CONNECT 17

21 Aug

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I had the pleasure last week to be involved in the NASDAP national conference. There were an abundance of great speakers which I will reflect on in the coming weeks. Here are my thoughts as I reflect a week later:

Andrew revisit your Vision as a School Leader:

Take some time out and reflect on the reasons why you stepped into the school leadership role. What was it that you had hoped you could achieve? What was the legacy that you had hoped to leave behind? It takes courage to have a big vision and as a school leader, wanting to make a difference to the lives of future generations, your vision will be bigger than most.

Andrew reflect on your values: 

It is highly likely that with the challenges that have arisen as the result of the new education innovation, that there will have been times when you will have found your values severely tested. When we are under stress we can sometimes find ourselves behaving in ways in which our values are severely compromised, we find our -selves becoming disillusioned and if pushed too far, deciding to jump ship.

Andrew find support:

You can’t do it alone! You are not superhuman and really there is no such thing as a super head! All school leaders feel pain, anger and frustration. The problem is many school leaders seek to hide their true emotions both from themselves and others.

When we ask for help, we may find that we open the door that leads us to becoming a bigger vision of ourselves. 

Messy Play

20 Aug

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Much of our professional growth comes through those ‘Aha’ moments or Messy Play in the classroom with our students. We may have heard from a colleague that “The lesson was not going so well but then I tried this and all of a sudden things changed.” By chance, and some design, the teacher changed something or seized upon a moment to engage and challenge our students. It is good design, however, that ensures that many of these ‘Aha’ moments get shared with others in the team, so that all teachers in the team can learn and grow from each other. It is a shame when these key teacher moments are not shared – I think our students would want them shared for the benefit of all concerned.

It is clear that learning by design trumps learning by chance, though those chance moments can be particularly powerful for both teachers and students, even more so when they are shared. In saying that, it is worth contemplating whether student learning is more akin to winning a prize in a raffle or whether our schools are taking every success to minimize differences in classrooms that are no conducive to optimal learning for all students.

Pedagogical Tools

20 Aug

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The list of digital technologies that might be used for teaching and learning is extensive. It includes: LMSs (Learning Management Systems); MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses); BYOD (bring your own device); BYOT (bring your own technology); BYOC (bring your own connectivity); makerspaces; robotics; digital portfolios; online discussion forums; blogging platforms; wikis, microblogging; back channels; audio recording and music making; image and video editing; creation of infographics, slideshows, and presentations; digital storytelling; social media; collaboration tools; mobile apps; game-based learning and environments; coding and computer programming; augmented and virtual realities; technologies for creating physical or virtual 3D models; gesture-based computing; learning analytics and statistical analysis software; online authoring tools; wearable technology; affective computing; rubric generators; quizzes; online response systems such as polls and surveys; video conferencing; cloud computing; and student feedback tools such as Turnitin, GradeMark, and PeerMark.

E-learning technologies are sometimes defined as asynchronous (any-time) or synchronous (real-time). Flipped learning is that in which traditional teacher instruction is delivered between classes via online video or presentation technologies, and class time is used for application and collaboration. Blended learning melds traditional classroom pedagogies with online learning tools and environments.

The Future

15 Aug

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“we are preparing kids for that jobs don’t exist.”

Are we sometimes preparing kids for jobs that will no longer exist

As we seek to retain Gen Y into the teaching profession, the school as a workplace needs to think about these elements and reinvent. One of the reasons why activity-based work has taken hold in the corporate sector, is that this generation are motivated differently and command and control culture is no longer achieving results. Gen Y employees will leave if they aren’t sufficiently engaged and they will take their talent and build their own start-up.

What are the key elements of activity-based work that can, and are, relevant in school education – for staff, as well as students?

Am thinking about this in week 4 of the term.

Teaching as Inquiry

11 Aug

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The culture of inquiry is so important in our school among all ako. By that I mean students and teachers. As part of our annual plan I have been thinking a great deal about these. For a superb summary of this please click here.  Here some thoughts on the topic:

A Good Question

Questions are an effective way to frame a unit of inquiry. When students struggle to find the answer, it raises the level of inquiry. Questions encourage students to think outside of their class/content area. The inquiry needs to be framed up by this.

