Archive | September, 2015

What did I learn this month?

25 Sep

What did I learn

I have been busy recently working with schools and listening at many meetings. Like a good student I have noted down some of the things I have learnt.

  1. Lead by example– not only in management but by demonstrating that I understand teaching. Pedagogy shouldn’t be your kryptonite.
  2. Believe in teamwork. I love the idea of building a team around you. Find those who can do the things you can’t. Build others into great leaders.
  3. Motivate the staff by celebrating success and rewarding them when possible
  4. Relationships at all levels are vital. No one wants to work with someone who displays mushroom management qualities.
  5. Inspire others through my actions. Make the little things count. Remember you create the weather and influence the temperature in the staff room.
  6. Have a vision not for the here and now but for the future.
  7. Don’t forget the children and young people in your care are tomorrow’s leaders. Keep them at the centre.

It might be worth taking some time. What have you learnt this month?

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Positive Learning Environments: Part Two

23 Sep

constructivist

I suppose the key to these is the key competencies of our national curriculum and ensuring we are getting it right in the classroom.

  1. Focus a good deal of your teaching on “learning how to learn” skill development. Read up on how to teach study skills, learning to learn skills, research skills, inquiry skills. Make sure that your students grow both in terms of content they learn and the “learning to learn” skills they need to develop in order to learn well in the future.
  2. Make “asking questions” central to your teaching and to your learning environment and school culture.
  3. Give students more choices and options – in the classroom.
  4. Use inquiry strategies, research skill building activities, interactive learning and projects as critical parts of teaching. Incorporate more interest based projects into your curriculum.
  5. Where possible, make learning experiences more “authentic”. Ask “how does this relate?” How can you provide students with a concrete understanding of their future options? Can you take field trips to different places of business? Colleges and universities? Bring in speakers?
  6. Create more ways to integrate learning across the curriculum and consider ways to redesign the curriculum. When redesigning or renewing the curriculum, examine whether curriculum materials or programs have a significant component built around developing curiosity, motivation, relevance and interest.

There is little doubt there are lots of challenges here but it up to us as teachers to challenge ourselves to create authentic learning environments.

FAILURE

22 Sep

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One thing that troubles me today with my students indeed my own daughter, sorry Charlotte, is their fear of failure. I was thinking “What happens when a student takes a risk and fails? How do you respond when a student makes a mistake – especially a character mistake like lying? Do you punish and push kids out of your room for poor character? Or, do you coach them to critically analyze their actions?”

Without a safe, supportive emotional climate, students will not be able to learn from mistakes or take risks. We cannot get authentic growth unless students feel safe being authentic.

Perhaps as role models we must illustrate or admit to our own failures more frequently. Be authentic and reveal your own mistakes – even in-the-moment – and model what it looks like to show integrity, grit, and ownership. Admit that a lesson didn’t go well because you didn’t spend much time planning it?

This modelling is crucial for many reasons. First, it provides examples of character for students who may not have great role-models. Second, it establishes trust by showing that we are all human. Third, in creating that relational trust our students will understand and forgive our mistakes, we create a culture of accountability. They know we are human. They know we also must make mistakes. As parents and teachers we must admit we are infallible.

What is your experience?

Positive Learning Environments

22 Sep

cropped-Kids-holding-hands1

There is no doubt we have created a society where schools and their students are driven by credits. I took time this week to reflect on what a positive learning environment may look like . That is, an environment not driven by this.

  1. Diminish the emphasis on traditional testing as the key assessment tool, and focus on more “natural” and diverse assessment approaches such as essays and papers, reflective journals, oral presentations, classroom blog, and other demonstrations of their learning.
  2. Create the belief that effort makes a difference in learning. Go back to that idea of process and the outcome will follow. Help students understand that when someone works hard, they are more likely to succeed.
  3. Include narratives on report cards that focus on individual strengths and interests rather than numbers.
  4. Focus on thinking rather than remembering facts.
  5. Focus primarily on student strengths and student success. For each student, consider “the glass as half full” rather than “the glass as half empty”. Encourage students as much as possible. Understand that not all students will be strong in all areas, and that it is important to help each student find his or her strengths and interests and to build on them. Also, see “failure” as an opportunity for student growth. I have written about this a great deal. It is OK to fail.
  6. Be willing to “slow down the learning process”. If the learning takes you off in a tangent, away from the learning plan that is OK.

What do you think? Any tips? I feel part two might be in order.

Being the Best

20 Sep

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Being the best teacher you can be is all about staying passionate and having gas in the tank. Here some ways I have maintained this, hey I admit though I am no super teacher.

  1. Find the bright spotsIn times of stress, we tend to focus on what’s not working. But, when we focus only on what didn’t work, we miss a powerful opportunity to learn from what is working. Be intentional about looking for the bright spots, the things that are working, the small moments when you actually do see students engaged and learning. Then, figure out why those moments work and what you can do to replicate them. Not only do the bright spots offer powerful learning opportunities, they feed your faith and show you that there are things in your practice right now that are working.
  2. Focus on what you can do right now. In times of high stress, it is easy to become overwhelmed. When you clearly see the work before you, it can feel more like an abyss. But, instead of focusing on what can’t be done, cultivate a keen awareness about all that can be done right now. Identify the best, worst, and most likely scenarios, understand what you can and cannot control, and prepare to move forward past the obstacles.
  3. Leave it at the door. It is ok to go home and start again tomorrow.

Student Achievement and Curriculum Development

16 Sep

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Curriculum development should not be left to chance.  Too many schools hope that teachers will find time to work together.  With the loss of staff development funds, changes in school calendars, the emphasis on ‘less is more, and initiative fatigue, some schools no longer make time for authentic curriculum development.  Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether the role is carried out by a principal, deputy principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.

