Archive | August, 2016

Strong Leaders

26 Aug

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What makes a school successful? The principal… the teachers… the students… the parents?

Can one individual (or group of individuals) be the determining factor of success or not?

Can leadership come from the middle or must it originate and live at the top? None of these questions are easily answered, but in my experience as an educator, it’s principal leadership that makes all the difference.

It’s this difference that we are so desperately needing in our schools…We need leaders who recognize and pay homage to ‘what was’ in an effort to maximize and capitalize on ‘what could be.’ Schools are in need of a leader with a vision; a vision that is bigger than any one individual.

We need leaders who see the big picture. We need leaders who won’t shy away from asking tough questions and won’t yield on having high expectations for all with a belief that all can achieve in their own respective way. We need leaders who are willing to be visible. We need leaders who are willing to stand up and speak when others choose to remain quietly seated.

We need leaders who are able to adapt and shift based on what’s needed of them. There’s no such thing as black and white and straight-forward when it comes to education, so being flexible is absolutely critical.

We need leaders who can commit to making a decision even when they know the decision won’t be popular. People will eventually come to terms with something they don’t agree with; people can’t come to terms with uncertainty and confusion.

We need leaders who can effectively and clearly communicate. Last week at Year 13 retreat this was emphasized and gave me something to reflect on this week.

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Grit

22 Aug

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Our  deepest conversations with colleagues revolve around helping students to be successful. It worries me some students don’t try because they do not wish to fail. The complexity level of many students is stunning and therefore it takes a much deeper level of professional collaboration and parental partnership then ever before in our role as educators. The words anxiety, depression, autism, and opposition are part of our vernacular on a daily basis. A great deal of our work deals with student well-being

Into this conversation arrives the theory of grit, perhaps espoused best by Angela Lee Duckworth. I am loving this read. Find it . Read it.

LwDT and 365

21 Aug

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Microsoft Office has been a staple in classrooms and offices for over a decade. As the web has become increasingly collaborative, many online word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications joined Office. Microsoft began introducing web-based office tools in 2008, and since then they have been constantly revising and improving the applications. Today, we have the benefit of these years of progresses in the Office 365 collection of tools. Our school has immersed itself in these tools.

The Office 365 web version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote also allow you to quickly create and edit documents on any machine with access to the Internet in the widely recognized Office file formats.  It has taken me sometime but now I book all my movements through my calendar.  I am learning to understand the uses of classroom, survey and planner currently.

Having Office 365, you’re able to access your emails, calendar and documents from any device as long as you have an internet connection. So, if you travel far or stay close school, you can use a laptop, desktop, tablet or phone to access your work files and information. In my role this is fabulous.

The flexibility and mobility of 365 is great, but your brain deserves a break and research shows that the benefits of holiday, meditation and downtime replenishes your attention, motivation, creativity and productivity. Saying that, I also know that for a lot of us, if you can just stay on top of emails it’ll save you from drowning in messages and tasks that require attention on a Monday morning.

Here are some of the reflections on the collaborative benefits of 365 from a recent Cyclone course I attended.

Creativity

20 Aug

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Creativity has become the economic engine of the 21st century and it is no longer a luxury for a few, but a necessity for all. Ken Robinson (2007) states that creativity is as important as literacy, Richard Florida (2002) writes about the rise of the creative class, and Dan Pink explains that,

“We’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again – to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers.” (2005: 50)

If education is to prepare young people for a very different global environment, we simply must invest in students’ creative capacities. New combinations of creative abilities are increasingly in demand in a complex post-millennial world and what we know today is not as important as what we need to learn for tomorrow. Habits held too tightly become burdensome. As Leadbeater states, “What holds people back…is their ability to unlearn” (2000: 9). Learning is usually an incremental process, but when the environment suddenly changes the key is to dispense with past learning because old practices and routines will no longer work. This means challenging ingrained assumptions and people’s sense of identity.

