Archive | January, 2016

This is Personal

29 Jan

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The other day before school started a peer said to me “Don’t take it personally but…. ”
Often leaders have said this to me. Teachers often say this to me.

It made me think about leadership. It made think about schools. The thing is what we do is personal. Very personal. I think leaders often forget that how they communicate their thoughts will have a huge impact on a person.

There is a famous quote  “people will forget what you said but never how you made them feel” is so true, but sometimes people also remember what you’ve said, because of the way in which it was said.

I have recently read a post by Les McKeown (President & CEO of Predictable Success) on things a great leader should never say and I quote the following from him:

Don’t take it personally

Really? You’re talking to, let me check…yes, a person, about them, their work, their livelihood, their ideas, their sense of competence, their choices, their discretionary effort, their life’s work, and you’re telling them not to take it personally?

How about you give every person who works for you a free pass for a week to make whatever comments they like to your face about what you say, do, or suggest, in whatever terms they wish, so long as they preface it with “Don’t take this personally…”.

If you don’t think the act of working with others is in any way ‘personal’, perhaps you might be better thinking of a career as, I don’t know, a beekeeper, perhaps? They really don’t take things personally.
Relational trust is so important and I can’t but agree with this statement. I think it is vital to always show respect and courtesy to all those we are working with.  What do you think?

 

The Key Is Good Questioning

26 Jan

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One key area that kept cropping up when looking at my teaching technique was why students don’t involve themselves in the process more. This idea of contributing more as been on my mind lately.  If I think back to my days at school, I can picture classes with friends and peers with different abilities, backgrounds and views on education.  We had some who enjoyed school.  Indeed we had a great time. We tolerated the learning bit but the school. Yes we loved it.
We had the naturally talented.  We had those who struggled.  We had some who gave their all.  We had some who wasted talent.  We had some who knew it all.  We had some who found school wasn’t for them.  Yes I real melting pot.  A wrong answer could be met with a severe put down from peers.  A great answer could result in ridicule.  The worry of the teacher finding out you have no idea left you feeling pressured, panicked or worried.  In actuality the culture of a classroom might not be that different now.
Who really knows.  But that culture where sharing answers during class questioning is safe is extremely important.  Yes we want students to challenge each other and offer opposing opinions, but we need to ensure that the environment in which questioning occurs allows everyone to contribute without the worry of ridicule or panic.  Setting clear rules, modelling how to share answers, demonstrating good protocol and scaffolding the process allow students the security to be involved.  Celebrating good answers, valuing opinions and rationally challenging ideas takes time to achieve, but setting up such a culture means a deal of hard work.
Challenging students to provide answers and contributing can be quite a task in some instances.  Setting expectations that every answer must be high quality can be even harder. Here again I believe the flipped classroom is an ideal platform.

Here are some things to think about.

  • Set that expectation that every student must speak loud enough so that they can be heard by all.  There is nothing worse when a student mumbles and the majority of the class can’t hear it.
  • Ask that they use well structured sentences and language.  Now this will take time to develop but similar to writing, students should be using specific terminology, sound structure and a range of vocabulary.  Be a stickler for slang words.  It will be tough but it is well worth it.
  • Create relational trust in the learning environment. Build and set foundations early.

What are some of your thoughts?

You Tube Tip

25 Jan

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I found the following You Tube tip a wonderful help when editing videoing at the start of the year. Here is the link.

 

 

LwDT: Where shall I start?

19 Jan

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Technology can be incredibly overwhelming. There is an abundance of information and I can understand that teachers find it easier just to not use it at all, or continue simply using what they know.

The issue is often where do I start. Well perhaps here could be an answer in this reflection.

1. Talk. This seems so simple, yet it is so underutilized. Professional conversations in the staff room are the best form of professional development. Find a colleague and go ask questions about what they are doing in their classrooms. The one thing I love about teachers is how willing and excited they are to share what they know. Find a few new ideas, observe them in class. This works in not only with eLearning.

