Archive | December, 2016

All on the Waka Together

12 Dec

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Over time, I believe as a leader and teacher I can have the capacity to improve the whole-school culture through excellence in teaching. Our dispositions of Ako, Wahine Toa and Manaakitanga have their foundation in the generous impulse to assist students and colleagues. If we are true to the Manawa Mission philosophy here at Sacred Heart staff fundamentally influence others without generating resentment. Staff are consistently working to benefit the school, so he or she is not in competition with others. We are on the waka together.

In the end, only way to stay the course throughout one’s teaching career is by discussion with great teachers who motivate, inspire and remain connected to the classroom. In the company of others, teachers can uncover the best work being done in our schools. This links a little to last week’s post. Dedicated to their own professional development, all staff are capable of improving teaching and learning despite the many other mandates. This is critical to their continued enthusiasm. Through the retreats and professional learning communities, colleagues enhance their own teaching and further the practice of others. Thus we are living the mission together.

My Ako Goal

11 Dec

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My Ako Goal this year was to lead student-centred, innovative and collaborative pedagogical practices. Things I had in mind at the start of the year were to reject the deficit thinking. Caring for the learner – building a relationship with our students. Having high expectations which must be voiced and demonstrated through the dispositions of Manawa Mission. Manage a classroom for learning not behavior and creating a culture for learning. I wanted to deepen my own content knowledge.

Did I do this in 2017? To a degree. It was my mahi. I developed a new strategy or rediscovered one. Student voice is always a powerful tool – it allows the teachers to check in with what is happening in the class with 3 simple questions: What are you learning? How can you show me your successful at learning? What happens next?

I tried to keep things fresh. As students have access to any information possible, there certainly is no need to “spoon-feed” the knowledge or teach “one-size fits all” content. I recognized through my learning plans as students have different personalities, goals, and needs, offering personalized instructions is not just possible but also desirable. When students are allowed to make their own choices, they own their learning, increase intrinsic motivation, and put in more effort — an ideal recipe for better learning outcomes.

I deepened my knowledge by reading some wonderful pieces of literature and attending some great courses. Perhaps I need to work on the fact the students must be aware the environment is student centred not teacher centred. My students were often passive.

My Next Steps

  1. Keep getting teachers to share their learning.
  2. Continue to have disruptive conversations.
  3. Work on creating a collaborative teaching environment.

Leading v Managing

8 Dec

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My wahine toa goal this year was to nurture relational trust in the HOF group. I wanted to communicate the idea that the middle leaders of the school had to lead not manage. Just so we’re clear about this, I have nothing but respect for great managers. They are the essential clue that hold organizations together. They keep things running smoothly, they execute strategies and tactics. Without sound management no organization can survive. A great deal of my job is to manage as Deputy Principal.

But… yes you knew there had to be a but… but, simply putting a great manager into a leadership position does not make them a leader. A manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager but very often a manager is not a leader and sometimes a great leader is not a good manager.

Managing and leading are two entirely different things. To be a leader you have to do so in my opinion in an environment of relational trust. I found this year when I led Staff rather than trying to manage them charmed things happen.

Staff who are managed are far more likely to display attitude issues than staff who are led. Staff who are managed do what they are told while the staff who are led have already done it.

I found staff who are managed seldom grow beyond their job description but staff who are led burst the seams of their job descriptions with regularity.

Thank you to my fellow DP who provided the clip below which illustrates how these middle leaders joined me on this waka.

Connectedness and Relationships

7 Dec

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My manaakitanga goal this year was to build an environment that shows a shared sense of contentedness and belonging. The key to this for me has been not to moan at work. Everyone vents about the job at times. We are a vent-oriented society. Listen to talk-back for half an hour. Complaining is okay so long as you do it to your significant other, relative, non-work friend, or cat in my case. I have tried to keep it outside the school if can.

There’s a line in the movie Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks, the captain of the unit assigned to find and rescue Private Ryan, tells his subordinates, “Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that as a Ranger.” That’s excellent advice. We should never as leaders display frustration about our community to staff. It will trickle around; that’s a guarantee. It just fosters an unhealthy victim-hood culture. If there’s something you can do, do it. If not, address it through the healthiest means possible. OK I am off to complain to the cat about our latest change. No just kidding but you get my point.

The Lost Art of Reflection

6 Dec

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Reflection is a lost art in classrooms. With the push to cover more content and standards, teachers often make a choice between coverage or pausing for reflection. Reflection comes in many forms: reflective journals, group work, whole class, silent reflection, reviewing yesterday’s work, reflecting on an essential question, or creating a product that shows your thoughts on a previous lesson or understanding.

How often do students feel like the pace of schooling is rushed? Once a unit is finished, the teacher moves to the next unit. Reflection involves slowing down to share what we learned. In the absence of reflection, it is unlikely that a classroom is a Culture of Inquiry. How do students reflect and make meaning out of their experiences?

Learning takes place when inquiry is present. This year as Faculty’s met every Wednesday to develop lessons and assessments, analyze the amount of time students have to question, talk with their peers, and reflect. This inquiry is a step towards reflection. May it continue in 2017.

Value Teachers

4 Dec

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To attract the highest-quality teachers, we also need to hold teachers in high esteem.

Teaching is arguably the most challenging profession of all, yet unlike Finland – where teachers accrue similar respect to doctors – we don’t recognize that teaching deserves the same respect and trust as the medical profession. Finland also demands graduate teaching qualifications.Graduate students bring real-world experience, including deep disciplinary knowledge, analytical thinking and personal maturity.

To do this we would have to look across the Tasman for guidance. This would follow in the footsteps of the South Australia government, which intends to require all teachers to have completed a graduate-level teaching degree. The state will also require government schools to preference the employment of graduates with master’s or double-degree teaching qualifications.

To attract the best candidates, prospective teachers need to see a career progression. Using the current lead teacher and accomplished teacher categories but linked with an appropriate pay level progression would be a good start.

Teachers have a crucial role in improving student outcomes. We need not only to lift course and graduate standards, but also to ensure teachers are well supported so they can contribute fully as highly developed experts in a widely respected profession.

Whakakaha Part 3

2 Dec

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I used this insightful video this week at Whakakaha. What do you think?

Evidence and Learning Styles

1 Dec

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In health there are well-established protocols that govern the introduction of any new drug or treatment. Of major consideration is the notion of doing no harm. In education there are no such controls and plenty of vested interests keen to see the adoption of new strategies and resources for a variety of ideological and financial reasons.

Teachers need to be critical consumers of research – as with medicine, lives are also at stake – yet with the best will in the world and without the knowledge and time to do so, decisions may be made to adopt new approaches that are not only ineffectual, but can actually do harm. How often have I entered discussions and I have been told research says.

The notion of the existence of learning styles. The theory goes something like this: that people are “hard-wired” to learn best in a certain way. The theory is that if a teacher can provide learning activities and experiences that match a student’s supposed learning style, learning will be more effective.

Probably the best known are the “auditory” (learning best by hearing), “visual” (learning best through images), and “kinesthetic” (learning best through touch and movement) typologies of learners.

Learning styles has become a vast, lucrative industry with inventories, manuals, video resources, in-service packages, websites, publications and workshops. Some schools have spent many thousands of dollars assessing students using the various inventories.

Psychologists and neuroscientists agree there is little efficacy for these models, which are based on dubious evidence.

If learning styles exist at all, these are not “hard wired” and are at most simply preferences. What we prefer is neither fixed for all time nor always what is best for us.

Education professor John Hattie has noted that in this weeks reading. Worth thinking about don’t you think?

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