Archive | February, 2016

As Leader What Can I do

27 Feb

Leading Your School

I have been thinking of some ways I can interact and support staff as a member of the SLT.

Be a Support– Staff want and need to know I have their backs when they try new things, when faced with discipline issues, when they make mistakes, and during tough times. Support looks differently to many people, but the more visible, consistent, and clear I am, the more supported they will feel.

Clear Communication– This includes not only verbal communication, but my ability to actively listen. One of my mentors reminds me to listen to what they have to say, answer their questions, and show understanding. They will understand if I disagree and will appreciate me simply listening. My mantra needs to be  “listen to understand not to respond.”

Parent Engagement

24 Feb


Families should be partners in a child’s education. I have been thinking a great deal about this recently when attending our parent nights. A paper from  Johns Hopkins University cites Six Types of Involvement: Keys To Successful Partnerships(Epstein, et. al. 2009. School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action, Third Edition) backs this up. Family nights could include BBQ, curriculum nights, family movie night, sports night, school carnivals, literacy night, and themed nights. Too often, schools host family nights with the intent of raising money. The primary goal of a family night should be building relationships.

“When parents, teachers, students, and others view one another as partners in education, a caring community forms around students and begins its work (Epstein, 2011, p. 91).

ERO asks these key questions in there challenge to schools.

Evaluative questions

  • How well does the school gather and use information about the needs, wishes and aspirations of parents, whānau and the wider community?
  • How effectively does the school inform parents about their children and communicate information about the school?
  • How well does the school engage parents and whānau in the life of the school?
  • How well does the school engage with and make use of community resources, agencies and other educational institutions?



What are you doing in your schools that is Gold?



Flipped PD

22 Feb


I have been thinking a great deal about the flipped classroom professional development I am running at present. Some teachers at school asked me recently asked if I had some tips. SO here goes:

Set rules

You could probably call this a policy, but it’s the non-policy policy—just some basic rules and a common language to make sure everyone is starting and finishing at the same point.

Diversify professional development sources

Less about experts and more about staff capacity. To achieve a self-sustaining, always-on operation, it has to be has to be turned over to the teachers through dozens of sources, from books and  resources to blogging and social media.

And not all teachers will be chomping at the bit to hop on twitter to beat the bushes—so give them somewhere to start. Maybe a challenge during a staff meeting:

Look for a variety of resources, a book,  articles, or a streaming webinar. Then find an elegant way to curate and share it all with the school.

Create a pilot

Pilot it in one department  to work out the bugs, the factors you didn’t consider, and to better understand how it might work yourself. You may find this new open approach to PD confuses folks, and that’s okay. Simply go back to steps one and two. Our Maths department was brilliant at this.

Connect teachers

Connect teachers from different schools even in different countries—to not only improve the diversity of resources, but naturally expand professional learning networks in the process. These connections will catalyze the effort as you move on. Relationships and curiosity are awesome.

Curriculum and Leadership

16 Feb


I have been thinking what is my school or diocese doing to develop curriculum leaders?  Do leaders emerge each year or does the school  have a strategic plan for staff development and expansion of current leadership opportunities?  Leadership author John Maxwell often says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.”

Maxwell wrote The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

If curriculum is important in your learning community see if you can answer these questions: Does our school/school district have a curriculum leadership team?

Does each department and/or school have equal representation on the curriculum leadership team?

Are we intentional about developing new curriculum leaders within the school?

Does our school/school district reflect our goal of multiplying leaders this year?

Do we offer professional development for current and future leaders?

Is leadership a position/title or ‘influence’?

Work Life Balance

13 Feb


Work-life integration is the idea that vital if you are going to be successful in any area. When you integrate successfully, you’ll have no guilt in allowing home and work to mix.

My wife has often asked me “Why do your students always come first?”To say this the life of a teacher is not enough.

I read recently  that with work-life integration, there is no “first” — just next to. If you take away the element of competition, there’s less stress and animosity.   have had a rethink where the office actually is, and rethink work hours when needed. This integration has made me more present to both.

Here are three things I am going to work on in 2016:

1. Know when to take a break.

2. Set boundaries. Work-life integration is only successful when expectations are outlined and managed.

3. Bring home the good, not the bad. While I enjoy a debrief it must be parked and move on at some stage.

Good luck with your year. Define your goals early to avoid becoming stale.

Strategic Thoughts

6 Feb


As our new strategic plan and annual goals for the year kick in I have been thinking about some key values surrounding them. I see myself as connected and innovative educator. At any school, being connected requires the learner to develop a secure sense of their own identity to think and work towards where their potential might lie.

I have been thining about ako, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga.

I will use these concepts and their definitions to frame my current thinking for the year.

Ako is being a learner. A life long learner. Being willing to fail.

Whanaungatanga focuses on building relationships with each other, the community and our children. The relationship that develops as a result of manakitanga – the strength of the group – see people as people not just their role, working collaboratively and collectively. Therefore a teacher knows how to use managed online learning tools to find people and knows how to connect with them. A teacher should have a robust PLN. They think carefully about the dynamics of interactions. They use social media  to make connections and to build their own personal learning community.

Manaakitanga is about developing the ability to walk in others’ shoes which includes seeing issues from others’ perspectives and thinking carefully about the dynamics of interactions. It is about cultural awareness. Teaching is about being innovative and collaborative. A teacher knows how to use and take the tools from their kete to move their practice forward. This again complements the gospel values of the Catholic school.

Kaitiakitanga is the notion of stewardship by ensuring sensitivity and thoughtfulness of actions. I believe teaching is about leaving legacy with students, teachers and community alike.


Class Sizes

1 Feb


As a student at school my classes were small. My teachers knew me, and their doors were open to discuss my essays and lab reports. As resources have declined in recent decades, class sizes have got bigger. Does this matter? With the flipped classroom and blended modern learning environments it hardly matters. Or does it?

Well it certainly matters in schools where, as class sizes increase, teachers behave differently, learners behave differently, attitudes to learning change – and attainment goes down markedly. Average school class sizes are used in international league tables as indicators of national commitment to schooling.

The effects of class size are greatest for younger pupils and least, but still substantial, for those of 18 or over. Studies of what goes on in higher education discussion classes, as they get bigger, still reveal a predictable pattern of fewer students saying anything at all, and the little they do say being at a lower cognitive level (for example checking facts rather than discussing ideas). Students in larger classes have been found to take a surface approach (only attempting to memorise) to a greater extent and a deep approach (attempting to make sense) to a lesser extent.

It might be argued that classrooms, and their size, are less influential in higher education, after all students are supposed to spend most of their time studying independently.

Logistics play a key part in class size effects. Two of the best predictors of student engagement, and hence learning, ‘close contact’ and ‘feedback on assignments’, are much harder to arrange in large classes.

These are ‘cohort size’ effects rather than ‘class size’ effects: they are about how students change the way they study on large enrolment courses. So size still matters in higher education, and cohort size is strongly negatively correlated with student performance. This may be one of the reasons that some schools outperform much more established institutions on various rankings of teaching quality – they tend to be much smaller and their class sizes are much smaller.

In very large classes social processes start breaking down and students can become alienated. This matters because retention is improved by social engagement.  Learning gains are known to be improved by social learning processes – and they are harder to arrange and much rarer in large enrollment.

All these negative ‘size’ effects are not inevitable. For example ‘formative-only’ assessment – assignments with feedback but no marks – is known to be important to learning, but has disappeared from some courses. Often this happens because resources – and especially teacher time both in and out of class – are not allocated pro rata as classes get larger.

Just a thought then. Does class size effect the quality of your teaching? What do you think?


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