About Richard Williams

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So far has created 10 blog entries.

BCPVPA 2017 By-election

Read Jorgensen, Principal, View Royal Elementary in Greater Victoria, was elected Director in the BCPVPA election held this past Monday through Thursday and joins the existing 11 members of the Board. Congratulations to Read and our thanks to the other three candidates and the more than 700 members who voted.

Ministry of Education/BCPVPA webinars

View all presentations now
Ministry of Education/BCPVPA webinars

The Ministry of Education and the BCPVPA presented, in September and October 2017, a series of half-hour webinars designed to provide BCPVPA members and guests with current information and developments about specific Ministry initiatives. All webinars are available for viewing below:

The BCPVPA thanks the Ministry of Education’s Superintendent of Transformation, Suzanne Hoffman and all the presenters.

Updates on Ministry initiatives and changes for the 2017-18 school year

  • Foundation Skills Assessment with Nancy Walt and Janet Powell.

View the presentation.

  • Arts Education with Melanie Bradford

View the presentation.


  • Career Education with Jan Unwin, Angie Calleberg, and Nicole Arklie

View the presentation.

  • Classroom Assessment with Angie Calleberg, Acting Director, Classroom Assessment and Nancy Walt, Executive Director, Curriculum and Assessment

View the presentation.

  • Math and Science with  Angie Calleberg, Acting Director of Classroom Assessment and Nicole Arklie, Mathematics Coordinator.

View the presentation.

  • Social Studies with Nick Poeschek,Social Studies Coordinator and Brent Munro, Director, Curriculum.

View the presentation.

  • Graduation & Numeracy Assessments/ with  Markus Baer, Director, Graduation Assessments and Nancy Walt, Executive Director, Curriculum and Assessments.

View the presentation.

BCPVPA 2017 Elections

BCPVPA elections for President-elect and Directors

Congratulations to President-Elect David DeRosa, re-elected members of the Board Susan Clough, Steve DallaLana, and Darren Danyluk and newly-elected Susan Nichols who join with President Kevin Reimer and Directors Tracy Godfrey, Heidi Grant, Brett Johnson, Lee Karpenko, Carol-Ann Leidloff, and Brian Leonard to comprise the 2017-2018 Board of Directors.

Our thanks to all candidates & to the 1000+ members who voted

Visible Learning Institute

Visible Learning Institute
John Hattie & Ainsley Rose (Exclusively from Corwin and in partnership with the BCPVPA)

July 7 and 8 Richmond (Pacific Gateway Hotel)
US $449 (with the $50 BCPVPA discount code applied)

The Vancouver Visible Learningplus Institute is a two-day conference with John Hattie and Ainsley Rose. This institute introduces you to the core concepts and research of Visible Learning. You will learn to systematically examine effective instructional practice to make the greatest impact on student achievement and learning. Ainsley Rose will provide the BC context and application.

  • Recognize and implement high effect instructional strategies and make adjustments to focus on what works best in light of what the research shows
  • Discover why a culture of effective feedback is essential in a school and district, and learn strategies to make learning visible by giving and receiving effective feedback
  • Learn to use the Visible Learning plus framework, share learning intentions and co-create success criteria for every lesson, giving students the tools they need to recognize success and track their own progress
  • Learn how to integrate student voice into planning, evaluation, and developing curriculum
  • Learn how to create assessment-capable learners   

+ Register http://bit.ly/2kOhZMU (BCPVPA members please use the discount code: BCPVPA)

+ A limited number of rooms (at $325 per night) are available for BCPVPA members at the Pacific Gateway Hotel, using this link http://bit.ly/BCPVPAGatewayVL

Podcast interview with John Tyler

This week, I sat down with New Westminster Secondary Principal John Tyler. John is a member of the BCPVPA Technology Committee, has been instrumental in launching the recent professional learning webinar series and is the author of the recently released book, Networked Youth: What Every Parent Needs to Know about Online Behaviour.  In this episode John and Kevin talk about John’s book, the webinar series, and his involvement as a facilitator at Short Course.

Outside the comfort zone

With the encouragement and support of my daughter I recently joined a CrossFit gym as she had done the same. In addition, fellow Board member Darren Danyluk took up CrossFit a few years ago and he has been my role model as I continually bother him with questions and ask him to share his stories of how he overcame the challenges of becoming a CrossFit athlete.

I joined Kitsilano CrossFit a few weeks ago and try my best to attend classes four to five times per week. For those of you who don’t know a great deal about CrossFit I can tell you that despite being a month into my journey I still have a great deal to learn about the system and their approach. Despite that I will try to summarize my journey to this point.

