Of course, this is facetious, for I am not a principal or even a teacher for that matter, but there have been times in recent years I have had to act as one. Recent duties have brought this forward in my mind once again.
Yesterday, I had to assist my youngest son on turning in his summer course mid-term. It is an online course and so far, the homework and unit tests have all been online with results being recorded as he checks an appropriate (or not appropriate, as the case might be) multiple choice answer box. His midterm was different. He had ten multiple choice answers and then 10 short answer questions with multiple parts. All work was to be shown and then uploaded to the appropriate drop box on the course page. Since I have experience in online learning though my own graduate work and my oldest son completing high school through a virtual setting (no – this was not a move to charter school but to an online school from another public school district within our own state), I was more than able to assist him in the submission of his test.
But, platforms are different. Although there was nothing odd or difficult about this platform – working much like Blackboard, D2L, or Drop Box, we did have to scan his work (all fifteen pages of it) twice because we forgot to sign the code of conduct to show we had adhered to the exam policies, which added two additional pages to the pdf file that had already been uploaded to the computer, saved under a new file name, and ready to be uploaded to the site. I could see that the extra few minutes to repeat these steps added to my fifteen year old’s stress. However, we were done with an hour to spare before the “clock” ran out of time given to complete the mid-term (48 hours). It was a closed book exam, and yes, we adhered to that and all the other course/exam policies.
So, in this situation, I was test proctor. I also was a course guide in that I was showing him how to perform the tasks that are part of online education (scanning, uploading, and organizing files all with maintaining integrity). Is that not part of what principals do? They might show a fellow educator the “way” of doing, be it content or behavior management, all while maintaining and expecting integrity of themselves and their staff. In essence, setting the tone and showing the way for their staff and students. Principals should be knowledgable, have vast experience both inside and outside of the classroom, be able to trouble-shoot, and be approachable. They should garner the respect of their staff and students not only because of their title but also because of their actions. They should possess and encourage integrity. I have been lucky to witness some fine examples of leadership from which I can draw from when I need to “act as principal” for a day or even for a couple of years!
When it comes time to submit his final exam, at the end of summer, I will ask my son if he remembers how to scan, upload, and attach the files to the proper place in the course. This is part of an evaluative process. Principals do this all the time, do they not? Unbeknownst to him, he is gaining skills that will be useful in the future, not only as a result of learning the content in the course, but also in knowing how an online course works. What will he remember about what he was shown? Only time will tell.
Did you know that more and more colleges are offering supplemental education through online courses? And, some offer the courses for free? It is true. Many institutions are now are offering open courseware opportunities. My 17-year-old who is adept at computer assisted design, 3-D printing, and using a CNC machine (all self-taught) is looking to learn a new computer coding language. I suggested he look at open courseware. There is plenty from which to choose. I am sure he will find something that will meet his needs.
I have realized that my posts have gotten away from my tag-line of student enrichment but truly part of my own students’ enrichment has been from what I have encouraged them to do as their mom. Learning no longer takes place only in a brick and mortar building. Those days are gone. If we truly want to encourage and inspire life long learners, we must encourage our students to stretch themselves. And sometimes, that means stretching ourselves, as well. I do not think I would be a great principal on a daily basis but to act as one for a day – to make sure my own student has integrity, knows how to submit his exam, and is back at the desk learning a new unit today – I know I can do it once in a while. So can you.
Look for new learning experiences and/or platforms for your students. Help them to learn outside of school. They do not even have to know you are their principal! We will keep that part just between us!