Five Benefits of Good Questions:

  1.  Essential Questions establish a learning focus for students.
  2.  The process of identifying Essential Questions helps educators clarify their intended purpose.
  3.  Essential Questions promote critical thinking.
  4.  Essential Questions support integrated instruction (i.e., teaching and learning across disciplines).
  5.  Essential Questions help students see the Big Picture, while allowing each student to connect prior knowledge to new understandings.

Reflection

Reflection is a lost art in classrooms and by teachers. We are constantly battling paper. With the push to cover more content and standards, teachers often make a choice between coverage or pausing for reflection. Reflection comes in many forms: reflective journals, group work, whole class, silent reflection, reviewing yesterday’s work, reflecting on an essential question, or creating a product that shows your thoughts on a previous lesson or understanding.

How often do students feel like the pace of schooling is rushed? Once a unit is finished, the teacher moves to the next unit. Reflection involves slowing down to share what we learned. In the absence of reflection, it is unlikely that a classroom is a Culture of Inquiry. How do students reflect and make meaning out of their experiences?

Learning takes place when inquiry is present. As you meet with your teacher team to develop lessons and assessments, analyse the amount of time students have to question, talk with their peers, and reflect. Career Readiness is not a score on a test or NCEA. Readiness means that students graduate with the skills that provide them with opportunities for success beyond high school. Here’s a thought. Contemplate how the courses in your school foster critical thinking, problem solving, and application of academic knowledge.

 

Learner Agency

9 Aug

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This year I have been exploring “learner agency” in my classes and school wide with the HOF group. In a funny kind of way, the staffroom is my classroom. Like most classes all around the world, I have had a range of abilities from dependent to independent. I believe the teachers’ role in an agentic community is not the gatekeeper: ‘the traditional, stand at the front and talk, I hold all of the knowledge and power and decision making’ type gate keeper, no. An agentic learning community needs an expert lead learner. Someone who inspires growth and challenge from within each individual learner. So, this is where I’ve developed this concept of “counting to five” or “breathe in, breathe out”.

I was introduced to something similar at my daughter’s preschool. I understood the concept it as this: The day is a series of tides: and they had moments of high tides and low tides – the activities would change depending on which tide phase they were in. Hey I really liked the concept.

So I have approached this year, with all my learners, new to ‘learner agency’ and agentic learning by ‘breathing in’: structure, goal setting, independent learning and reflection. And then ‘breathing out’: inquiry based, student decision making, goal doing (where you practise or work towards the goals you have set) and reflection. Now I must be honest I have had a range of success.

Most of my learners have flourished this year and I think it has benefited them by having the agency in to lead their learning.

Appraisal and Our Body of Work

2 Aug

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How might a teacher’s performance be appraised? How can the whole, as well as the parts be considered? Of what use is the performance of teaching for observations by management, versus relaxed one-on-one discussions with students or an experimental lesson tried for the first time? And of what use are the ‘individual works’ such as unit plans, student work examples, lesson data and external test results? Data can provide a tangible, depersonalized third point for professional conversations, just as a particular work of art can be representative of an artist’s work. An exhibition from a particular period of an artist’s work can give a broader picture of their work during that time. A posthumous exhibition of their life’s work can provide the broad narrative of how their work has evolved. These are all different but meaningful lenses for appreciation and critique; each is a useful way of viewing the work and worth of the artist or teacher.

On the one hand, teaching does become a body of work over time. A life’s work for some. This gestalt includes ever-expanding subject knowledge, evolving pedagogies, relational skills and behaviour management tools. Many of the things teachers do become internalised, less-deliberate moves, part of a way of being. Perhaps a teacher should not be judged by a lesson that they teach or one set of student results, but there is value in each piece of work being reflected upon and closely considered for the understandings it might surface about that teacher’s practice; the details it might reveal; or the points of celebration, critique or change it might incite.

Term 3 Focus

2 Aug

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As the term begins for us here in New Zealand it is a good time to take stock. What are your goals for the next 100 days of school? Do your goals take priority over learning styles and student needs? Is your professional development (PD) plan a success if all of the teachers complete the face-to-face PD, but do not implement the instructional strategies?

