Archive | September, 2014

Creating a Winning Culture

30 Sep

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Winning cultures aren’t just about affiliation; they are also unashamedly about results and relationships. Results and relationships are key to great schools.

Goals set and results achieved rather than simply talked about around a management table where people sit idly and then go back to their teams and implement nothing.  The other ingredient which is hard to buy is passion.   How do you instill passion in staff? Passion drives success culture and helps build high performance by virtue of the staff who have the passion to want the best in everything they do.  I find in the schools I work in many teachers have a passion for teaching and learning and the great teachers are the ones who can impart this love and passion for learning to their students.

Linking performance to strategic direction is important too.  What drives individuals every day in their job?  The answer is linking to a bigger picture called strategic direction that all great schools and systems have.  Consider this great summary from the Harvard research into the top seven characteristics that build high performance culture:

  1. There is high integrity in all interactions, with employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders;
  2. Performance-focused. Rewards, development, and other talent-management practices are in sync with the underlying drivers of performance;
  3. Accountable and owner-like. Roles, responsibilities, and authority all reinforce ownership over work and results;
  4. There’s a recognition that the best ideas come from the exchange and sharing of ideas between individuals and teams;
  5. Agile and adaptive. The organization is able to turn on a dime when necessary and adapt to changes in the external environment;
  6. Employees push the envelope in terms of new ways of thinking; and
  7. Oriented toward winning. There is strong ambition focused on objective measures of success, either versus the competition or against some absolute standard of excellence

http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/12/the-definitive-elements-of-a-winning-culture/

You’re the Voice

28 Sep

At my school we use student voice a great deal and very effectively I must say. At the end of every topic I send a survey out to my students. On one level it’s fantastic to get feedback from your learners about what is going well in class and what needs tweaking but on the other there’s the realization that my students are grading me.  Was I too grumpy yesterday when student A hadn’t finished work? Could I have done a better job of talking to Student B about their draft? Did I let an administration problem affect my teaching?

The evaluation is done in class but I am considering doing it via Google forms or 365 and the results then get shared with my HOF. Most of the questions are agree/disagree questions like ‘my teacher treats students and their ideas with respect. There is also the room for comment. It is something our students love.

I tend to prefer qualitative feedback that quantitative. A number of my students have talked about wanting more challenging work so I will work with them to look for projects that they can sink their teeth into for the rest of the year but more importantly for the 2015 cohort. They love my eLearning format and some students have requested to go fully online in 2015 without being in my class. This will be something I will have to put a great deal of thought into. As I have written here before the I have had great success with.

Cooper (2001) noted that a blended learning environment, one in which the traditional classroom and the online classroom complement each other, gives the best outcome. “Online instruction can offer new challenges and opportunities to both students and instructors. Most students do not view online instruction as a replacement for traditional classroom instruction. However, with the right subject matter, with the right instructor or facilitator, and for the right student, Internet or online classes can provide an effective educational environment and offer a viable alternative to traditional classroom instruction” (Cooper, 2001, p57).

Singh recommended that the blended learning environment was the next wave for E-Learning and that it would feature rich media content. “Blended learning combines multiple delivery media that are designed to complement each other and promote learning and application-learned behaviour” (Singh, 2003, p52). Investigating the idea that has serious results for teaching online, Singh goes onto mention that the online learning component within a blended learning environment, should be self-paced. This raises the apparition of the teacher being at best just a facilitator and at worst, a spectator (Singh, 2003, p58).

Another thing want to get better at before the end of the year is getting my students to work on managing self. This something my learners are not good at. Perhaps this could be a PLG study in 2015?

Professional Readings:

Cooper, L. W. (2001) A Comparison of Online and Traditional Computer Applications Classes. T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education) 28 (8) 52-58

Singh H. (2003) Building Effective Blended Learning Programs in November – December 2003Issue of Educational Technology, Volume 43, Number 6, Pages 51-54 Retrieved 9 August 2009 from http://asianvu.com/bookstoread/framework/blended-learning.pdf

Rugby

22 Sep

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My second love is rugby (after Benita and Charlotte of course). The game is a science. The All Blacks coach was quoted recently saying that the team needed to improve ‘just about everything’ and that their ‘skills and game structure’ was virtually non-existent.  What I saw were individuals taking responsibility for their own improvement.  Sure they had input from the coach and others but they did the work themselves.  In a week they were able to reflect on their performance, take on the feedback and implement a new strategy. Isn’t this what good learning and teaching is about?

