Archive | February, 2017

Relational Trust is Key

28 Feb

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A complex art if there ever was one, building relationships and creating relational trust is the foundational skill. Without trust, no amount of content knowledge, pedagogical know-how, or formative assessment is likely to move students to want to learn from you.

In a recent TED Radio Hour  called “How Does Trust Happen in Music?” orchestra conductor Charles Hazlewood recalls that during his early days as a professional, his conducting sometimes resembled a “rabid windmill.” The more forceful his body language, the less his orchestra members complied. The more disappointed he became, the more his direction became a blur. Trust erodes when you don’t embody it yourself, he learned.

He later directed a racially diverse group of South African singers, some of whom had previously been bitter enemies. And he founded another ensemble made up of musicians with severe disabilities, many of whom had never had the opportunity to play instruments together. From these disparate groups, he learned that the creation of music relies on trust and builds more trust. Yes, the conductor needs to have a “cast-iron understanding of the outer architecture of the music,” but he or she also has to trust the players to reveal the music’s inner truth. He came to believe that conducting music is like holding a bird. Hold too tightly, you crush it; hold too loosely, it flies away.

This will be part of my own manaakitanga goal this year. How are your own annual goals developing in your appraisal document?

Change Investigation

27 Feb

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Change agents know this lesson all too well—that bringing about necessary change often means taking a risk and being the first to try something new. It not only applies to all teams, start-ups, and social activists, but it also applies to schools.

“Someone has to go first.” My 8 year-old had this in mind as she dived into the pool on Monday night. Someone has to go first.

Even when it’s scary. Even when you’re all by yourself. That’s what I knew then, and that’s what I know now.

On my own school campus, change started when a small group of teachers decided it was better to be brave than to be boring. Down deep, we knew we needed to change the way our classrooms engaged in discussion. This year our pedagogical investigation will exam next steps into the next century.

Review and Reflection

26 Feb

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ERO asked us in 2016 how do we know students are learning and how do we know acceleration is taking place?

As we enter 2017, we continue to ask this important question. While standardized tests provide data on student understanding, the data comes at the end of the year. Teachers need actionable data and strategies for supporting all students during the school year. How will your school staff measure if students are learning?

The idea of using leading and lagging indicators to measure the health of an organization was introduced by Robert Kaplan and David Norton (1993). The premise behind their theory is that lagging indicators will tell you nothing about how the outcomes were achieved, in the absence of leading indicators. Leading indicators provide early warnings about being on track to achieve your strategic goals. Lagging indicators measure what has already taken place. In the absence of clear indicators, teachers and administrators will be unable to measure student learning in a timely manner.

The danger in focusing on outcome measures is that most teachers feel powerless to impact change. Indicators should be “actionable at the school level, meaning that school leaders, teachers, and staff can use them to make changes that will have a demonstrable impact on student outcomes” (Pinkus, 2009, p. 5). As you establish New Year’s resolutions and professional goals, ask the following questions. When teacher teams have clear indicators, it will support all students.

 10 Ways To Measure Student Understanding

  1. Does our team/course have SMART goals? (DuFour, 2014)
  2. Do you administer common formative assessments?
  3. Does each teacher understand the Priority Learners Document?”
  4. Do you have a plan for when students don’t learn?
  5. Do you have a plan for students who need acceleration?
  6. Have you identified data points that we will measure throughout the semester?
  7. Do we have rubrics and exemplar work so teachers, students and families can identify opportunities for growth?
  8. Do you have a clear Response to Intervention (RtI) program or is RtI left to each teacher?
  9. Do you have scheduled meetings when data is discussed or do we hope the conversation will take place during passing period?
  10. Have you considered our Maori student achievement and acceleration in our work?

 

 

Teaching in a Multi-level classroom

24 Feb

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Teaching multi-level classes is an issue which is becoming more common in our ever-changing environment. Differentiating instruction may mean teaching the same material to all students using a variety of instructional strategies, or it may require the teacher to deliver lessons at varying levels of difficulty based on the ability of each student. Formative assessment is an essential ingredient of this method.

Teachers who practice differentiation in the classroom may:

  • Design lessons based on students’ learning styles.
  • Group students by shared interest, topic or ability for assignments.
  • Assess students’ learning using formative assessment.
  • Manage the classroom to create a safe and supportive environment.
  • Continually assess and adjust lesson content to meet students’ needs

Do you have any tips or strategies that have worked for you?

