Archive | January, 2017

Appraisal 2017

31 Jan

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Do you find often “appraisal goals” are scribbled out in 15 minute meetings with your appraiser, then “revisited” at the end of the year as a kind of autopsy. What would happen if we flipped this model on its head? What if instead we created a teacher-centered, always-on, and social approach to teacher improvement? One that connected them with dynamic resources and human communities that modeled new thinking and possibility, and that crucially built on their strengths? Here some thoughts to guide you as you make your PLG  inspired in 2017.

  1. In Term One establish a compelling big idea –then stick to it

This can be thought of as a mission or theme, but it’s really more of a tone and purpose. These heading are the same as the students hence reinforcing the idea of a learning community. Each of the goals are linked to the dispositions of the school in our case Ako, Manaakitanga and Wahine Toa. Time is made in Term one for authentic and robust conversations to eek out these goals. This is done collaboratively. Then–and this is the critical part–refer back to that constantly as you make decisions that might impact the inquiry. This is like a lighthouse. You can revise as necessary, but be careful not to drift too far away.

  1. Set the ground 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.

The inquiry does not have to be come up with an answer but it does have to link to school goals.

  1. Diversify professional development sources

This is the anti-program program. Less about experts and more about staff capacity. To achieve a self-sustaining, always-on program, this is also where our Café style PLG kicks in. The grounds rules again must be clear. Everyone must contribute. It is not enough to turn up and be ready for a chat.

  1. Create a pilot or template that works for teachers

Pilot it in one department or grade level at first 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.

  1. Connect teachers

Connect teachers from different schools 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 will take a teacher further than a policy or minimal requirement. The point of this whole thing is staff capacity, not corrective training.

  1. Focus on student learning

The whole point of the PLG focus on strategies, tools, and thinking that ends up in pedagogical change, curriculum, assessment, classrooms, teacher-student interactions is ultimately “student achievement.” If it is not then what is the point?

  1. Let us celebrate teacher strengths & interests

Teachers need to see themselves as a crafts-person that is skilled and passionate. Strengths could be collaboration with colleagues, assessment design, classroom management, curriculum development, or other traditional educational pillars. This again can be done in the PLG Café or by cross-pollination.

So from the beginning, everyone should be aware that PLD and PLG is all a work in progress—just like the profession itself. Perhaps the greatest potential here is in the chance to personalize professional development for teachers.

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Millennials

24 Jan

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When it comes to the psychology of leadership and creativity there are few people who I find more insightful and inspiring than Simon Sinek. He gained fame after his ‘Start with Why‘ TED talk that went viral and has really reshaped the conversation around creativity at pretty much every level of the agency and corporate world. I recently came across a new video of his called ‘Millennials in the Workplace.’

The statistics he uses are generally accurate, although they may show more correlation than causation.

Agree

– Desire to be “liked” in social media

– Texting while at dinner/meeting shows addiction/impatience

– We can be impatient when it comes to job fulfillment

Disagree

– Entitlement- more for those from upper class families?

– How many of the older generations- baby boomers, Gen X- love/are satisfied with their jobs?

– Hard to leave phone at home when expectation is to be “on call” 24/7

– Social media can help spark innovation because it provides one with knowledge of what’s “out there,” but agree that innovation can’t happen if we don’t let our minds wander

– Anxiety from other sources playing a factor?  E.g. college debt, health care costs, etc.

But the question he posed at the very beginning was “Why are Millennials tough to manage?”  The question itself implies that the issue here is with the Millennials, not with the Baby Boomer or Gen X managers.  Most of my frustrations regarding my job stems from (what I perceive to be) inefficiencies.  They’re partly because of the frustrations from the “old-school mindset” that is resistant to change- i.e. “we’ve always done it this way,” “don’t question me, I’m senior to you,” etc.  So it’s not just millienials.

My first Principal…

22 Jan

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Here are a few things my first principal taught me on my own path to servant leadership:

  • Don’t take advantage of your title or positional power; instead, inspire by making them feel like an equal.
  • Share the vision and decision-making with others. Make sure followers have a seat at the table in important decisions.
  • Provide followers with all the resources they need so they can become better leaders.

While he was still my “principal” and expectations of my performance were high, I recall how much more satisfied and engaged I felt than at any other time in my young corporate career.

What was it about this professional relationship that worked out so well for me? It comes down to four leadership principles proven over time to build trust and loyalty in followers.

  1. He facilitated a shared vision. 

My first principal communicated an image of the future that drew us all in. It spoke to what his team (my colleagues) saw and felt.

  • Destination: Where are we going?
  • Purpose: Why do we exist? What greater good do we serve?
  • Values: What principles guide our decisions and actions on our journey?

When a vision addresses all three of these questions for team members, a tremendous amount of energy is unleashed.

  1. He shared power and released control.

If you want to foster high trust, risk-taking, creativity and open communication, but you’re still riding on your autocratic high-horse and instilling fear, consider getting off for the higher road of sharing power and releasing control.

This means allowing the freedom for others to experiment, lead themselves, stretch, and make mistakes. This will unleash discretionary effort and your team will produce great results. That’s what happened to My first principal’s team.

