Most recently, I had the opportunity to take the Aspiring Heads course with the Association of International School Heads. During the course we looked at the 5 Threads of Leadership from Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge. These include Model the Way, Challenge the Process, Inspire a Shared Vision for Learning, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. What was great about looking at this model, was that I had actually studied the model in the year 2000 during a Leadership Seminar course at Wilfrid Laurier University. It was great to circle back to this learning, with a much different lens this time, that of 20 years of work and life experience! I am going to use this model to frame our story.
The requirements for achieving Google Reference School status are as follows:
100% of the teaching staff using G Suite
100% of students> = 6 years+ using G Suite
50% of G Suite active students once a month
30% of students using Google Classroom once a month
1 Google Trainer certified for every 100 teachers
20% of the Google Level 1 certified teaching team
5% of the Google Level 2 certified teaching team
*Minimum of 20 certified educators
Inspire a Shared Vision of Learning
Our journey towards becoming a Google Reference School started in August 2018. This 18 month journey started with the vision of improving our faculty knowledge of the Google Suite in order to improve our faculties skill sets, and thus to make our students better. Upon discussion with our Head of School, we decided to shoot for the lofty of goal of having all of our staff, both teaching and non-teaching, take the Google Certified Educator Level 1 exam. At the time, achieving Google Reference School status was not on our radar, but our vision was to improve skills sets of both teachers and students.
To prepare our staff for the Google Certified Educator Examination several training methods took place. This began with in person training sessions for all employees on the Google Suite of applications. We utilized our professional learning mornings to complete these training sessions. Additionally, online training sessions were also provided to employees to reinforce their learning. And lastly, after school optional training sessions were held for employees.
As we moved through the process of training and testing employees, we began to investigate becoming a Google Reference School. We reached out to one of our partners ForEdTech who had partnered with us to become a Google Edu school initially. With the number of teachers we were supporting through the testing process, the only other hurdle that we had was to do some clean up with our Chromebook licenses. Once that was accomplished, we were on our way through the application process.
Model the Way
Working with a solid IT/Innovation team allowed us to model the way quite easily. All of the team committed to writing the test early, and some even took the Level 2 examination. In addition, the leadership team committed to writing the test as well. Studying alongside teaching and non-teaching staff, leaders were right there every step of the way! This provided an environment for staff to feel like they were supported. Additionally, this speaks to our school mission of “Everyone Learning Everywhere”, where we promote continuous learning. Not just words, but what we live and breathe everyday.
Encourage the Heart
This one was an easy win for us. Our staff knew that having better GSuite skill sets would equate to better student skills sets and better student learning outcomes. If it is one thing I can say about our community, is that when it comes to being better for our students, our staff are always all in. Another learning of the heart for some teachers was test taking anxiety. For some having to test caused anxiety, and thus began a reflective process for test taking
Challenge the Process
There were two ways we challenged the process in our journey. The first is that we aimed for 100% of our staff to take the test, even though only 20% of teachers are required to pass the test, we wanted to aim much higher and set a new standard. Although we did not reach 100%, we are still continuing the process this year, as we train staff and provide opportunities for testing. The other way we challenged the process was by requiring our non-teaching staff to take the test. When most people think of GSuite for Education, they think students and teachers. However, our non-teaching staff uses Gmail, GSheets, GDocs, and the list goes on. It only made sense to provide them with the opportunity to test. This also created the notion that the school, in its entirety was in this journey together.
Enable Others to Act
What was great about this journey was that we were able to provide testing times at school for staff to come in and write the test in a comfortable environment. As this first wave of staff passed the test, we utilized them for further training with others. It became less about the IT/Innovation and more about the staff themselves. This process has created many Googly members of our staff. A side benefit is that it has taken the stress off our team as staff are able to solve many questions themselves, or help each other out.
We are proud to announce that as of February 2020, ISC has been recognized as a Google Reference School. This unique distinction brings with it many benefits for our school. First and foremost, we are now seen as a leader in the use of the Google Suite and Chromebooks, and as such, will be a reference point for other schools in the region. It provides us with an official online brand for our ISC website and a presence in the official Google Reference School online directory. We have the opportunity to be used as an example in Google events openings for other schools in the region. Also, the opportunity to test new Google products before they are introduced into the market. And lastly, we may be featured in the Google Reference School official newsletter. This distinction also ensures that ISC will continue to push the boundaries of innovation through the use of the Google Suite and Google products.