2. Try new things . The benefits of technology and the flipped classroom are just endless. Commit to trying one new tool every term and don’t just use technology for presenting information. Think how is this enhancing my teaching? Use it as a teaching tool. If you run meetings think how you can use it . I use padlet to great effect.

I would love to know some of you favourite tools. Let me know how you get on.

Being Creative

19 Jan

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Creativity  happens when people take risks with innovation, problem solving, and actions. If creativity is encouraged in schools, then the leader’s job is to create the conditions where it can happen.

The key question is though what are these conditions?

In an effort to understand the students we serve and the role of teachers in creating spaces where learning can happen, we created a list of what we believed these conditions were:

  • Knowing our learners (creating learning plans)
  • Creating a safe community of learners
  • Having something meaningful for students to learn about
  • As teachers we have to have a deep understanding of the content, the learner and instructional practices
  • The notion of teacher as learner and actually doing the risk taking, being open to make mistakes

Can you think of any further?

Compliant or Contributing?

18 Jan

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I have an  academic interest about what is good learning in a classroom. The idea that a quiet class is not necessarily one of learning. Alan November wrote an excellent book about teaching and learning titled, Who Owns the Learning (2012).When I visit and observe classrooms, this is the question I ask myself. Simply Who owns the Learning? Who is this lesson about? The answer to this single question helps you determine if you are observing schooling or a culture of learning. Student contribution comes in the form of project-based learning. You can also see student contribution when a group of middle school students are making a video in science class, rather than watching a video. When students participate in a kahoot or padlet, you can hear students push back and ask clarifying questions. In a classroom where three students are designing a product, based on an authentic task you can see that students are applying their skills and demonstrating their understanding. I often ask myself “Are the students being compliant or contributing?” Sometimes I feel it is the former. What does your school look like?

Catholic Schools

16 Jan


In the secular world teachers are often promoted as role models for their students. In the sphere of catholic education it is essential that a teacher go beyond being this and lives his/her life as a witness to Christ and to the living out of gospel values. It is the duty of an educator in a catholic school to instill in his/her students the values of respect, forgiveness, openness and joy and to cherish each student and to be sensitive to the diverse talents, abilities and needs of each one. In doing so we seek to create unity through diversity. This may sound complicated but it is exemplified every minute of every day by the way our staff in catholic schools interact with the students in their care. All the best to all teachers as you begin your year.

Culture of Learning: Part Two

15 Jan

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I have been thinking a great deal of culture of effective learning in schools. Authentic Tasks are central to this. An Authentic Task asks students to use their ability to analyze and solve real world problems. Authentic tasks are often framed by an Essential Question which guides understanding. Essential Questions have more than one correct answer and they help students connect what they know to the answers they are searching for. An authentic task is not a worksheet or a multiple choice test. Both of these can be found classrooms, but are rarely seen in the workforce. Employers seek leadership, teamwork, communication skills, problem solving skills, analytical skills, initiative, and adaptability. Authentic Tasks provide students with the opportunity to practice these skills multiple times. Too often, schooling is a series of tasks that students must complete in order to move to the next grade level. If tasks seem to have little or no connection to the real world, students become disengaged. Do you agree? Any thoughts on this?

More Summer Reading

15 Jan

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This piece was all about How Thinking in 3D Can Improve Math and Science Skills by Jedd Barlett.

‘All of us, children included, live in a three-dimensional universe—but too often parents and teachers act as if the physical world is as flat as a worksheet or the page of a book. We call kids’ attention to numbers and letters, but we neglect to remark upon the spatial properties of the objects around us: how tall or short they are, how round or pointy, how close or far. Growing evidence suggests that a focus on these characteristics of the material world can help children hone their spatial thinking skills—and that such skills, in turn, support achievement in subjects like science and math.’

 

Summer Reading

13 Jan

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I have been reading a great deal over summer as part of our continued great television turn off. Here is a piece that you might be interested in.

Give childhood back to children by by Peter Gray

“The most important skills that children everywhere must learn in order to live happy, productive, moral lives are skills that cannot be taught in school. Such skills cannot be taught at all. They are learned and practised by children in play. These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions.”

 

 

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