If you are member of a SLT or a middle manager make sure you take a break these holidays. Before you head away for the Easter Break please take time to reflect on these questions before you go. It might help you rethink before you head into Term 2.
- What defines great teachers or school leaders?
- What makes a great education school?
- How do you help a group of people to sustain an open and curious mind to teaching and learning?
- What defines a vibrant learning culture?
- How would you rate yourself in regards to professional learning and development? Are you making steady progress, should you pick up your game?
- What responsibility do school leaders have to their staff?
I have been reading this week Valerie Hannon and David Price. They have a great deal to say on the subject.
I found this clip of Viviane Robinson’s work on instructional leadership in schools which reminded me of my time at NAPP. So no words form me this week.
Apologies lots of reflective stuff this week. I am a great believer in being better than you were yesterday everyday so here are some questions.
What if everyone strove to be better tomorrow than they are today?
What if all students had a loving family?
What if all schools and all families worked together to help students rather than taking schools to court when things didn’t go their way?
What if people stopped making excuses?
What if all families read and talked?
What if people could be proactive instead of reactive?
What if we all had fewer families in our schools living in crisis/poverty?
What if diversity was embraced by everyone?
What if people didn’t gossip?
What if everyone took time each day to be thankful and realize we are all a gift from God?
What if all people were kinder?
What if we stopped giving participation certificates?
What if everybody……….?
This week I have been conducting a faculty review. It was an opportunity to review paperwork and look at classroom teaching. I came up with a list of things I’d like to see in every classroom beyond a bi-cultural learning environment that illustrated special character. Perhaps this will get you thinking.
- Deeper learning through relationships between all learning parties.
- Students employed collaboratively and working together in small teams/groups. Lots of key competencies being displayed here.
- Physical movement by both the students and the educator in the classroom.
- Frequent and specific feedback to students as they work toward their learning goals. Feedback from students and teachers is most improved and increased when students are getting descriptive feedback on their learning.
- Great questions being asked and a focus more on questions than answers.
- Differentiation evident. This means kids working at their level at their pace and unless you’re really lucky, that can’t be happening too often.
- Learning targets and learning objectives clearly posted. I really enjoy the task of asking students what they learned and what the lesson sequence was.
Planning the level of challenge of your lessons can be a difficult task. It is important that knowing your group and where they are will help this. My pieces about the famous learning plan have illustrated this. What you plan to do needs to be related to prior learning – which is why formative and summative assessment, and what you do with it, is so important. For a while I thought I’d planned challenging lessons for all. But that was the problem. I rarely differentiated on an individual level and predominantly set the same task for all. Challenge should apply to the learning, not merely the task. And the learning needs to challenge all students. Now this is a real skill and one that I have been honing for a while. I often organise prior learning collaboratively which my students love.
“Planning can be done in many ways, but the most powerful is when teachers work together to develop plans, develop common understandings of what is worth teaching, collaborate on understanding their beliefs of challenge and progress, and work together to evaluate the impact of their planning on student outcomes.”
Using colleagues to bounce ideas off of can be an excellent way of designing lessons. There have been numerous times when I actively seek out colleagues and run ideas past them. I know many departments set time aside to collaboratively plan larger schemes of work, but having a critical buddy to work with on individual lessons can be a great resource.
I will pay particular attention to the level of it in my lessons. It’s important that I pitch it right. Too easy and there is no reward. Feedback has less effect and becomes low value. Too hard and it can provide a feeling that achieving this goal is unobtainable. The only way I will know if the levels are correct is if I go back and check prior attainment and know my group before planning my lesson.
So why pay more attention to challenge this year more than before? Well because of the various factors that it links to. Memory and feedback being two in particular. If we are to get the glutamate and dopamine present whilst learning and thus commit what we are learning to memory, we need to ensure that what work we set is challenging (so there is potential for a reward – achieving the goal) and actually achievable (to release the reward – chemicals). If work is too easy and not challenging, these chemicals aren’t released as highly and won’t be committed to the long term memory (the aim of learning).