Archive | June, 2013

Video of the Week

28 Jun

A great TED talk. I am sure many of us can relate especially to the sibling story at the start.

PD or PL that is the question?

28 Jun

Is there a fundamental difference between professional development and professional learning? We often define professional development as a one-off activity that takes place outside of classrooms.

The appearance of professional development is shifting. No longer is effective PD going to a course and listening to a speaker. The 21st century learner (the teacher in this case) demands more. At present we have in many cases we have a remnant of the 20th century when perfecting routines and tasks (productivity) were more important than collaboration and innovation (creativity).

I believe that tooling teachers does not necessarily transform teachers. Effective teachers are life-long learners. Ministry documents emphasize this time and again. Our goal this year is addressing this. I have written here about a desire to create Professional Learning Network in schools. This is a desire for creating a better teaching and learning environment. This point was made in my professional reading by Fullen last week.

“Leaders who are most effective in their own organizations and beyond are

those who can connect to the bigger picture.”

In moving from professional development to professional learning, teachers will inevitably take greater responsibility for their own and their students’ learning. School leaders take greater responsibility for teacher-learning and systems provide the necessary support and condition to enable this to happen systematically.

Evaluating performance, seeking feedback and asking questions of students and colleagues happens on the job – as part of the process of improving teaching. This itself is professional development.

The final point for me is that professional learning demands reflection. How well we reflect on our learning is a crucial question which influences how we move forward?


Professional Reading:

Fullen – 8 Forces for Leaders of Change

“This is an extremely useful reading, and links in very well to developments within New Zealand regarding leading change in schools. It would be helpful to use at the beginning of a change phase within a school, and to share with staff so that they come to understand the various stages in the process of implementing change in a school.”

I highly recommend this.

Video of the Week

21 Jun

Work Smart – Stay Sane

21 Jun

This week we are still in the middle of reports and various projects that occur in the second term of a school year.   The best advice I was once given was not to take it home with you, where possible. Trying to live by this advice has been hard but it has kept me, my family and friends sane.

Once I could not believe that I could still be an effective teacher and not take home any papers to mark, lesson plans to write or parents to call. How can teachers not take any work home?   That’s part of the unwritten portions of a teacher’s contract – to be willing to work long hours for which you are hardly ever reimbursed.  The advice, not to take work home, was radical but I was determined to see if it would work.   I decided I was no longer going to take my work home.

After some thought and having put the advice into practice, I thought I would share some of my hints and practices with you.   I hope they will be of some use.

1.I pace my marking/report writing.

I decided that I had to take control of the amount of marking and work smarter.   So I devised a plan that would let me handle the amount of work, I had to mark without losing my mind.   Once a term I have a lengthy writing assignment to mark. To better help me mark those essays, I mark the students as they go along in the assignment.   I call it conferencing.  It serves as a kind of double whammy, if you like, as I then have evidence of a student’s progress  . When the final drafts are due I usually have around 100 papers to mark within a 1-2 week period. So I take the amount of papers to mark and divide it by the days in the week (100 papers divided by 10 school days) and the sum is the amount of papers I need to mark on a daily basis to meet my goal.

2. Planning.

Everyone gets a planning period, but unfortunately we, as teachers, are usually called to do other things.   Knowing this, twice a week I close my office door and request not to be disturbed (within reason).   It’s amazing what I can get done.

3. Emails.

I only check my email three times a day. 7:00am, 10:00am and 4:30pm. You would be amazed what a time waster this otherwise can be.

The following helped me with email.

4. I use extra work time at school.

On those late nights e.g. socials, talent nights etc. I use the in between time to catch up on work.

5. I lesson plan during the summer.

During the summer, I carve out 1-2 hours a day to work on unit plans.  By the time summer is over, I have plenty of units that I will use during the school year.   Of course, things change and I have to modify, but I find when I can begin the school year with units already complete, it makes things easier during the year. All my work eLearning material is then set and saves time later. I use this time to work on Learning Plans.

I hope these tips help you as they sure have helped me work smarter and more efficiently and stay sane.


Professional Reading:

This a great piece for reflection for your next staff meeting.


