Friday, 14 June 2013

Farewell to My School

                                                Photo by: Tambako the Jaguar
I have recently accepted a position as a Supervisor of Inclusive Learning  with Edmonton Public Schools. While I am sad to leave my school and all my wonderful students and staff, I am excited to be working with many schools to make each and every school an inclusive community where all children can succeed.  I am not naive to think I can change everyone's thinking in the blink of an eye, but I do know I can offer support to make inclusion a reality for students in our system.

this is a letter I shared with my parents. . .

Dear Parents and Guardians,
As we enter the final month of school, we once again find ourselves nearing the end of another successful year. We have seen our students grow as leaders in many aspects.  They have learned to be more proactive, to put first things first, to begin with the end in mind, to think win win, to seek first to understand and then be understood, to synergize and to sharpen the saw regularly.  Our goal setting conferences set the tone for success for the year and became the anchor for the journey.  Our student leadership team raised funds for clean water in developing countries and led our school in an amazing Leadership Day with guests from all over Alberta.  Our Parent Council and Friends of Rideau Park Society worked in partnership with our school to create a successful and engaging learning environment. I couldn’t be more proud of all that has transpired these past years.  However, I now must share a final good-bye as my 4 year term at Rideau Park will be coming to an end this June. I will be moving to the position of Supervisor of Inclusive Learning with the District as of August 18, 2013.
I would like to express my appreciation for your support over the past four years and to thank you for the honor and privilege of leading the Rideau Park School community. The last 4 years have been an incredibly rewarding journey with numerous successes and challenges, all of which have allowed me to grow so much, both personally and professionally. It is my hope that the school will remain a strong professional learning community that we are becoming and will continue to build leadership capacity in teachers, students, parents and support staff. Each of you has a right and a responsibility to do your part in making this school the best it can be. I encourage you to do so and have faith that you will.
Through the efforts of parents and staff, our students are learning to become contributing citizens, productive workers and competent leaders in the school and in the community. Our focus on the Leader in Me, assessment for learning, individualized learning, and inclusive classrooms are building important strengths in our students that they will take with them through their entire lives. Our staff has strived to create exciting learning environments to build success for each and every one of our students. I see this happening every day in the hallways and classrooms of the school and am certain it will continue.
I look forward to my new assignment in Inclusive Learning, but will always hold a special place in my heart for Rideau Park School.  I will remember the staff and students fondly and I look forward to sharing our successes with other schools looking for strategies to include all students in the learning community.  You will be my model to share!
I came across this quote and wanted to share it with you: “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” As our school community continues on the journey to become a Lighthouse Leader in Me School, a strong professional learning community and an inclusive community where all members are highly valued, our greatest strength will come from believing the in the capacity of each other.

Sincerely und auf wiedersehen,

Brenda Giourmetakis

I have to give credit to Greg Miller for some of the basic structure of this letter because I really did not know how to start or what to say! What would I do without my PLN!  I didn't know how to "break" it to my parents, especially those parents of my exceptional students who "relied" on me to ensure support was in place for their children. However, I have faith that our focus on Inclusion will continue.  Why, just the other day a teacher said to me, "You know, when you got here I didn't think inclusion would work at all. Now, I am worried the new principal will not understand inclusion and I know it is the only way to do this."  WOW! I was truly blown away by this.  I was so happy that we have really made a huge paradigm shift in our belief about inclusion.  I know not everyone is where this teacher is, but with folks like that championing the cause for our wonderful exceptional students, I can leave in peace. 

And now, on to another exciting journey!

Change of plans?

This promises to be an tough, if not interesting year in school. We had a difficult conversation yesterday about how we would meet a need for a 30 minute prep during our staff meeting. We talked about the possibility of genius hour  next year. Some teachers were excited about the prospect and another was really finding it hard to let go of the fact that this 30 minutes was covered by a teacher who gave a fitness session. She was feeling upset that we have always honoured fitness time to encourage students to work out. This was my response:

Thank you to Kendra for offering to take on fitness setup as a leadership opportunity for her class.  This sounds like a great way to keep doing something we all love. I realize that Fitness has been done a certain way for the past years, but the “times, they are a-changin’”.  You might liken it to your favorite lobster dinner that you have had every Friday night for the past many weeks and thenyou find out money is tight and times are hard.  The funds just aren’t there so you still want to keep your tradition but you can only afford to buy a bag of little shrimp.  Still nutricious, still delicious but far from the lobster you are used to.  We have been fortunate for the past years to have a person who took care of one of your phys ed times and devoted it to fitness.  As elementary teachers, we are expected to be able to lead this same level of class.  We just may have to do it differently.  So rather than have a lead teacher to teach it, we will be teaching it ourselves.  We still get the benefit of the workout, our kids are still being taught and encouraged to stay fit for life through not only this day of fitness, but the daily approach to physical activity we pride ourselves on. I know that through your creative thinking, you will make this the best it can be for our students.  

Sometimes we have to think about how we can meet the needs of students with just the basics and this is one of those times.  And having said that, I know teachers are looking t a creative way to incorporate fitness class weekly AND introduce genius hour. Aren't our students fortunate?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

What is in a smile?

What a smile!  That is my oldest grandson, Conner.  He smiles because he was getting his picture taken.  He smiles when he is proud of himself.  He smiles when he has his favorite slurpie.  He just smiles whenever. . .
We have a little student who is vision impaired in grade 4.  The educational assistant came to tell me a success story from the other day.  Her proud teachable moment was to teach this little gal to smile.  Before now, whenever she did her best smile that always seemed like a grimace.  Her classmates were not always sure she was happy or not.  They would ask if she was okay and then she would be confused about that.
But they practiced how your face feels when she smiles.  Now, if she smiles at her classmates, they know for sure she is happy.  AND she was happy that they knew and didn't ask if she was okay.

Is this a big deal?  I would never have thought about that.  Was it something that should be on an IPP?  Probably not.  But has it made a difference to this little one?  Yup. 

And she makes me smile in all the distance she has come since grade 1.  This is one confident young lady growing up before our eyes!