As I prepare for my first days as Principal

Well, I haven’t been a prolific writer in the past years, but I have maintained the site as there are some posts that continue to receive hits daily for various reasons. However, in those years I have been working diligently as an Assistant Principal at a rural Alberta school and in the spring I was named as Principal of a grade 6-12 school for the 2019-20 school year. There are so many different aspects of my journey that I could discuss, but I was inspired to sit down and write because I am now preparing, for the first time, to lead a school when I head back to work in the coming week. It’s time to revive this blog and get some great discussion about education happening again. Keep in mind that I am open for discussion anytime on Twitter (@mrdkeenan).

This summer has been one of contemplating my leadership style, trying to read as much as possible to support me and developing a great understanding of my team and school culture. I feel fortunate to have been posted to a school that is central to their community, with a strong student leadership contingent and a great team as a staff. As I enter the school year, I don’t feel as though the school is in chaos in any way, and look forward to meeting students, parents and community members in the opening days.

And I suppose that is the point of this post. All general logistics aside, my focus will be on developing relationships with staff, parents and getting to know the students as quickly as possible so they begin to understand who I am and what I’m about. As I have stated above, the school is in a good place, so I know the previous Principal did a great job of this during his tenure at the school. So what are the exact steps I will be taking?

  • I have been reading a number of titles focused on school culture, relationship building and development; they have given me many ideas about the possibilities a new leadership position may bring (I will be posting on my summer reading list and learnings soon)
  • I will be sending out an email before the staff come back, inviting them to a personal conversation in which we will get to know each other better and they can let me know how they see themselves in relation to the school and culture.
  • When we start up for the fall, I will be visible and present as much as possible for students and parents to get to know me. This will include a welcome message and video on the school website and social media accounts.
  • Mainly, I plan on honouring what is in place in the school as much as possible. There is no need for me to come in with a ‘heavy hand’ and shift things that are working. I will be spending the first weeks learning about our school and the needs we have. I will be an active support to start, learning all the while.

Any thoughts on this? What would you be focused on if you were looking at your first days as a school Principal? Please comment below or reach out on Twitter.

Innovative Leadership for a Better World #swatca18 #pdtca18

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This year I have the opportunity to present a session on Innovative Leadership at both Palliser District Teacher’s Convention and South West Alberta Teacher’s Convention. You can download a PDF of the presentation below:

Innovative Leadership for a Better World

This presentation was originally presented at the Canadian Student Leadership Conference 2017 in Waterloo, Ontario. It was amazing to see the response of the students to concepts such as servant leadership and growth mindsets. We have so much to gain with our students and in our society if we focus on fostering growth mindset and looking for opportunities to serve in our world.

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter: @mrdkeenan

Thanks for reading!


5 Traits of the 21st Century Administrator

What do you believe are the traits needed by an administrator in the 21st century?  I have outlined five of the traits I have found most useful in considering administration in this new educational world. At the end of this post, I have included a PDF version of these traits for you to download and print off if you’d like. Share as you’d like.

The 21st Century Administrator is…

An Active Listener – If there is one thing that social media has taught us, and continues to teach us, it’s that everyone wants a voice. Focus and listen so deeply during conversations that your partner knows every word is being absorbed and processed. It is through deep listening that we get to the heart of concerns and attend to the real issues at hand. Too often we find ourselves having superficial conversations day-to-day, saying ‘hi’ or ‘how’s it going?’ in the hallways. This is not bad in itself, but if these conversations are the only ones we have with our peers for any length of time, we miss important personal connections.

A Connected Leader – Administrators have the ability to connect with many others in education when and where necessary. We do not live in a vacuum in education; if you want to be connected, you can be. This applies to the connections you forge within your own building, but also includes supports from your central or divisional office. These relationships must be cultivated as well, so that anyone from your community that needs support can rely on your connections and abilities to connect to them. This does not mean I am advocating for all teachers to work through you, but rather that in their work, you always have the ability to offer support. In our digital world, there are many connections to be forged through digital media, and I’ve seen many proactive leaders forging those connections to support their work.

