology, and walked through the swearing in ceremony.

Our second full day of orientation was on Tuesday, Oct. 24 where we discussed topics such as: trustee code of conduct, conflict of interest, organization meeting, how board meetings are organized, their role in emergency school closures related to inclement weather, how to do their own timesheets/expenses, and previous motions from the past couple of years. Then they had pictures taken. It was an incredibly busy day and we ran out of time so some other topics will need to be rescheduled.

The third orientation day was Thursday, Oct. 26 where the Board and myself spent the majority of the day with Dr. Leroy Sloan. The focus was on discussing what makes effective governance and clarifying the roles of trustees, the corporate Board and the Superintendent. Leroy connected the legislative framework that boards operate under along with a governance framework. A number of key policies were discussed, all intermixed with a bunch of interesting stories from Leroy. Trustees were also introduced and had a brief “meet and greet” event with Education Centre staff late in the day.

The orientation work continues with three days of Alberta School Boards Association work in late November followed by specific orientation meetings in December and January. We also integrate at least one orientation item after every Board meeting starting on Nov. 16 until April.

Being a trustee is tough work and, as staff, we work hard and spend lots of time early in the term to help trustees get off to a great start.

Greg

#MakingADifference #SteppingUp #ProudSupt

#MakingADifference #SteppingUp #ProudSupt

Superintendent of Schools – During difficult times, often we get to see the very best in people. In the past few weeks I’ve seen a number of RVS family members hit with incredibly difficult circumstances. In each case, I saw other RVS family members step up to lead efforts to try and help those impacted families. These are the moments that make me especially proud to be part of the RVS team.

RVS staff, by the nature of our sector, enjoy serving others. We serve our communities, local families and our students. So many staff volunteer their time in countless ways to make a positive difference. It is part of the culture of our schools and of RVS.

Given our work, it is easy to be proud of the work we do. We are not perfect, but our work is noble and makes a difference in the lives of many. Every RVS team member contributes and it is through those varied contributions that we make a difference. With no disrespect to other professionals, we are not about a corporate bottom line, not about stock market value, not about productivity ratios, not about quarterly sales. You only have to spend one day in a school or watch the #rvsed hashtag for one day on Twitter to get a flavour of the difference we make each and every day.

When fellow RVS team members are in need, we step up to the plate. When a student needs some winter boots, our staff reach out to help make it happen. When a tragedy happens in a community, we join in to be part of the healing and help others. People pitch in, dig deep and give of themselves. It is incredibly moving to see and be part of.

Now we are not alone in these efforts. We have so many amazing partners, organizations and individuals that we collaborate with to help others. We have many corporate and non-profit partners who help us feed kids daily. Other partners help create learning opportunities that we could never offer on our own. Countless unsung heroes volunteer in our schools on a daily basis to help. We amplify each other’s efforts to make a larger impact in our communities. For all of this, we are thankful for your assistance.

So, while turkey and pumpkin pie are distant memories, I am thankful and grateful for our RVS staff who give so much of themselves to make a difference. I am very proud to say I am part of the RVS family.

Greg

1,700 Years of Service Recognized

1,700 Years of Service Recognized

Superintendent of Schools – Late last week I was honoured to be a part of RVS’ Long Service Awards. We celebrated the contributions of 70 staff members who contributed 20, 25, 30 and 35 years of service, as well as those who recently retired. These 70 staff members served our students and communities for an unfathomable 1,700 years in many different roles.

The evening was a small token of appreciation and a chance to celebrate their substantial contributions. These contributions cannot be quantified, measured or categorized, but they are significant. All of the staff recognized made a difference in our schools and communities.

Those who celebrated their 35th year started in RVS in about August 1982. At the top of the charts in August 1982 was a famous song from a Rocky movie – Eye of the Tiger. Anyone celebrating 30 years in RVS might recall driving to work on their first day in September 1987 listening to La Bamba by Los Lobos, which also was a movie tune. They might have bought a brand-new IBM PS/2 with the 386 chips with their first few months’ worth of pay. Those celebrating 25 years with RVS likely saw in their first year either Wayne’s World at the theatre or Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct. They went to the movie to take a break from flipping diskettes while Windows 3.1 was loading. Our friends celebrating 20 years did not have an iMac because they were not even released quite yet. They may have been early adopters using AOL Instant Messenger on their dial-up modem while singing Elton John’s Candle in the Wind.

In between the movies, songs and technologies, these 70 staff members built connections, found countless ways to contribute, laughed, maybe cried, and hopefully had plenty of fun.

For those we are recognized last week for their long service and/or retirement – thank you. We thank you for all that you do and all that you did. Thank you for your contributions to public education. Thank you from the kids. Thank you from the parents. Thank you from Rocky View Schools.

Congratulations to our 70 long service recipients/retirees and to those celebrating their 10 and 15 year service milestones (who we will be recognizing later in the year).

Greg

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