Curriculum development is a rewarding process which enables teachers to have professional conversations about the intended and taught curriculum. Conversations about what is real. Pedagogy.

My personal experiences with curriculum development and observing the work of teacher teams in multiple school systems and academic research  has led me to identify the following five barriers to curriculum development: Time, Process, Tradition, Competition, and Motivation.  With proper planning, scheduling and support from school administrators, each of these barriers can be removed.

What have been some of your barriers?

OPEN UP

14 Sep

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I have had a week of meetings and I tell you what it can be rather draining even for an extrovert like me. I have observed and learnt a great deal. Human behaviour is interesting and sometimes I wish I had We all have the tendency, when we think we’re under attack, to circle the wagons and protect ourselves. You can literally read someone’s body language.  When this is happening — they fold their arms, furrow their brows — and you can almost see the steam coming out of their ears. But if you want to build a feedback loop in your business, you, especially as a leader, need to lead by example and open yourself up to hear what people are saying. If someone in another department is convinced you’re not listening to them, what makes you think they’ll listen to anything you have to say to them? Yes, opening yourself up makes you vulnerable. But that’s also why we preach the idea that “you aren’t your code,” which is another way of saying that we all need to be able to process constructive criticism without taking it personally. If you can do that, you can create the kind of open and honest culture that is capable of tackling the thorniest of issues together. And you’ll be amazed that listening changes perspectives.  to someone’s feedback, and take action on it, you’ll increase that person’s engagement level in his or her work.

The Language of Leadership

11 Sep

Language-of-leadership

As I evaluate my own role as a leader I have been noticing the way I speak. So much is portrayed in body language but even more in the way we say things which may be innocent. I am not ashamed to say I have used these phrases in the past. My challenge is to use these phrases more in the future. I read this article (noted below) during the week. Here is some of the main points.

Some key phrases I must change:

  1. Because I said so.

Great leadership means building a culture of collaboration and connection, creativity and communication. Relying on authority shuts all those things down.

Instead: “How do we want to tackle this?”

  1. Who do you think you are?

Great leaders foster feelings of empowerment and engagement in their team, so everyone can reap the benefits of shared ideas and thoughts. There’s no room for ridicule or belittlement.

Instead: “What do you think?”

  1. It’s not my fault.

To be a great leader means you accept the consequences for your own actions as well as the actions of others. There’s an up side: Your leadership gains credibility.

Instead: “The buck stops here.”

  1. I don’t need any help.

Leadership is all about teamwork, collaboration, making everyone feel included and inspired. The best use of your time is mentoring, guiding, and leading others to succeed.

Instead: “We’ll do it together.”

  1. I don’t care.

Great leaders always care. When you express apathy, even about a small point, those around you have very little reason to stay invested.

Instead: “Let’s think this through.”

  1. I’m too busy.

We all make time for things that matter to us. When you set a priority for yourself, you set it for your team as well.

Instead: “I’ll find the time.”

  1. Failure is not an option.

Sure, success is important, but failure is not the enemy of success. Failure can teach valuable lessons–and those who are afraid to fail will build a culture that rewards bland, safe choices.

Instead: “Be bold. Take risks. Always learn.”

For further reading on this please read the full article by Lolly Daskal.

Leading Your School

8 Sep

Leading Your School

Relational trust is something we all need to work on in any organisation the least of which is in schools. Here are some things I think about a great deal when dealing with staff.

  • Do What You Say You Will Do – This the ultimate way to gain their trust. It means following through with what say you will do.
  • Do The Right Thing – Regardless of whether or not anyone is watching you, integrity cannot be compromised. It takes many years to establish your credibility, but it only takes a few minutes to ruin it.
  • Care For Your People – Before we ask our people to do something for us, we must appeal to them and touch their heart.
  • Serve Your People – When we serve our people, we ensure that their interest is taken into consideration. By doing so, we don’t focus on who gets the credit. Our focus shifts to getting the job done.

Are there some things you would add?

Connecting in Education

7 Sep

Connecting

Professional developments are great opportunities to collaborate with staff members and meet educators with similar goals in nearby schools. Are some quick tips are for teachers looking to make the most of the knowledge within their own school building, maximize their use of social media, and connect with faraway teacher friends.

  1. Ask For Help

Be this person. Ask a question, borrow a resource, solicit advice, and just chat with my colleagues.

  1. Get Free Stuff

Traveling to a conference can be logistically and financially challenging. There are many live and recorded webinars that provide insight into how to effectively integrate a new learning tool or introduce a strategy to incorporate into a lesson. Gather a group of teachers after school, request coverage for a period, or host a lunch for your colleagues to watch a webinar together.

  1. Keep Track

Use a blog or a tool like OneNote to gather your evidence.

  1. Hold an “Appy Hour”

We are often so caught up in our own day and schedules it’s hard to know what is happening in the classroom next door, let alone on the other side of our school building. Dedicate one afternoon a month to connecting with your colleagues. See the next two points.

  1. Follow Follow Follow

Twitter is an amazing resource for teachers, and it’s had an enormous impact on my professional growth as an educator. Once you’ve gotten started with an account and are checking in regularly, make a commitment to follow five new people every week.

  1. Join a Chat

Twitter chats are a wonderful way for teachers to connect with likeminded educators who have actionable ideas and advice to offer. By joining a chat, you can read through the tweets people are posting to a chat’s hashtag or dive in by answering and posing questions.

Have you any tip?

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