Leaders and Managers

15 Jun

A few random thoughts this week as week are in the midst of reports and I have read some intesting pieces in last week.

Good school leaders share the same qualities as good managers.  They are as CK Prahalad says ‘custodians of society’s most powerful institutions’.

I was reading Prahalad’s column in the 2010 Jan/Feb edition of Harvard Business Review, I was struck by the timelessness of Prahalad’s notes for managers (written in 1977) and St Ignatius Loyola’s principles for leaders (written in 1500s). I must recommend the publication.

For Loyola – successful leaders:

  • cultivate self-awareness and seek to understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses
  • innovate and adapt to a changing world
  • engage others with a caring attitude and tapping into their potential
  • energise others by setting the bar high.

For Prahalad – responsible managers:

  • are committed to their own learning and development
  • display humility, care and courage
  • are inclusive
  • realise the importance of loyalty
  • assume responsibility for outcomes as well as for processes and people
  • balance achievement with compassion and learning with understanding.

What lessons can principals learn from good managers and vice versa? It is something to reflect on this week. I know I am reflecting on the fact this year I am part of a Senior Leadership Team not a Management Team. There is a difference.

Professional Reading

15 Jun

This a great piece for reflection for your next staff meeting.

Bird Article

Building the Perfect Leader

7 Jun

From my readings (including The Art of War!) and my NAPP inquiry this week the following is a list, by no means finite, of leadership qualities that teachers most desire in a principal. These are things as I need to keep in the forefront of my mind as the year progresses.

Build a sense of community

Perhaps the single most important quality a principal can have is the ability to create a sense of community. Effective principals understand that the adults and children in their schools need a healthy, safe and supportive environment in order to thrive. It is not only about being on the side-line of the footy field or at the gala it is walking beside staff and being seen in classrooms.  A community-building principal works to avoid teacher isolation, negativity and resistance; instead, he or she encourages an upbeat, respectful and supportive professional environment. Positive solutions and growth are the norm, not the exception.

Knows how to hire good teachers

One of the best things a principal can do for his or her school is to hire the right teachers. In addition to making sure a candidate has a strong educational background and excellent references, principals can use behavior-based interviewing techniques to get a realistic idea of how well a candidate will perform in the classroom. Behavior-based interviewing operates on the premise that past behavior best predicts future performance. Typical questions begin with, “Tell me about a time when …” or “Describe your experience with …” and can be highly effective in determining how a candidate will handle real-life situations.

Nurtures and growths professional development

Creating a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is a reoccurring theme. When teachers are presented with a clear path to advancement they are more apt to stay at their current school. By providing in-school leadership opportunities – as well as by making professional development accessible, affordable and rewarding – principals demonstrate their commitment to helping staff members grow professionally and excel in the classroom.

Advocates for the school to stakeholders

The stakeholders in any school community are families, staff, iwi, business partners and the public. Each of these categories requires different styles and approaches to engagement. For example, families may have language and cultural differences or an earlier negative experience with school officials. In order to encourage continued involvement and support, principals need to make a concerted effort to understand the priorities and preferences of the various categories of stakeholders.

Communicates Successfully

Good communication is one of the most crucial components of teacher satisfaction; the best principals will routinely examine their communication skills then apply a variety of styles through the school day. There are a few things principals can ask themselves in an on-going effort to progress in this area:

  • Who did I communicate with today, even if it was for just a brief moment?
  • Are my reasons for communicating helping lead my school through positive changes and improvements?
  • Do I communicate in a way that contributes to meaningful problem solving?
  • Does my communication style help to strengthen working relationships among my staff?
  • What areas of communication are the most difficult for me? How can I work to improve in these areas?

Great organizations require great leadership and this is especially true in education. Some of my best ideas are used by wife who is in the cooperate world. In today’s evolving educational landscape, it is more critical than ever for principals to demonstrate to their staff, students and community that they have what it takes to guide their schools to success.


Professional Reading:

This week Chapter 5 is a good focus. It is a synthesis so it’s a difficult read.

School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why



Videos of the Week

7 Jun

What makes Great Teachers or School Leaders?  This a great piece for reflection.


And here is a piece for your next staff meeting. The use of social media is a massive issue for staff and students alike. This clears a few things up.



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