Listening to Hansen reminded me of Michael Fullan -“The glue that binds the effective drivers together is the underlying attitude, philosophy and theory of action.”

Our All Blacks are a great example of a learning community in action.  We owe it to our students to be playing and have standard like the ABs.

Blended learning

15 Sep

“Blended learning combines multiple delivery media that are designed to complement each other and promote learning and application-learned behaviour” (Singh, 2003, p52). Investigating the idea that has serious results for teaching online, Singh goes onto mention that the online learning component within a blended learning environment, should be self-paced. This raises the apparition of the teacher being at best just a facilitator and at worst, a spectator (Singh, 2003, p58).

I am an exponent of the Blended learning environment especially the Flipped classroom. So let’s look at the behind-the-scenes of blended learning. What does it really take to be a blended learning teacher?

1. Flexibility

Things go wrong all the time. Have a digital Plan B on hand or, if necessary, a way to teach the same goal, but offline, using the resources in the room. You have to model patience. I know it’s hard.

2. Problem-Solving

Our tech person can’t focus only on your needs even though you might be using technology more than others. You need to great creative in your problem solving. I must remember to log problems on the job site.

3. Scaffold More

Make sure you lead up to your expectations in a step-by-step way. For instance, I start the year by setting out rules you can’t just ask students to blog or join the discussion room. You need to help them first understand.

5. Willingness to Learn from Students

They may know more than you.

6. Willingness to Give Up Time After School

Be prepared to get sucked into awesome online conversations long after the school bell rings. It won’t seem like a chore. It’s a pleasure.

I know that blended learning may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Having said all that, however, even those who may not be partial to these techniques may soon have to learn to be. It’s our students’ future. And what’s their future is ours too.

Singh H. (2003) Building Effective Blended Learning Programs in November – December 2003Issue of Educational Technology, Volume 43, Number 6, Pages 51-54 Retrieved

9 August 2014 from http://asianvu.com/bookstoread/framework/blended-learning.pdf

How I can be a better leader

15 Sep

My experience has told me there is an art to successfully supervising people. A great leader brings out the best in their people; while a bad one creates disharmony and drives away talented people. This week I have been reflecting on the great leaders I have been involved with. Some of the equalities they have had:

  1. Has a sense of humor. This doesn’t mean the principal becomes a regular Jerry Seinfeld that constantly cracks jokes or acts like a clown. It simply means they are approachable, relatable and see the value in an upbeat, positive workplace. A friendly environment starts at the top.
  2. Allows freedom to fail. Once teachers are given the proper training, a good principal will step out of the way. Teachers flourish when they know they are trusted to do the right thing after given clearly defined expectations. A good principal steps in when they see an issue, but continually relies on teachers especially middle managers to do what they have been hired to do.
  3. Values .strong communication. A good principal clearly articulates expectations, freely shares news that will benefit their team and offers feedback, both positive and constructive, to each teacher they directly supervise. Most importantly, they establish communication as a two-way street, creating a safe atmosphere to voice opinions and concerns.
  4. Asks for input. Everyone on the team is there because they have professional skills to contribute to the organization. A good principal knows they can’t be an expert at all things, and must rely on their team for corporate success.
  5. Encourages growth. A good principal will provide opportunities for teacher development and growth. They are tuned in to those who demonstrate initiative and are eager to expand their knowledge.
  6.  Acknowledges success. A good principal compliments and rewards their team and doesn’t miss an opportunity to “brag” about an teacher’s job well done – at a staff meeting, board level, or in front of the community

Facebook

10 Sep

This year we have made the jump into the unknown with the exploration of new media in a school setting. We are on Facebook.

Wanting to take a little bit of control over what is said and posted under our school’s name in the Facebook world I have set up an official Facebook page. The experiment is now nine months and 800 likes old. It is time for evaluation. Here are some of my thoughts:.

