I often wonder why we have such a problem involving girls in more Science and Math classes. It is not my area of expertise but I have a real interest in it. My daughter loves Maths, unlike her Dad. Indeed so does her Mum. I was speaking to a past student the other day who is studying Maths/Science at university. Her classes are filled with males while the females in the class number in single digits. The scariest part of this is, that as enlightened as we like to think we are, we have been promoting change for ten years yet nothing really has.
In 2014 Ministry of Education published the strategic plan A Nation of Curious Minds – He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara that identifies three specific goals for the project over the next ten years. Those were:
- More learners who are competent in science and technology and more who go on to a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related jobs.
- A more scientifically and technologically engaged public and a more publicly engaged science sector.
- A more skilled workforce and science and technology that is more responsive to New Zealanders needs.
This was followed up by a major push for girls to achieve in the STEM subjects. Let me be clear, there are many, many women who are successfully and prominently involved in Science and Math. But our girls in schools are not seeing enough positive role models in Science and Maths. My own environment have powerful role models demonstrating wahine toa and this is demonstrated by our outstanding results. Still nationwide this not the case.
I guess it still comes down to the obvious. If we are to change the system, we need first to change the culture. I guess if we worked as hard to put a woman on the moon as we did for a man, things might be different today.
Values are pretty important in schools and thing we as educators have, or should have as educators. In Catholic schools we do this well: “don’t steal” or “treat others the way you want to be treated.” Our values are who we are, at our core, right here, right now. They guide us. In my own in environment gospel values and the values of Manawa Mission (PB4L) does this for our community.
I have learned that leaders benefit from identifying and clarifying their values because—consciously or unconsciously—they serve as a motivating force, both professionally and personally. We’ve also learned that if leaders are willing to bravely share their values with their team, it not only allows people to better understand what makes the leader tick, but also bonds the whole group closer together.
How might you identify and clarify your own values? Experience has done this for me. An internet search will uncover various lists of identified values. I do an exercise like this with my students every year but the real challenge come when they are put to the test.
After reading this week it got me thinking about what I could do to improve well-being in my own place of work. The holidays are the perfect time. It seems obvious and simple to me that if teachers are healthy, positive individuals their teaching practice benefits from this. In the current climate surrounding education teachers need to know that there are people who care about their well-being and that they really do matter.
My role within the school is to responsibility for the Senior School and Daily Operations. That means working closely with colleagues. It’s important to me that staff want to improve because they want to improve, not because I want them to. To achieve this it is important to put strategies in place to let this happen. I t has to be more than professional development. It is the small things like creating time for authentic appraisal, having meaning staff discussion about the decisions that affect them and extra five minutes for that staff farewell. The aim is to make staff feel valued and encourage a collaborative approach to teaching and learning across the curriculum areas.
There is a famous line in Cool Hand Luke (1967), where Captain tells Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Communication problems in schools have a negative impact on student achievement, positive relationships, family engagement, a collegial environment, school culture, teaching and learning. There are multiple ways to communicate.
Social media has increased the number of times a person can communicate within the school but with a wider community. If you are not providing families and stakeholders with a chance to communicate, then you are not encouraging a school community. Families want to have instant access to the school staff and to have a voice in school decisions. It may be time to ask, “Are we encouraging two-way communication or are we stuck in in 1967?”
What would you add to the list of way that are working to communicate with your teams and community?
Formative assessments flow seamlessly in the learning process because they are a part of the learning process. Most situations involving formative assessing are not and shouldn’t be for a grade. Students in my environment find this hard. So do teachers. How do we motivate them? We need to build a culture that it is not all about the mark.
Formative assessing is about goal-setting and the ownership of the learning process for students via feedback and input both from the teacher and from the students themselves.
Lastly, formative assessing DOES NOT need to be a traditional type of assessment. It can be something as simple as a brainstorm or Kahoot. Be creative.
“Great teaching cannot be achieved by following a recipe, but there are some clear pointers in the research to approaches that are most likely to be effective, and to others, sometimes quite popular, that are not. Teachers need to understand why, when and how a particular approach is likely to enhance students’ learning and be given time and support to embed it in their practice.”
Professor Robert Coe from Durham University.
I have been thinking this week about our NZQA results. They are by the way outstanding. But in the best tradition of great leaders we continue to ask how can we do better.
If we are going to change and improve maybe we need to focus on core components of teaching and learning: understanding not just the why but really get to grips with the why and the how. We need to ask questions like: Why is feedback effective? How can we improve the way we approach planning? Why is one particular questioning strategy better than another? Asking questions like this, reflecting on what we do, and then refining our practice is a lot easier than starting from scratch. So what have been the game changers in your own practice over the last few years?
I have been rereading one of my favorite books recently. The First Three Habits surround moving from dependence to independence (self-mastery).
1. Be Proactive: Work from the centre of your influence and constantly work to expand it.
2. Begin with the End in Mind: Envision what you want in the future so you can work and plan towards it.
Here she challenged us with “What are you doing to ensure that you are going to achieve what you have identified as your end in mind?”
3. Put First Things First: This is about the difference between Leadership and Management. Leadership in the outside world begins with personal vision and personal leadership. Think about what is important and what is urgent