  1. He put people in positions to lead.

Instead of leveraging his positional power for personal gain, self-promotion or demands for special privileges, My first principal put his people in positions of leadership to stretch their growth and develop new strengths and roles.

The return on this investment was watching a leadership culture rise up. Many of us got promoted to leadership roles, filling key positions internally.

  1. He pushed his authority down.

In highly effective organizations, there are leaders at every level, not just at the top. The solution is always to push authority down so you’re creating a leader-leader culture. This is what My first principal did exceptionally well.By the way it was not Michael Scott!!!

What are some good examples of leaders who share leadership? How do they do it?

Head of Faculty Inquiry Part Two

20 Jan

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Here are some more thoughts on our inquiry.

Reasons for compulsory subjects

Compulsory subjects exist because the learning areas in which they belong are regarded as fundamental to building the key competencies of students. Some reasons for making some secondary school subjects compulsory include:

The perception that many students do not always know what might be best for their future learning or employment. This is highlighted by the shortage of skilled professionals in certain employment areas, and the comparative over supply in others. A high level of knowledge in these learning areas is essential to developing a career in some professions. It is important that a “foundational” knowledge is developed at secondary school.

Reasons for freedom of subject choice

Subject choice in schools is consistent with the principle of “self-directed learning”, in which students decide what learning areas they have an interest in and would like to develop further skills and knowledge.

Greater freedom in subject choice in linked with greater student satisfaction, and higher performance at secondary school.

Somethings that need to be considered:

What key competencies and knowledge will students require to be successful in the modern workforce?

What key competencies and knowledge will students require to ensure they will be able to make decisions about complex social, economic and technological issues?

How important are subjects such as science, maths, digital technologies in modern society?

Should more subjects be compulsory? If so, which ones?

Should students have more choice about the subjects that they take currently? If so, which subjects shouldn’t be compulsory?

Head of Faculty Inquiry

18 Jan

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We talk a great deal at school about creating students with our dispositions (ako, manaakitanga and wahine toa).  This year the main body of our work is looking into our curriculum. Asking the question is what we are teaching meeting the needs of our students?

The purpose of the New Zealand education system and here at Sacred Heart is to equip our students with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens. Educational curriculum should meet the needs and current demands of the culture, the society, and the expectations of the population being served. To achieve this vision, the Government directs what students should learn through its national curriculum.

Continually updating school curricula helps equip the next generation to contribute effectively in our rapidly changing world. In New Zealand, there are concerns that school curricula may not be developing the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the challenges of the future. There is concern about a lack of financial education, that participation and performance in science and mathematics are decreasing, and that there is a need for teaching in citizenship and environmental sustainability areas. There is also discussion as to whether languages such as Te Reo Māori should be compulsory.

In our rapidly changing world, continually updating school curricula ensures that the next generation is fully equipped to function well in society. There is a growing need for specialised training for certain career pathways, which requires more formal training. This has created greater demand for greater thought to be put into vocational pathways in secondary school, to help ensure a smooth transition into on-going education, training or work.

The New Zealand Curriculum is the statement of official policy relating to teaching and learning in New Zealand schools. It sets out the vision and principles that are the foundations of decision-making in school curriculum. Schools are required to base their curriculum on the principles of the Curriculum, to encourage and model the values, and to develop the key competencies at all year levels.

Under the National Administration Guidelines, the national curriculum is compulsory until Year 10, so schools are required to provide subjects that relate to the learning areas above and are compulsory for all students. Currently, secondary schools in New Zealand provide a mixture of compulsory and elective subject choices.

Schools must keep up-to-date with the continuous evolution of knowledge and technological change, so students and fully equipped to function well in society.

Specific issues perceived as being important to address include:

a lack of financial education.

failing participation and academic performance in “core” subjects such as science or mathematics.

ensuring students have the skills to keep up with rapid technological innovation.

Lets see how the journey goes.

Education Outside the Classroom

16 Jan

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This time of year I am planning calendar and considering EOTC applications. where better than in authentic contexts beyond the classroom? EOTC is curriculum-based teaching and learning that extends the four walls of the classroom. Learning takes place both inside and outside school. Learning at school should encourage young people to be capable and knowledgeable citizens, who are involved with the communities they live in and contribute to the wider community. Every young person should be able to participate in learning beyond the classroom, whatever their age, ability, or circumstances. This is a great link to this concept.

Learning outside the classroom has the potential to support learning in ways that are consistent with the vision, graduate profile, principles, values, attitudes, key competencies, and effective pedagogy statements in the national curriculum (The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa). EOTC can support the aspiration for broad and deep learning in real-life contexts within and across the learning areas of the national curriculum.

Learners need to apply the key competencies and use them to transform learning. They are a means of transforming the way in which Learners engage with and use their knowledge and understandings. Where better to apply, and transform new learning than in relevant, authentic contexts beyond the classroom?

Learners need to develop the disposition to use the key competencies. Attitudes are important as well as knowledge, skills, and values. Learning beyond the classroom prompts Learners to demonstrate that they are ready, willing, and able to use the new competencies that they are developing.

