Archive | May, 2017

A Reflection: June 1

31 May

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If you have not spent time seriously exploring pedagogy, then you are going to fall into the trap of teaching the same way, just on a bigger scale.

Truly interrogating what you currently do requires some serious consideration of what is currently seen and accepted as best practice. Why is it best practice? Who decided? Is it best practice for all groups of learners? Is the numeracy project really meeting your identified student needs? Who says it is best practice? How well does it marry our curriculum? How well does it marry with BES? Is it moving your kids? Is there stages that they just roadblock at and need something different? Same for writing and reading? Where are the authentic links? Are they authentic for the actual kids in front of you? Or are they authentic in an adult’s head and world?

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Restorative Reflection

29 May

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In my work this week I have been trying to get my head around restorative and relational practices. I have been thinking what makes effective practice and how we can apply this in my own environment. The question I am posing then on mountain2surf is just what does creating a Restorative Culture within a school or other community look like?

Positive relationships form the basis for any healthy community. For a Restorative Culture to develop, it is essential that community- and relationship-building be intentional. Relationships of authentic trust between adults and youth, and within both staff and student cohorts, are the foundation of the connections that will be restored through the use of RJ practices. We must first form these relationships, then, in times of trouble, there is something to restore. So building good relationships is key.

Reflection is something I believe we do not do enough of. It is essential to a restorative culture. Prayer in Catholic school provides an ideal opportunity for this. When students “act out”, do we examine our own contribution to the situation? What feelings and beliefs do we bring to the circumstances? In our busy and challenging position as educators, have we really done all we can to meet an individual student’s needs or is there something else we could try? Out of our best intentions, have we given some students so much slack that, without realizing it, we have set the bar too low and inadvertently sent them a message that they are not capable? This type of deep self-reflection and willingness to examine one’s own feelings, biases, pre-conceived notions, and actions is not easy, but it is one of the essential keys to establishing a Restorative Culture in schools.

But where should this self reflection take place. Now for self-reflection to take place and to build positive relationships, a safe space must be provided. Safe space encompasses not just physical well-being but also emotional and intellectual safety. Are behavioral and academic expectations clear? Are standards upheld consistently? Is the aftermath of making a mistake free from shame? If I take personal responsibility for my actions will I be met with compassion and a willingness to listen, rather than a quickness to blame and punish? Does the community embrace and validate different experiences, beliefs, and perspectives and allow for them to be expressed?

 

Just some initial thoughts.

 

Thought for a Friday May 26

25 May

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My leadership style I have learnt sometimes depends on the situation. You can head into a leadership position with big dreams and the best intentions, and then remember you have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and suddenly lose those best intentions.

Other times as a leader you go into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) you can become insecure and not sure what to do first. As leaders, when we have so many choices of where to start we sometimes choose not to choose at all. Understanding our current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

Leadership is not for the faint of heart…

Personally I always go back to Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he showed us with 7 habits that all successful people have, and taught us that with some hard work we can adopt those habits too.

Be proactive – Anticipate and act, no matter how difficult the situation.

Begin with the end in mind – What do we want out of leadership, and what should we want as a school community?

Put first things first – Drop the politics of distraction, understand our current reality, and take actionable steps to achieve that goal.

Think win/win

Seek first to understand then to be understood – Leaders should listen more than they talk, and try to understand where the other person is coming from before they try to move forward.

Synergize – This is all about collective efficacy, which Tschannen-Moran, M., & Barr, M. (2004) says,“refers to the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.”

Sharpen the Saw – Know when to take a break. Schools with initiative fatigue never sharpen the saw.

Head of Faculty Inquiry

24 May

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I am finding Maslows model useful in my own inquiry. It considers what the teachers need from the leader and outlines “a set of knowledge, skills and dispositions required for meeting those needs”. During the leader’s ascension, toward the apex there are key checkpoints, questions that leaders need to ask themselves for the vision realised. This is my simplified version of Knuth & Banks strategy:

First Level: Your actions match your words
Leaders model core values and principles. You are able to inspire trust and articulate vision. Principle-centred leaders inspire trust by displaying consistency between core values, words and actions.

Leader Checkpoint 3: Is your internal compass in or out of alignment?
If your words and actions don’t match there’s no need to go any further.

Second Level: My physical and material needs matter to you
The work environment is clean and attractive. Sound, air-quality and safety needs are considered. Teachers have the resources they need to do their job well.

Third level: I am appreciated for my contribution
Leaders actively foster a sense of belonging. Encouragement and recognition is personalised. They put a human face on policies and systems.

Checkpoint 2: Is it your priority to ensure the basic needs of your people are met?
Without valuing people, clear systems, policies and training for staff, a leader’s energy is consumed by chaos or disorganisation and probably interpersonal conflict.

Fourth level: We’re on a journey together
As a community we own the vision, good systems are in place and we are able to direct our collective energies to our core mission.

Checkpoint 1: Do you feel like settling?
It’s all humming along nicely now, let’s just enjoy this. The fourth level is considered the ‘false apex’.

The Apex: Higher order change
This is rarely linear, rational or comfortable. It is disruptive, chaotic and tested by ambiguity. Leaders here demonstrate adaptive leadership skills. This is where the disruption happens. Remember: it isn’t actually an end point.

