Archive | June, 2014

Reflections at Half Time

24 Jun

As you may have picked up I believe in self-reflection as a means toward growth and development. The blog is a great form of professional development. No flash lunch though. Additionally, through self-reflection we will better understand who we are as educators, as well as how our actions are aligning with our beliefs. Regardless of your position or role in education, here are some questions I found to ask yourself halfway during the year.

1) – How and what are you doing to build strong and enduring relationships with your students and staff?

2) – What are you doing very well? Where are you seeing a lot of success? Do you know why…?

3) – What are you not doing very well? Where are you not seeing a lot of success? Do you know why…?

4) – What are you doing to improve your craft? How are you ensuring that you will be better able to address your students’ needs in 2014 than you were in 2013?

5) – In your absence, can your students and staff continue learning and growing? Do they absolutely need you to continue?

6) – Do your students and staff know the expectations? Do they have a part in establishing those expectations?

7) – Do you give your students and staff enough praise for the great things they are doing? Are you filling the buckets of others?

8) – Do you practice what you preach? Do your actions speak louder than your words?

9) – What is the biggest mistake you made (educationally speaking) last year? What did you learn from this experience?

10) – If you never saw your students and staff ever again, what do you think they would say about you?

Tags: Educator, Growth and Development, Self-Growth, Self-Reflection, Teacher Growth and Development, Professional Development, Staff Meeting

Staff Meeting

24 Jun

In an effort to move our meeting from the nuts and bolts discussion to a PLN I got to think about these.

Here are three popular statements about teacher quality. These would provide great discussion for a staff meeting.

1. The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.

2. The most important single factor in improving quality of education is teachers.

3. If any children had three or four great teachers in a row, they would soar academically, regardless of their racial or economic background, while those who have a sequence of weak teachers will fall further and further behind.


15 Jun

No school or school system has ever become great without great teachers, but what can an excellent teacher do about a child who needs glasses, has cavities or is hungry? To say that teacher or school quality is the most important variable in education is at best naive. Education historian Ravitch writes “Reformers tell us that teachers are the most important influence within the school on student scores, and that is right. But the teacher contribution to scores is dwarfed by the influence of family and other out-of-school factors.”

Professional Reading

Here is a link to an NZEI site with a video that goes some way to explaining the Governments $359m initiative for school leadership.

Good Teaching Makes the Biggest Difference to Student Learning

11 Jun

If everyone agrees that good teaching makes the biggest difference to student learning why aren’t we looking to the profession to help drive the changes needed to ensure continuous school improvement?

We spend so much time and energy in the education sector adopting, adapting and applying – or arguing against and avoiding – yet another shortsighted, secondhand or unproven reform or initiative. According to our new curriculum and the registered teaching criteria we should be lifelong learners. When will we ever learn?

We have to be honest if we are to substantially change our existing practices. We know they are not delivering the best for every student, so we need to stop tinkering at the edges and start transforming schooling. Old mantras need to be tested; everything must be scrutinised. At school our SLT are looking at culture and change. Next week I will reflect on this further.

And the only way to do the work is for teachers to do the work. And if they don’ t know how – to learn the work. The simple fact is we need to get the distractors out of the way so good teachers and school leaders can get on with the job.

It would be nice if we all got paid what we thought we were worth. Additional pay might get a teacher up in the morning but it certainly won’t be the reason why they persist with a student who just doesn’t seem to be making progress. All the good teachers I know do the job because they love the job. During this hard winter term it is important to reflect on this.

School Culture

2 Jun

There is plenty of literature and research in recent years that cites positive teacher-student interaction as the biggest factor in improving student learning. In other words, better teaching equals better learning. This year with our new mentoring programme we are going a long way to develop this.

Hattie advocates that each of these factors accounts for only 5-10% variance in student achievement and therefore we should focus our efforts on the teaching and improving what happens in the classroom. While I don’t disagree with this (remember students quit teachers, not subjects), I think we need to remember that what happens in the classroom does not happen in isolation. The minor factors of Home, Schools, Principals and Peer Effects total about 20% – but is this insignificant? I would also argue that not only is 20% a reasonably large contribution to student achievement, but that also these things greatly impact what is happening in the classroom.

‘School Culture’ is everything that exists outside of the classroom (essentially, the “20 %”). The ‘Center for Improving School Culture’, a North American institute, encapsulates my thoughts even better by suggesting that School Culture “is shared experiences both in and out of school, such as traditions and celebrations, a sense of community, of family, and team”.

Our school has started the strategic planning process. At Staff Briefing on a Friday we are asking what will a great school culture look like at our school? It has to be more than shared morning teas and singing contests. It has to be a focused on teaching and learning opportunities. The journey continues…

Professional Reading

2 Jun

This is the link to the UGR (Unwritten Ground Rules) website with a four minute movie on its introduction:

About Unwritten Ground Rules

There is also a 2 minute movie on the website under “culture movie”  – which summarises fairly well.  It concentrates on the culture in a corporate workplace.

I include this week one other reading regarding culture.

What is our School Culture Like?

A school_culture_checklist for evaluating a school’s culture: Adapted from work by the Quality Public Education Coalition.


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