Communication with the community is important. It is part of the National Education Goals (NAGs) and annual goals this year. By the way they love the photos.

I want to role model to the community, not only students, that Facebook can be positive.

For a long time I have worried about the large number of our students set up a Facebook accounts and been in my office after misusing it. Often these accounts have no privacy setting activated and these kids are far too open with what they post and reveal. I am thinking a few of them will end up ‘liking’ our page, thus offering a great chance for me to have a good solid cyber safety conversation about why the heck they are on Facebook (with them and their parents).

It will be nice to engage parents, staff and ex-pupils in the vibrant life of the school.

So it is all about showcasing – and also pushing social networking accounts into a defined workplace arena which will stimulate considerable reflection on privacy and content. The following link is worth visiting. It is also well worth using as a staff meeting.

http://www.teacherscouncil.co.nz/content/teachers-social-media-website

A Powerful Lesson

3 Sep

Thanks to http://www.justintarte.com/ for this great piece I found this week.

One day, three blind men happened to meet each other and gossiped a long time about many things. Suddenly one of them recalled, “I heard that an elephant is a strange animal. Too bad we’re blind and can’t see it.”

“Ah, yes, truly too bad we don’t have the good fortune to see the strange ani­mal,” another one sighed.

The third one, quite annoyed, joined in and said, “See? Forget it! Just to feel it would be great.”

“Well, that’s true. If only there were some way of touching the elephant, we’d be able to know,” they all agreed.

It so happened that a merchant with a herd of elephants was passing, and overheard their conversation. “You fellows, do you really want to feel an elephant? Then follow me; I will show you,” he said.

The three men were surprised and happy. Taking one anothers hand, they quickly formed a line and followed while the merchant led the way. Each one began to contemplate how he would feel the animal, and tried to figure how he would form an image.

After reaching their destination, the merchant asked them to sit on the ground to wait. In a few minutes he led the first blind man to feel the elephant. With outstretched hand, he touched first the left foreleg and then the right. After that he felt the two legs from the top to the bottom, and with a beaming face, turned to say, “So, the strange animal is just like that.” Then he slowly returned to the group. Thereupon the second blind man was led to the rear of the elephant. He touched the tail which wagged a few times, and he exclaimed with satisfac­tion, “Ha! Truly a strange animal! Truly odd! I know now. I know.” He hur­riedly stepped aside.

The third blind man’s turn came, and he touched the elephant’s trunk which moved back and forth turning and twisting and he thought, “That’s it! I’ve learned.”

The three blind men thanked the merchant and went their way. Each one was secretly excited over the experience and had a lot to say, yet all walked rap­idly without saying a word.

“Let’s sit down and have a discussion about this strange animal,” the second blind man said, breaking the silence.

“A very good idea. Very good.” the other two agreed for they also had this in mind. Without waiting for anyone to be properly seated, the second one blurted out, “This strange animal is like our straw fans swinging back and forth to give us a breeze. However, it’s not so big or well made. The main portion is rather wispy.”

“No, no!” the first blind man shouted in disagreement. “This strange animal resembles two big trees without any branches.”

“You’re both wrong.” the third man replied. “This strange animal is similar to a snake; it’s long and round, and very strong.”

How they argued! Each one insisted that he alone was correct. Of course, there was no conclusion for not one had thoroughly examined the whole elephant. How can anyone describe the whole until he has learned the total of the parts…?

Expectations

I have been reflecting about having high expectations of our students. This article spoke to me.

  • It is important to have high expectations for our students. Expectations are different from standards. The standard is the bar and the expectation is our belief about whether students will ever reach the bar.
  • Expectations are based on our beliefs and values. We can only have high expectations of our students if we believe it is possible to help our students and if we believe that it is important to do so.
  • We also need to examine our expectations of ourselves. If we believe that we can reach a student we do everything that we can to ensure that the student is successful. However, if we tell ourselves that there is no way to help a student, we stop trying. If we are not confident in our ability to help students, we lower our expectations to goals that we feel we can comfortably achieve.
  • It can be disheartening when students arrive in our classes without the basic skills that they need to succeed but instead of focusing on what the students can’t do, develop ways that you can teach them the skills they need as well as get through the curriculum.
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