5 Leaders, 1 Question


Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing for others?" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


What I have been thinking about a lot lately is the big idea of change, and in particular, making 1 change that would have the biggest impact on students. So with that question in mind I reached out to 5 leaders in my PLN that I have the utmost respect for. Each has made an impact on my practice as a school administrator and as a learner. Below are 5 leaders responses to the question:

"If you had the power to make 1 change, and 1 change only that would help to improve schools, what would it be?"


Sue Bruyns (@sbruyns) - Learning Supervisor, TVDSB. Master principal and teacher respected throughout the district for her knowledge, work ethic and love for kids.

Although it might seem trivial, I often wonder if we took the time to learn more about each other would our schools be better places. If teachers truly understood their students as people and as learners, would they be better informed to make text selections which would engage their students? If teachers had a deeper understanding of their students and their strengths, could they better program for them (include more authentic, meaningful tasks). I wonder if our administrators took the time to better understand their staff members could they have a greater impact with motivating educators to try new thing and to be true learners. Can we truly move thinking forward without understanding the current barriers and one of those barriers may be a lack of understanding of others?


Ann Marie Luce (@turnmeluce) - Principal, June Rose Callwood. Amazing leader that has a tremendous knowledge of pedagogy, but most importantly cares about all students regardless of ability or social status. 

Student Voice.... Imagine if we asked students their thoughts about what format they would like to use to demonstrate their learning. What topics are they passionate about? What vision do they have for making their school a thriving learning community? What would they tell us? How could we use this information to create classrooms in which students were engaged and excited about learning?


Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) - Classroom teacher from Hamilton. A leader for her outstanding classroom practice that is visible to all who follow her. She spreads her knowledge and learning far and wide. 

Less teacher talk, and more student "talk" and "doing." Sometimes I wonder how much the students get from what we say, and how much more meaningful the learning can be when the students figure out the solutions on their own. This means they need opportunities to make mistakes, go back, and try again. They need this talking and doing time with each other, with us being more of the questioner and pusher for deeper thinking. I like to talk. I don't think I'm alone in this, but for schools to change for the better, I think that the adults need to talk a little less.


Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall) - Classroom teacher from Chatham. Coding and makerspaces are his passion, but so are the platforms he has built to support teachers and students such as edmettle and scrawlar. 

If I had the power to make one significant change it would be to remove the numerical comparative grading system. Beginning in kindergarten, we have students who are encouraged to play, explore, create, think critically and collaborate yet we compare them to one another for assessment & evaluation. Creativity and critical thinking are quite difficult to measure numerically. Moving up the grades into intermediate, we continue to evaluate students on a common standard even though we are about to stream them for grade nine. I want applied students to feel success in elementary and I get discouraged when they have to be evaluated alongside "academic" kids. I wonder if grades yield an "fixed" mindset for this group of students.


Doug Peterson (@dougpete) - Retired teacher and consultant. Doug is known by many around the province for his work on behalf of teachers when it comes to technology. He continues to support ECOO and the Bring IT Together Conference and is a constant on social media.

Ensure that every school had a complete service library / resource centre, that it's staffed by a competent teacher-librarian, and that it is open throughout the day including before and after school.


Some great ideas here. What about you? If you had the power to change 1 thing, what would it be? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

My Idea
Leadership and Learning

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  • Aviva

    Thank you so much for the kind words, David, and for including my thoughts in addition to the wonderful ones shared by others. I'd love to know what other people would add to the thoughts shared. When you asked me the question, I felt really confident in my answer (and in many ways I still do), but when I see what others have shared, I can't help but nod along with those ideas as well. I wonder if there's one "big idea" that allows us to encapsulate everything shared here. Maybe one idea actually triggers all of the others. Lots to think about!


  • Aviva

    I'm also intrigued now: how would you answer this same question?

  • David

    Hi Aviva,
    Thanks for sharing and I agree there are so many ideas out there!

    Stay tuned for my post tomorrow and my idea. :)

  • Joe Sheik

    While a litany of choices come to mind David and perhaps it's the time of year but I've always maintained that I can make significant impact on my school through changing and shaping an effective timetable. As my mentor Norm Ryder
    ( retired principal of Annandale ) said you put your big rocks in first and build around it . In other words determine what you want to do with your program and put it in the schedule first then make the schedule work .
    Do you want FDK outdoor classroom every am ? do you want grade partners with common prep time ? unique TL partnerships ? Prep delivered by science or math experts?

    Any and all are possible with creative time tabling. Through this method you highlight key programming needs that also
    inform your hiring practises.

    It's remarkable to see teams of teachers working together and realizing that subtly and by design its all thanks to thoughtful timetabling

    David if I were to change one thing to make a profound impact on the entire school for an entire year I would spend the time to develop timetables that open the doors for innovation

  • Ann Marie Luce


    I would argue that timetables, duty schedules teaching assignments are all important because they are pieces of a puzzle that support the vision of the leader or community. I would ask leaders to reflect on what is the vision for their school, for their students and what are the necessary components to support the vision?

  • David

    You're right Ann Marie! Starting with a vision for your school and then taking those puzzle pieces and organizing them is necessary for a school leader to consider. Each school has its own issues, values, and strengths and weaknesses and if we are to meet the needs of all stakeholders we need to look carefully at each of those puzzle pieces.

  • David

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for adding your thoughts. For someone who hasn't had a whole lot of experience with timetabling I can only speak to seeing the finished product, but I can certainly appreciate the time and thought that goes into creating them. I agree that it's important that the you need to take into account the needs of the school when making those decisions.

    Thanks again