 

Dealing with being SLT

20 Aug

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This week I have been reading an excellent book by James Hilton dealing with stress and leading schools. I have learnt that sometimes our greatest enemy or barrier to success is ourselves. Past experiences, fear, doubt, or even replaying negative words of others that have been spoken to us can sabotage ideas, goals, and dreams. Here are some of my reflections this week from this book:

We all feel like giving up sometimes.
My own learning-acknowledge these feelings, embrace them, and then do the opposite. This is easier said than done, but each of us has reached major and minor milestones by simply not giving up.

Think about what has made a difference in your life.
Lesson-rely on past actions that led to successes in your life and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. Think about the process and simply apply the lessons learned.

Focus on your achievements, not your faults.
My own learning – we are imperfect humans with a number of faults. Okay, we get it, now move on. Focusing on our blessings of family, friends, a reasonable portion of good health, teammates, and opportunities encourages us to persevere.

Don’t say ‘I’ll do it later.’
My own learning – we are not guaranteed time so whatever your dreams are, write them down, establish a plan, and DO SOMETHING. Better yet, just do something and develop the plan as you go. Excuses are self-destructive and waste time. Replace the, “yeah, buts” with “yes, and.”

I encourage you to read this. It is a must read.

Being Dad

15 Aug

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Parenting is really hard. Once in a while I reflect on my own parenting. I spend so much time giving out advice here are some things I need to do myself.

  1. Engage
    Yes, the amount of time you are able to spend with your family is an important factor and “quality time” is crucial as well. But the key here is building activities where you are engaged together. Going to the movies or watching TV is fine, but following up with a discussion is what it is all about.
  2. Get away
    Find at least a week a year to travel somewhere where your children can learn about new lands and ideas and encounter diverse people. Holiday time, especially Christmas, is a great time to bond. Last year we did a triathlon together.
  3. Dinner 
    We talk a great deal about the day and various. Topics we have covered included Syria, Zika, the Olympics and who is the ugliest Disney witch.
  4. Respect your child
    As adults we have to manage our own stress. Perhaps the most important piece of advice I have for parents is and me:Don’t ever yell at your children.
  5. Read with your child
    Read with your kids and talk about what you’re reading about. As the kids get older, have a family book club so you can share your experiences and challenge their thinking. If you’re a student yourself, share your own learning with them.

It is easier for me. I have only one child perhaps you have some tips. The journey is fast but it will go much smoother if you engage, respect, and listen.

Restorative Circles

9 Aug

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Recently I spent another day in Wanganui reflecting on restorative practice. Restorative thinking is a significant shift from punishment-oriented thinking. People, including students, who are invited into restorative dialogue are sometimes confused by the concept of “making things right.” Their default response to the question “What can we do to make things right?” often has to do with punishment. It is said that “children live what they learn.” When what they have learned is that troublesome behaviour demands a punishment-oriented response that is how they will live. But restorative practices invite different ways of responding. These new ways must be learned through experience. The activities in this manual give students the necessary experiences to support a shift toward restorative ways of thinking and behaving.

In restorative circles we build trust by giving students safe ways to test how much they can trust each other. We begin in our first circles by using prompting questions that invite low-risk answers. Students can give answers that do not expose their inner lives; thus, they can feel fairly safe from social consequences such as teasing. Students should not be required to take risks that are unreasonable, including social risks in socially hostile environments. Students have sound instincts about how much self-disclosure is safe; their level of participation is a reliable indicator of the risk environment. Teachers and other circle leaders can observe students’ level of participation, along with how students react to each other’s answers, and steadily increase the depth of intimacy and authenticity invited by prompting questions, choosing prompts that invite more intimate exposure of personal thoughts and feelings.

My key learning from the day was restorative must be embedded in all we do rather than just an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff.

Teaching Our History

1 Aug

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I was trained as a History teacher back in 1992. We all teach the fundamentals of the Treaty of Waitangi in schools. I thoughts this might be a useful resource. 

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