Middle Leader Development

21 Feb

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Last week I attended an online webinar led by an Australian principal.  She began: “The effectiveness of the leader will be tied to the respect that the leader can command and that will be generated by the character of the leader and the virtues she can display consistently and truthfully.” She spoke about how the work of teachers and leaders in a school is a moral task, the importance of developing practices shared by the group through meetings and interpersonal actions, and not just having good ideas but also enacting those ideas.

This got me thinking about a number of issues:

Cultures of thinking – How do we move the Cultures of Thinking approach from faculty to whole school? Various approaches were discussed in the webinar including: show and tell (read, trial, share), suggest don’t mandate, ask for feedback, use noticeboards (in class, around the school, and electronic). There was also discussion of specific routines, like See…Think…Wonder.

The evolving role of the Head of Faculty – The presenter produced a mindmap which that covered this topic. It got me thinking. How do HoFs find time for all these things? What is suffering because of the role/workload increasing? How does the SLT help or hinder our role? To what extent are all stakeholders aware of each other’s demands and how time-consuming these demands are? New roles are appearing and roles are expanding. Expectations in fulfilling the role are both personal and school-based. Who can support us? How?

Documentation and sharing – The benefits of documentation are: deeper thinking, starting conversations, sharing between faculty’s and building on each other’s efforts, sharing/reflecting on the process/progression/learning and where that might lead to next, valuing more than the finished product, encouraging team collaboration to inform and improve. ‘Share-worthy’ material does not have to be perfect and packaged, it can be a work-in-progress rather than ready to use.

Reflection and improvement, and growth mindset are needed to keep it moving forward, to not just avoid failure, but avoid plateauing or sticking to the status quo. It should be seen as a comment/feedback space, not show and tell. We need to learn from mistakes and share what didn’t work so others can learn from it, and celebrate our mistakes. I have been thinking could we introduce the concept of a rotating presenter, where a different team member documents a snapshot of a team’s learning or mahi to share? Should each faculty have a dedicated documentation space that both staff and students can see?

Getting the best out of people – Relationships are important. Focus on the positives. Specific praise/ positive feedback, flexibility, celebrate small steps, respect/interest outside the classroom, depersonalize risk by using conditional statements.

Cross-faculty collaboration – Having librarians and academic support staff involved in the planning of coursework, resources, skills, helping decode questions, cross-faculty collaboration provides equitable skills/resource assistance to all students and everyone benefits, awareness of the importance of information skills/academic support is available throughout the learning spectrum, team-teaching across faculty’s where the opportunity presents, look at each faculty’s schedules for the opportunities.

I know lots to think about here. What are your thoughts?

Reflection Today

14 Feb

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Today’s world is vastly different from that of 50 years ago. And the pace of change is accelerating, with increasing globalisation; advances in technology, communications and social networking; greatly increased access to information; an explosion of knowledge; and an array of increasingly complex social and environmental issues. The world of work also is undergoing rapid change with greater workforce mobility, growth in knowledge-based work, the emergence of multi-disciplinary work teams engaged in innovation and problem solving, and a much greater requirement for continual workplace learning. The school curriculum must attempt to equip students for this significantly changed and changing world.

However, many features of the school curriculum have been unchanged for decades. We continue to present disciplines largely in isolation from each other, place an emphasis on the mastery of large bodies of factual and procedural knowledge and treat learning as an individual rather than collective activity. This is particularly true in the senior secondary school, which then influences curricula in the earlier years.What is your school environment doing to respond to this change

Authentic Leadership Message

10 Feb

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I thought it might be timely this week as my staff and students settled into classes to reflect on my own leadership. When most people think of leading they tend to think of leading people “below” themselves even though servant leadership is not new. That is a very dangerous way to think because it’s hard to think of people “below” you without also thinking you’re somehow “above” the people you lead.

It’s not even your title or position that makes you a leader. Your thinking and your actions make you a leader. Even more than that, it’s your people that make you a leader because no matter what you think or do, if no one is following then you’re not leading.

The secret to being an Authentic Servant Leader is to never think for a moment that because someone is below you on an organizational chart that they are somehow below you in life.

I was reflecting with my daughter this week that people are where they are in their lives for a lot of reasons. Some had more luck than others, some made more luck than others. Some maybe were born with more advantages, some perhaps married into additional advantages. Our lot in life changes, sometimes because of what we did, sometimes because of what we didn’t do and sometimes it changes for no apparent reason.

The point is we are really pretty much all the same and the moment we start thinking we are born for greatness is the very moment we begin to lose the empathy and compassion required to actually be an Authentic Servant Leader.

I suppose it comes back to my own beliefs and faith. We are all gifts from God. When we understand that simple fact then and only then do we have the opportunity to be an authentic leader.

 

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