The Power of Partnerships

I have always believed in the strength of partnerships. Some choose to ‘go it alone’ and I suppose that choice has its merits at times. Certainly, no one to consult, no one to have to compromise with over a major issue, but at the same time no one to share the joy of accomplishment at the end of the project.

So, yes, I value partnerships and this past month we’ve had the pleasure of working with three major projects which involved strong partnerships. And as busy as the month was, I relished in every minute of these activities.

 The first one on January 24th was the easiest of the three. It involved a partnership with our Board’s Program Services department and working together with them to provide the space and the resources for an after-school visual arts workshop entitled “Artful Language – Creating with Crayola” Some 25 teachers (over 10 were Jury teachers) enjoyed this practical hands-on workshop and their students will be all the richer for them having spent this extra time learning new art/literacy techniques. Actually this workshop had another level of partnership as a representative from Crayola (Heather Miller) partnered with our Arts Learning Coordinator, Lisa Kokenyesi to put on this workshop. Partnerships really do work for the enhancement of our teacher’s professional development and student engagement. Jury was proud to host this workshop and will continue to do that whenever Program Services needs the space and technology we can provide. We love hosting events!

 Then on January 25th, our staff invited 80 interested parents to join us at Jury and partner with us for our first annual Community Forum – An Evening of Dinner and Discussion. And that’s what it was! A great time to get together and ask all the questions we needed to ask in order to come to an understanding about how we as a staff could serve our community and families much more effectively. I drove home that night tired from the long day, but actually extra-ordinarily refreshed in an exciting way. The conversations we had had all night confirmed again and again that we are heading in the right direction when it comes to providing amazing support for all our students at Jury. As apprehensive as I might have been when we first approached the concept, I was elated with the results. Partnerships really ARE the way to go.

And then lastly, on January 26th (I know, I know …three nights in a row. What were we thinking?) we invited all the families of our primary English Language Learners to school to introduce them to our new exciting math research project. The research project has afforded us the opportunity to bring thousands of dollars of additional technology into our primary division for the advancement of new ways to learn math skills. We are thrilled that Laurier University chose to partner with Jury for this research initiative.


Could we have suggested Program Services get another school for their after-school workshops? Yes certainly! Many schools have large enough rooms for workshops like this. Could our Parent Council group, who provided the dinner and the opportunity for our community discussions, just have said this was too much bother to be worth it, who’s going to come, people aren’t really interested? Yes, certainly they could have! And did we really have to enter into this whole research project with Laurier? The amount of time we have already invested in purchasing technology, the amount of time that teachers will need to invest in additional professional development etc. There is work, but this year during this month it all came together for the staff and students at Jury. Teachers, knowing it was good for students, buckled down and partnered together to make this happen. Our admin team, together with our secretaries and custodial staff, all worked together to make all these partner evenings a huge success.

So in that regard, I want to say thank you on behalf of every student and staff member at Jury who will benefit immensely from what went on this month, I thank you all. Jury is a better place for the partners we’ve made this month. I can only trust we will continue to develop such incredible partnerships in the months to come.  The following quote nicely sums up my belief in the power of partnerships,

“If you want to go fast, go it alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb

At Jury we want to continue to go far, so we will continue to cultivate those partnerships which are good for our students.

If you would like more information and see some great pictures of these great partnership moments check out our FaceBook here.

“Like” us on FaceBook and follow all the wonderful things which happen at Jury.

Thank you for continuing to Partner with Us !!


The Genius in All of Us

 This past Christmas, a staff member gave me an audio book of David  Shenk’s, The Genius in All of Us.  The book challenges our thinking about “nature vs nurture”. How many times have we heard, “He was born with talent” or “She is genetically predisposed to be a genius”?  At times, in education, we mistakenly presume that children from lower socio-economic households will tend to be less academically capable than their counterparts from higher income households.  This book delves into the childhoods of Beethoven, Ted Williams and Yo Yo Ma and explains that their “genius” was very much dependent on a desire to better themselves and lots and lots of hard work and practice.  Their genetic patterning is no different than that of the students currently sitting in our classrooms.  

 How does Shenk’s research change what we do in education and ultimately why we do what we do? It begins, as always, with a belief that all students are capable of achievement if provided with the right set of circumstances within their learning environment.  Shenk’s research no longer allows us to “blame” poor parenting or government-assisted housing for poor student achievement.

One of my favourite quotes from the book is, “children will develop only as the environment demands they develop”.  Ultimately if we set high standards and effectively scaffold learning thenALLstudents will reach the bar.  We do a disservice to our students by only providing them with easy, low level thinking activities. We need to engage our students in challenging, rich tasks that promote their thinking and inspire them to demonstrate their greatness ~ whether it’s in the arts, academics or athletics.

It’s our job in education to set high standards and more importantly to model high standards, not only for our students, but for ourselves.

As Shenk reflects, “With humility, with hope, and with extraordinary determination, greatness is something to which any kid—of any age—can aspire.”

 Let’s give our students the targets, the tools and the toolkit and support their determination as they aspire to greatness!



Start with WHY

Happy New Year to Everyone!  Over the Christmas holidays, I had an opportunity to read Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why ~ How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action.  Although there were no direction connections to education, as I wore my administrator’s hat, I was able to glean many strong similarities between inspiring a successful organization, such as Apple and Wal-Mart and inspiring a dedicated group of educators.

The basic premise of his book is theGolden Circle~ three circles with “why” in the center “how” on the next largest one and then “what” surrounding the other two.

 When I reflect on those three questions in regards to education, the first two are easy to answer.

What do we do?   We educate children. 

How do we do it?   We teach them and then we assess what they have learned. If they have mastered what we’ve taught them, then we move on to the next concept. We model appropriate behaviour and provide support and guidance for students.

 Why do we do it?  Ah ~ not as simple an answer.

It would be interesting to ask 100 teachers why they do what they do.  What inspires them each morning to arrive to a classroom full of 20 – 30 students, not knowing what the day will bring?  What inspires them to improve their own practice and collaborate with their colleagues? Is there a collective sense of  “WHY” in their school or within their board of education?

 As leaders in our buildings, we need to ensure that everyone knows the WHY of what we do.  It’s more personal than a school improvement plan, it’s more deep-rooted than improving Provincial test scores and if conveyed properly, it can change the culture in a school.

“It is not just WHAT or HOW you do things that matters; what matters more is that WHAT and HOW you do things in consistent with your WHY.

Sinek goes on to say that as long as you know your WHY, then the WHAT and HOW are easy.   You can filter all of your decisions based on your WHY. 

Education is a powerful organization. It is responsible for ensuring that today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders, parents, doctors, electricians, teachers…

We better know WHY we are in this business, if we want to improve it, if we want to ensure that our students are receiving the best possible education and if we want to create cultures in schools where we inspire not only our students but each other!

My question for you today is….

Do you know WHY you do what you do?

 Come write with me