As a fitness enthusiast who had been a regular boot camp participant for the past few years I was quite fascinated by CrossFit and I wondered if I was up to the challenge. Short answer – I am not. Rather, I should use a phrase that my wife teaches to her Kindergarten students. Instead of saying, “I can’t” as they often do in five-year-old fits of frustration, she teaches them to use the phrase, “I am not yet able.” Three weeks into my CrossFit experience I can tell you that the majority of CrossFit activities, skills, and understandings fall into the, “not yet able” category.

What have I learned to this point? First off, the exercise areas are referred to as boxes and not gyms. Exercising in a box tends to make me feel that there is no escape and I have had those moments from time to time during particularly intense Workouts of the Day. The CrossFit approach to fitness is highly competitive but only with yourself. The language in the box is filled with acronyms and phrases that need a great deal of explanation not unlike the eduspeak that we use to communicate in education. An acronym like TTB means toes to the bar and requires you to hang from a pull-up bar while pulling your legs up, without assistance, to touch the bar. A series of Olympic lifts that are to be carried out as an EMOM means that you do the exercise every minute on the minute. In short, the longer the acronym the more likely that the next day I will be lumbering my lactic acid locked frame into work in a manner reminiscent of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. Advil has become my oilcan.

comfortzoneA good friend and a highly respected colleague of mine used this graphic as part of his email signature. He is right – the area outside of our comfort zone is the area where the magic really happens. If that is true, then my CrossFit experience means that I could be the next David Copperfield. With these, ‘where the magic happens’ experiences I often reflect on the parallels to our school leadership experiences. I tend to think about these connections during the Workout of the Day because focusing on something other than my burning lungs and uncooperative body helps keep my fear at bay.

In my CrossFit classes, I am 20 – 25 years older than most of the other participants. They have been training for years, have dependable bodies, and understand the philosophy and the context of the work in the box. While there are varying degrees of strength they can perform the majority of exercises without having them scaled. Scaling is a way of performing something similar to the but at a more approachable level so that it can be done successfully. I may never be able to do a handstand pushup but I can perform a similar exercise with my toes on a box and my body in a jackknife position. CrossFit provides numerous adaptations for those lacking the full strength and mobility to perform the prescribed exercise. Often, the coach will explain the workout of the day and the prescribed exercises to the class and then will take me aside and tell me what he wants me to do instead. So humbling.

As you read this I am certain that you are making numerous connections to all of the different metaphors that CrossFit and educational leadership have in common. However, there is one perspective on this that has helped me greater appreciate the focus of the work that we do in schools. At this point, I am very much like that student in any classroom in the province who is struggling to understand. All around me I see fitter, stronger, and more flexible athletes who perform at what seems to me to be an impossibly high level. They understand the environment and they excel in it. They often hang around the box afterwards giving each other cues or comparing notes on the workout of the day in order to help each other get better. What is fascinating to me and the biggest takeaway to date is that they are truly a community of learners.

I struggle with the exercises, watch others perform them so that I can try to take my cues from them, try to find shortcuts or strategically plan breaks in the exercises so that I can keep going and keep up. If this were a classroom I would benefit from a well-thought out IEP. There are a variety of reasons as to why I keep going and most of your guesses would be correct but the most important reason that I continue is that I am encouraged to do so. Regardless of my lack of ability, strength, and mobility at this point, the other athletes and coaches are extremely encouraging. They pull me aside discreetly to offer pointers and check into see how I am doing. I get fist bumps and high fives and a great welcome each time I show up. In part, that may be their collective surprise that I keep coming back however, I do feel that the encouragement offered is genuine and they seem to be as invested in my success as I am and that is motivating.

I know that every day in schools around the province, struggling students are encouraged and supported by their principals and vice-principals. Like CrossFit coaches, school leaders adapt and scale to ensure that the learning for struggling students is relevant and personalized. That work is not always easy and some of our students may not be at a place in their lives to readily accept the encouragement and support that is offered. However, I believe strongly that the investment we make now makes a difference for them as learners later in their lives.

Last year, as a middle school Principal I created a self-assessment rubric for our Inquiry students and one of the pivotal questions I asked was taken directly from the work of Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser from their book, Spirals of Inquiry. I wanted to hear from our students how many adults believed in their success at school as we know that a strong sense of belonging to school and a close connectedness to the adults at school can positively influence their success trajectory. As I continue on this CrossFit journey, well outside my comfort zone, I am fortunate and encouraged that within the Kitsilano CrossFit community of learners many believe in my success.

At some point along the way I will become comfortable with CrossFit and the expectations of the program. That is not to suggest that I will excel, it only means that I will better understand the philosophy and context. When that happens, I will keep going but I may need to find another, “where the magic happens” environment. Having said that, there is a dusty old guitar in the corner of my house that reminds each time I walk by it and fail to pick it up that musical instruments are meant to be played.