An Authentic Conversationalist – Effective leaders know how to have the encouraging conversations, and behaviour changing conversations. We are in great danger of loosing momentum and gains if we as educational leaders do not at times engage in those crucial conversations to bring teachers ‘on board’ with what is going on in the school. While I realize contractual obligations prevent certain discussions, we can go a long way by forging strong relationships where these teachers respect our perspectives as well.

Inspirational and Empowering – Empower teachers to be able to do great things. As leaders we are the enablers of the teaching and learning we want to see happen. Take as many roadblocks out of the way as you can for teachers doing great things, and let them fly. Often, once they have a taste of the kind of teacher they can be, they will start breaking down their own walls. In addition to empowering others, leaders that have solid beliefs about education and create strong vision statements and craft a school culture around them, are the leaders that people flock to because they make a difference in the lives of students. If you are such a leader, share your experiences and skills with others!

A 21st Century Learning Specialist – I know the difficulties some educators have with technology, that is not going to go away. I like the old saying, “Use your strengths and manage your weaknesses.” Educational Leaders that are well versed in the traits of the 21st Century Learner can attract and maintain those who are skilled in technology implementation and collaborative learning. While I see immense value in maintaining these skills for myself, those who don’t can still be focused on what they want to see happen in schools and put the right people in positions to be able to achieve it.

What do you think of these traits?  Do they fit with your vision of educational leadership in the 21st Century?

Click to access 21st-century-administrator-r11.pdf

A Pedagogic Oath – What if we had one?

Upon their entry into the practice of medicine, doctors take an oath dating back to Hippocrates that has guided their service through the centuries.  As I was completing my Masters work and reading the works of Dewey, Vygotksy, Coelho and other educational thinkers, I began to wonder what an educational, or pedagogic oath might look like.  Here was what I believed to be the essential components of education.  What would your pedagogic oath look like?

A Pedagogic Oath

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

of those teachers in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to


I will apply, for the benefit of children, all teaching methodologies that are required, avoiding those twin traps of personal bias and judgement.

I will remember that there is art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh standard testing or ranking systems.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed to support student learning.

I will respect the privacy of my students, for their learning needs are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of assessed learning or grades. If it is my honor to facilitate great learning, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to harm a student’s self-esteem and self-value; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own inconsistencies.

I will remember that I do not teach a curriculum, a concept or an idea, I teach a human being, whose learning is linked to and affected by their community and experience, and that learning in our classroom may affect the student’s family, economic future and connection to society. My responsibility includes these re- lated areas, if I am to teach adequately any student.

I will create inquiry whenever I can, for curiosity is preferable to drill or rote learning.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those of higher education as well as those with more practical learning.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of teaching those who seek my help.

Derek Keenan
Developing Education

Leave a comment with your thoughts.  If you like the oath and you would like a more polished PDF version, head over to my resources page to download a copy.  If you are willing to take the oath, grab this badge for your site:

Pedagogic Oath

Simply copy the following code into the HTML on your website or blog:

<a href=””><img src=”; alt=”Pedagogic Oath” border=”0″ /></a>

…and yes, that is Dewey’s moustache.


Launching Developing Education at FETC

This project has been in the works for some time. Since the closing of about 8 months ago, I have been thinking about what I was doing with that site, and the purpose of my blogging. I know that while I loved the blog, there were many times when it was cumbersome and difficult to keep up as a busy dad, teacher and Masters student. There were times when I shook my head at the amount I had going on and asked why I was putting myself through this,

Well, no more! This blog is about the positives, the possibilities and the realistic things we can do in eduction for our students and for each other. I will not be blogging every week, but I’m sure some weeks will see more than one post. I will of course be posting materials and additional information from my talks and PD activities, and quick app reviews of apps that I think have direct file to teachers in the classroom.

Look, what I have learned in the last 8 months is that I love writing and need an outlet, so this is it. My Masters degree is complete, and my need to type must be met! I’m looking forward to sharing with all of you.