Through our school, rather than the five key competencies, we have expanded them into our Manawa Mission dispositions. This lines up with the key competencies of the national curriculum.

 

Is it Relevant?

13 Jan

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At the end of the year I like to evaluate my teaching which as a member of the SLT is becoming rarer. These are some great questions to ask. As part of our Faculty review processes these are great discussion starters.

1.) Who is doing a majority of the talking in your classroom?

It’s the person who is doing the majority of the talking that tends to do the most learning, so what is the teacher/student talking ratio in your classroom? If you find yourself always talking more than your students, try and figure out some ways to empower your students so they are more involved in the learning.
2). How often are you mixing up and changing the learning landscape in your classroom?

So there’s this misconception that learning must take place within the four walls of a classroom. In spite of popular belief, the magic barrier between a classroom and the outside world doesn’t work like a light switch where learning can occur and can’t occur. Learning is happening all around and should be happening all around us; there are no limits or barriers to where and when learning can occur. Take the authenticity of your classroom to the next level by mixing up the learning landscape and allowing kids to learn in a more natural state.

3). Who is deciding what is relevant and important in your classroom?

How often do we teach what we want as teachers or because we have sensational resources. What you think is important and relevant may not align perfectly with what your students think is important and relevant. If we the teachers are constantly telling students what to learn and how to learn it, then we are leaving out the most important parts of the education process, student voice and student choice. Embrace a learning culture where student opinions and student interests are valued and encouraged and you will see student engagement and student passion skyrocket.

Motivating Colleagues

12 Jan

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I set myself the challenge of motivating colleagues to embrace change just when things look pretty good, it is a theory that I understand a number of sporting teams use. I read somewhere the “The paradox of success, that what got you where you are, won’t keep you where you are, is a hard lesson to learn.”

I have been trying to express the case for all of us to improve our teaching. Jonah Lehrer says in his book Imagine, the answer to any problem is incredibly obvious…we curse ourselves for not seeing it sooner. It’s for my colleagues, but it could be for any school, anywhere.

John Wooden of the UCLA Bruins who says: Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required every day.

This also makes me think of Pete Carroll’s philosophy “Always Compete.” To Carroll, competition doesn’t really mean beating an opponent or a teammate. Instead, competition, to Carroll, involves the constant (the “always” part of the expression) pursuit, characterized by scrapping and clawing, to get better and eventually to reach one’s highest potential. As teachers or even people this philosophy is brilliant.

If we are honest, we have always known that only at least good teaching is good enough for our students.

I take it as a given that every single one of us wants to become a better teacher; indeed, to become a truly great school we will all need to become better teachers, every single one of us. I am not asking us to work harder in terms of volume of work, but to work harder at becoming better at what we do in the classroom. I am asking every single one of us to be at least a good teacher and the majority of us to be great teachers.

The other barrier to colleagues opening themselves up to improving their practice is accountability, but as professionals accountability is something we have to accept – as long as we know what is expected then we can eradicate the fear inherent in any accountability system. I want to work in a no-surprises culture. I want to catch colleagues doing good things and praise them, not catch them out.

All SLT should have the same thing in mind as we start the new academic year. Do you?

Creating a student centered environment

8 Jan

Contemporary business people working in team in the office

Creating a truly student educational environment requires quite a few thoughts even before the learning-teaching interaction begins. We must make a choice of the frame of reference to be used. Sometimes this choice is an unintentional one – especially if we have not reflected upon our own learning philosophy.

To promote effective learning, we should think about the learning environment (both emotional and physical) to ensure there are no obstacles for learning. Students prior knowledge plays a major part in their learning, and if we start teaching where the curriculum tells we to start, we may be passing by their actual horizon of understanding.

Some students arrive to the class ready to learn – others do not. Finding gentle ways to increase the readiness, and decreasing the fears, anxieties and misconceptions of students ensures a less bumpy ride towards the mutual goal: effective learning. Also, an aptitude for learning is highly individual among students in any given group. We as their teacher can either help students to become more interested in what they are learning – or simply communicate about passing the test as a measurement of education and learning itself not being important. Imagine how huge difference there is in between those two approaches.

Lots to think about for this time year.

The Books of Summer

8 Jan

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For many years, long before Goodreads and Book Crawler,  I have set myself the goals to read around 104 books every year. Two for every week.Some years I come painfully close others nowhere near. The results though is that I read some interesting books. 

A colleague on twitter recently asked me for a list of ‘good education related’ books to read over the summer break. When I looked through my home bookshelves and my iPhone apps I found that the books that I instinctively wanted to recommend  were all book titles that I have had to buy more than once. They are books that are just such a good read, with such a good message, that they become the ones you lend to people, never to be seen again. They stand out from most others in your book collection because you actually notice that you have lost your copy of them when you find yourself wanting to refer to them time after time.

Follow my Goodreads posts for some of these. Let me know if you come across a winner. Note this is my first blog entry for the year. To keep up to date with the education council I have re-branded the the RTCs to PTCs under the categories heading.

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