[Posted July 24, 2016]

Podcast interview with Woody Bradford

In this blog post I share the first BCPVPA Podcast, a conversation I had with Woody Bradford, BCPVPA, Manager, Professional Learning and, effective July, Assistant Superintendent, Langley School District.



Curriculum Re-design

Center for Curriculum RedesignSchool leaders in BC and beyond are facing the challenges of adequately preparing students to be successful in a rapidly changing world. For several decades, the most prevalent term used to describe the future-ready shift needed in schools has been 21st Century Learning. Personally, I have an issue with this phrase and how it has been used over the years … and years. It seems to me that we are 16 years into the 21st century and the term less relevant as it once was. Setting the relevance of the term aside for a moment, it does raise a significant question for me and principals and vice-principals around the province. What are the skills and understandings that BC students need to participate fully and succeed today?

What I see from the field and hear from my talks with school leaders is the understanding that school leadership today is about engaging students as partners in their own learning, creating authentic and relevant learning tasks, and emphasizing higher order thinking skills and relevant competencies through a process of inquiry. The graphic above comes from the Center for Curriculum Design and illustrates the Center’s belief that school curricula worldwide needs to be redesigned to meet the needs of students in an increasingly uncertain future. I connect strongly to the messages in the graphic as I think the model captures all of the learning conditions and priorities that we are trying to create in schools in BC.

For most of my career, these were considered soft skills or part of the hidden curriculum that was absolutely relevant to student needs, but not necessarily a priority of the curriculum. When you compare the curriculum model from the Center for Curriculum Redesign to BC’s new curriculum it is clear that we are moving in the right direction and the rest of the world is beginning to take notice of the learning agenda that is developing in BC. While the underlying philosophy of BC’s new curriculum resonates with people inside and outside of the K-12 sector, ultimately the success of the implementation plan will rest with principals and vice-principals. So, how will school leaders be able to address the challenges and opportunities within a 21st Century learning agenda? I hear you …  I used that term again. If anyone has a better phrase please let me know.

What will be the keys to our long-term success? I think that the principals and vice-principals will need to continue to emphasize:

  • Collaborative decision making at the school level. An uncharted curriculum will require distributed leadership and the opportunities for increased teacher confidence that comes with collaboration and a willingness to embrace vulnerability.
  • Building teacher capacity to provide meaningful instruction for all types of learners and all types of minds.
  • Creating conditions that are conducive to innovation in teaching and learning to best meet student needs.
  • Moving from a learning model to a teaching model. This will mean that school leaders will continue to place a priority on evidence-based conversations and decision-making to better inform practices and enhance the trajectory of each student’s learning.
  • Ensure coherence and connectedness within schools: The silos that departments and grade levels sometimes operate within will need to be dismantled to facilitate our students to develop skills and understandings along a continuum of learning.
  • A greater emphasis on relational leadership as it is connected to student success. Partnerships and opportunities outside of the school will increase in importance as school leaders look to build their connections to the broader community and ensure that students are well prepared for life beyond school.

As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports, to meet the future needs of students, schools must have strong leaders, confident teachers, and innovative approaches. While the implementation of a new, and substantially redesigned, curriculum poses challenges that principals and vice-principals have not faced before, I am confident that school administrators in BC will provide the necessary educational leadership that our students will have every opportunity to develop the versatile skillset that will enable them to thrive in an increasingly challenged and challenging world.

[Posted June 7, 2016]

The discipline and tenacity of creativity

As this blog continues to develop I hope that it provides an opportunity for us to do some sharing. As I travel and visit as many districts as I can during the course of my term, I hope that my posts will help you to better understand the successes and challenges, both common and unique, faced by your colleagues around the province. In addition, I want to highlight the good work being done by the Association on your behalf and provide a better understanding of the what goes on behind the scenes. Lastly, I hope to use this forum to share resources and recommendations to help build capacity and understanding as leaders of learning. Your feedback is encouraged.

In this post, I would like to recommend a book that has made a difference in my professional life: The Creative Habit by highly regarded dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp. At the outset, I should disclose that I am 6’4” and weigh somewhere north of 230 pounds. When people first meet me I am confident that no one has ever thought, “Hmmm, he looks like he has a dance background.” 

While The Creative Habit is written from the perspective of a choreographer, it has little to do with dancing. Tharp opens up about her professional life, shares her methods for exercising her creative muscles, and makes her case that creativity is not a rare gift but something that we all possess and rely on daily. Tharp, who is now in her 60s, is a driven and determined professional who brings the same passion to her work today that she did when first starting out. To that end, some of her processes may seem extreme and not applicable to those of us as school leaders. However, there are many bits of solid advice that any school principal/vice-principal can draw on. 

Whenever I recommend a book, my decision is often based on the wear and tear that I have inflicted on the book. My copy of The Creative Habit is filled with my asterisks, handwritten notes, and a little water damage (I dropped it on the wet sidewalk rushing to catch the Canada Line) as I have read, highlighted, and reread numerous chapters.