Fullan & Langworthy (2014) – A Rich Seam: How new pedagogies find deep learning
(Ch 6 The New change leadership)

Maslow’s Hierarchy

22 May

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We just can’t add technology, or add new furniture and hope for the best. We cant just change the timetable or go to semesters and cross our fingers. Effective and lasting change in schools, or any organisation for that matter, is a result of a strategic process, designed to meet the needs of the school, rather than ‘sending a couple of teachers off to a workshop’

If we believe in enduring change for the good of society, then the iceberg metaphor applies. All the hard work happens beneath the surface that makes change go the distance. We are in an era of unprecedented change in education, one in which disruption is necessary in education, for a generation unlike those who have gone before. In their report for A Rich Seam, Fullan and Langworthy (2014) outline ‘new pedagogies’:

They explain that a new process of change is required, called “inherent change”, an almost organic process, “built around humankind’s need to… be doing something intrinsically good and… to do it socially”.

This ‘new change leadership’, necessary for these new pedagogies to take hold is not considered to be either top-down or bottom-up, it needs to be,“both and, it is also sideways. Ideas and energy flow vertically and laterally…. The role of leaders is to simultaneously help the organisation ‘let go’ and ‘rein in’”.

The Essential Leadership Model, outlined by by Knuth & Banks (2006) is based on Maslow’s Hierachy.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity.

Thought for Friday

19 May

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Research into Professional Learning supports the view that schools can no longer afford the luxury of separating professional development activities from the ongoing realities of teachers’ work (Johnson, 1999, p.13.) Teachers need to adopt a learning approach that is ‘relevant’ for our time. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. As leaders and teachers we must clarify our learning needs.

Relevance

17 May

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Research into Professional Learning supports the view that schools can no longer afford the luxury of separating professional development activities from the ongoing realities of teachers’ work (Johnson, 1999, p.13.) Teachers need to adopt a learning approach that is ‘relevant’ for our time. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. As leaders and teachers we must clarify our learning needs and source others to support us in doing so. Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Apps make up the new learning landscape for teachers and leaders of schools.

If capacity building is to be effective and influence school transformation then it needs to be built into the life cycle and culture of schools as learning communities. These characteristics listed by Johnson and Scull are effective and work if the school culture embraces the ideas. A school’s culture must foster an atmosphere that supports teachers, students, and parents to know where they fit in and how they can work as a community to support teaching and learning. Creating a school culture requires instructional leaders to develop a shared vision that is clearly communicated and built on actions. Additionally, principals must create a climate that encourages shared authority and responsibility if they are to build a positive school culture (MacNeil and Maclin, 2005).

My 6 characteristics of learning teams

  1. Learning teams require a reason to learn and a purpose to engage in collaborative professional development practices. Projects provide reason and purpose, and allow an integrated approach to the implementation of curriculum improvement.
  2. Learning team projects are best focused on collective responsibility for producing more effective learning for ALL students.
  3. Learning teams benefit from a combination of outside-provided and work-embedded support
  4. Effective learning teams practise many forms of collaboration and systematic reflection on practice.
  5. A sense of ‘personal productive challenge’ and a balance between pressure and support characterizes the work of effective learning teams.
  6. Learning teams require knowledgeable, skilled and supportive formal leadership

What do you think?

Time to Reflect Again…

15 May

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By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

I love that quote by Confucius. His opinion is still valid, of course, although I’m less sure of the order in which he presents the three paths to wisdom. Perhaps imitation is the easiest, but teaching by modelling involves the use of imitation to some extent, and it is through modelling that the teacher can begin to map the routes to wisdom for the learner. If modelling and imitation come first, then the path to wisdom is broadened and made firmer under-foot through offering practical experiential learning to students. Learning from experience plays a critical part in combining information and skills in context to create knowledge, and the meaning and form that such experiences can take are as varied as the countless subjects and disciplines themselves that comprise the broad sweep of human activity.

In teaching there are many forms of reflection. Some which I am good at yes take a bow Andrew. Others not so much. This can be a reflection on teaching but also on the way you lead your Faculty.

  • Critical self-reflection – taking the time to go back over our own teaching, either from memory, or from notes taken, or increasingly today from a video of our teaching; we do this with the aim of challenging ourselves on what went well or not, and why;
  • Collaborative reflection – working with one or more colleagues who join with you in reflecting on your teaching, perhaps having observed your lesson live, whether via live video, or having watched a recorded video of your teaching after the event; of course, this can, and perhaps should, be reciprocal – collegiate reflection can be very powerful indeed;
  • Coaching and mentoring – working with either a more experienced colleague or an external expert who watches you teach (again either by classroom observation or through the use of video) and is able to offer advice – this can be done live or in retrospect, or both. Equally, working with a colleague or colleagues to mentor/coach each other can make for very effective professional reflection. Our experts sometimes come from our own community.

Technology

12 May

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The digital era – the computer, the network, the Internet, the Web, social technology, universal search, and so much more – changes radically all of the relationships that are critical to how we learn and how we teach: the relationship between teacher and learner; the relationship between the learner and information; the relationship we all have with the concept of learned authority; and the social relationships between ourselves and the rest of the human race. It is of course a hugely complex process of determination, with nuance layered on nuance, but it is undoubtedly true that broad global shifts in technology, such as that between print and digital, determine how learning can happen and therefore should (and inevitably will) determine what it means to teach.

Not Just Innovation

9 May

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Doing what we we’ve always done won’t cut it with today’s learners. They are different and they need different skills to live and work in the 21st century. We need a new and better education for young people in our schools. Schools where timetables, homework, still exist are now irrelevant and nothing like the world of real learning and work. We need our teachers to be better learners in different and new ways, but more importantly we as leaders must be better different learners ourselves. We need an evolution in education that is owned by learners, lead by leaders and designed in deep learning principles.

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