As a teacher, the world may not be second-guessing your decisions or requesting that you explain your school improvement plan on national TV. Impacting the lives of hundreds of students in a school is much more complex than a checklist. This term I will be asking my middle leaders to reflect on the reason they became an educator. Knowing “your why” will help you support teaching and learning. While a teacher’s legacy is the successful transition of children into adults who contribute to society, it is important to focus on the students you have this year and not your legacy.

Here are five focus points for you:

1.  Focus on The Students You Have This Year

2.  Recognize The Importance Of Continuous Improvement

3.  Focus On Goals, But Not At The Expense Of Student Growth

4.  Provide A Culture Where Multiple Perspectives Are Valued

5.  Reflect On The Reasons You Became An Educator

Get Connected

2 Aug

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While catching up on various professional reading, this includes podcasts and twitter in the holidays I got to thinking it is such a great form of PLD. Plus it’s free. Reconnecting with other educators, making new friends, and strengthening my skills and knowledge so I can be a better leader, are all great reasons to for me to be connected online.

While I was reflecting, I question, why aren’t more school leaders in the secondary environment using these tools? As one school leader who does here are some thoughts.

Reason 1: Time. Sorry that is the beauty of this tool. We can go online anytime.

Reason 2: Tools like twitter are for teachers. Yes, they are, but they’re also for SLT, parents, future educators, curriculum leaders, anyone who has a connection with students and schools. Remember as a school leader you are the Lead Teacher. I have learned so much through these tools.

Reason 3: I’m not a Techie and I am not a Guru. I think there is a common misunderstanding . That’s not true. Any topic is up for learning, sharing, and facilitating. In fact, two of the sessions I attended over the break one I volunteered to facilitate, were about non-technology topics: one was restorative practice and the other flexible learning spaces.

Reason 4: I’m too busy, there’s nothing of value for me. See number one. It is true that you get out what you put in. If you make connections, share ideas, suggest things you want to learn about, and have an open mind, there will be value for you.

School leaders I urge, you need to find and get involved in the conversation. So, dispel those reasons, model for your teachers, and engage in ako-be a lifelong learner.

Being Hamstrung by Policy

1 Aug

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This week as part of my role we were looking at policy with the BOT. To run effectively, schools require policies, guidelines and procedures. They are important to give schools points of reference from which to operate and ensure that everyone in the organisation is on the same page.

Every school that I know has some form of staff handbook; a manual for staff that usually provides details of the school’s key policies and procedures. Depending on where you have worked, these manuals vary considerably in terms of their content, both in length and quality. You can gain an idea about the school culture when you ask teachers whether they know about what is in the staff handbook and the policies that they are aware of and are familiar with. School leaders are often frustrated when staff are not aware of the policies that have been put in place; many of them to support teachers in realizing important aspects of a school’s vision and mission and safeguarding of students’ well being.

Sp why the disconnect? Why are teachers not so familiar with the school handbooks, policies and procedures?

Could it be that teachers cannot be bothered? Perhaps they do not see the relevance until it the manual needs to be consulted, after all we are professionals, right?

There’s an element of truth in all these plausible responses.

Fact: Policies are not an enjoyable part of teaching, so making them attractive and interesting to read is not easy.

Fact: Policies are an important part of being professional and ensuring important levels of consistency in how people work together in a school.

So, how do school’s overcome the problem in having clear and effective policies that are viewed as important and are adhered to by the staff?

Cut down the number of policies
Too many policies and procedures make it difficult to enforce all of them, so cut down the number of policies in order to reduce any cynicism that may be aimed at their ineffectiveness.

Collaborate
Where possible, create collaborative teams to establish new policy or review existing ones. We have plenty of tools to create these.

Regularly refer to policies at staff hui and whakakaha
Keep important policies front and center to the work that is being done. It is important, therefore, to spend time looking at them in meetings and discussing their application. For example, if your school has an academic honesty policy or behaviour management policy, give it life in meetings rather than let it sit and gather dust on the shelf.

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