As a dancer and choreographer, Tharp relies on strict daily routines to access and accentuate her creativity. However, just as we do in our professional lives, she does not sit around waiting to be inspired. Creativity, she explains, requires discipline and tenacity. Creativity comes when you are willing to invest both body and mind. She refers to the creative process of other artists and illustrates that even Mozart practised so hard that it led to his hands becoming deformed. Provided below are brief descriptions of some of Tharp’s insights.

  1. Creative preparation: Creativity is more about ritual and habit than it is about a lightning bolt of inspiration. Tharp argues that most people require some ritual or routine to enter the creative mindset. Often, there is a key element or ritual that provides a physical signal that you are entering that creative space.
  2. Creative DNA: Tharp believes that creativity is based on environment and personal history. She spends a great deal of time asking the reader to consider key questions to help define the reader’s creative history as a way of better understanding how inspiration has been woven through the reader’s life.
  3. Before you can think outside the box, you have to start with a box: Tharp describes her process for tackling a project and how she organizes her materials and thoughts to bring about a more creative approach. I connected with her process as I have a similar style when taking on a big project.
  4. Scratching: Tharp describes ‘scratching’ as a way to deal with obstacles like writer’s block. As school leaders we may not deal with writer’s block per se, but she provides insightful advice on how to get unstuck when working on a difficult project. You may have all of the elements for the project but you are missing the creative spark to set it in motion. Tharp offers a detailed list to fire that creative spark.
  5. Spine: The spine of any project is the basic foundation upon which the project is based. That spine may or may not be visible to the outside observer but to the creator it is the basis for everything.

The Creative Habit is an excellent book for anyone who is continually engaged in creative work. As school leaders, creative approaches and solutions are an important piece of the daily work that we do. The exercise and approaches outlined in the book are relevant and applicable … even, if you are not a dancer.

[Posted May 2, 2016]

Unpacking the Vision

“Serving members by supporting effective leadership in education
through representation, advocacy, and leadership development.”

As the President of the BCPVPA, I want to be able to connect with members regularly and provide updates and information that influence and affect principals and vice-principals around the province. As I work on your behalf to advocate and support the work that you do I want to use this blog to offer updates, information on emergent issues and share the stories of principals and vice-principals around the province.

The opening statement is the vision statement for the British Columbia Principals’ & Vice-Principals’ Association. For a phrase that is clear and concise there is a lot more going on below the surface. For my first blog post I want to unpack that phrase and provide my thoughts about what that vision means to me.

Serving members by supporting – As a Master’s degree student I was exposed to a number of theories and models of leadership. While I appreciated and connected with a number of theories, there was only one model that spoke to me. I have tried to adopt that model in my own work as a school leader. The phrase, Servant-Leadership was coined by Robert Greenleaf, a management consultant fascinated by the concept of the servant as leader. According to Greenleaf, a servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and the well-being of the people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by the leader at the top, servant-leadership is different. The servant-leader shares and distributes power while putting the needs of others first. Greenleaf’s contention was that the servant-leadership approach more effectively facilitated growth and capacity in those served. When the roadblocks are moved for those served then they are freer to take their own leadership capacity to the next level.

…effective leadership in education – There is no end to the research on effective school leadership. A Google search will provide countless hits from researchers and bloggers alike about what effective educational leadership is and should be. After nearly 20 years in school leadership, I recognize that all of the well-researched finer points of leadership are all relevant and valid. However, I like to keep things simple. If pressed to describe what effective educational leadership is in a single sentence, I would say effective leadership in education is about creating a collective vision. The most powerful work that I have had the pleasure to be involved is is all about a shared, collective vision. A shared vision provides purpose, power, and passion while bringing filtered clarity to the work that we do together. Everything else is just management.

…through representation, advocacy, and leadership development. – This  summarizes the work that we do on behalf of our members; this is our purpose and the reason we exist as an Association. Each of us are likely to have personal definitions of what these things mean and what they should look like. As we work together these issues may, at times, be a source of great pride for our organization and the individuals that we represent. At other times, these issues may be sources of disagreement and contention if the Association is not being viewed as influential in these areas.

For me, the work that we do in representation, advocacy, and leadership development is the investment that we make in our membership. The BCPVPA is only as strong as its members. This purposeful phrase is about ensuring that our members are served as well as they can be. We will all have different perspectives on why serving our members is of such high importance, but for me the purpose is clear; great schools have great principals and vice-principals. Educational researchers will agree that there is not one documented case of significantly increasing student success without talented school leadership.

There is no question that our vision is clear and our mission is purposeful. As we continue to work towards achieving that vision I look forward to sharing your voice and stories with me.

[posted April 26, 2016]

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