Archive | July, 2017

Bringing Staff Together

31 Jul

Business Communication Duplicate model

A key test of our  leadership is the degree to which you are able to inspire and motivate others, so that others feel both willing and able to turn your dreams for your school into reality. But …. as  you well know this is a task that is easier said than done. Uniting Hearts and Minds. The reason why so many leaders become exhausted by the whole school development process is because schools are complex organisations to lead and manage. A school is not one homogeneous identity. Far from it. Schools are complex and dynamic structures because they are made up of individuals from a diverse set of backgrounds, cultures, histories and values. It can be argued that much of the process of school improvement is about enabling others to value and respect each other’s perspectives whilst at the same time learning how to bring these differing perspectives into alignment, so that all are united in both heart and mind around achieving the school’s core vision and purpose.

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Support Systems

28 Jul

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On a cold Friday afternoon in term 3 it’s easy to lose sight of why you wanted to get into school leadership to begin with, but my faith or vocation is the anchor that will keep me going when times get tough. If it’s been a while since you thought about your anchor, then make it a priority this week to set aside some time and think it through again. What are your values? What gives you energy and joy? Why did you want to do this job to begin with?

Once you’ve done that, you can then take stock of where you are now and where there may be some gaps between the reality and your big why. How can you bridge those gaps?

You need to make sure that you have some good emotional and mental support, and I’m not talking about other school leaders. While it’s great to have industry friends, what so often tends to happen is that school leaders transition from comforting each other into sharing war stories. When this happens the conversations place a drain on your emotions and you only end up feeling even more battle weary. Having a neutral source of support outside your immediate circle is so important. Conversations with a professional outside of your context can enable you to gain new insights and see your problems from a different perspective. Rather than drain you, these conversations help to fill up your emotional wells so that you are able to approach the demands of your job with renewed energy and vigour. Let me know about your anchor. Would love to hear from you. 

Workplace Culture

25 Jul

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Keep it on the quiet but I love the people that I work with and the mahi that we do. I believe is truly a special vocation. But even in the strongest of relationships (especially in the strongest relationships—we take those the most for granted) we can unintentionally slow down progress or build resentments if we’re not careful to honor what’s important; not just what’s important to me, but what’s important to we.

Come to think of it, how much better would all of my relationships be if I started to pay closer attention to the “we” importance over the “me” importance? I must be careful about the language I use eg Leading my team. I know when staff get frustrated because they refer to me as a manager rather than leader. Very subtly of course.

Because I suppose the truth of it is, we’re all right about what’s important? So rather than trying to figure out who gets to decide which one of us is more important, why not try to hold both as equal? Because in the end we just want to feel heard; we want to feel respected; we want to feel understood. And the best way to do that for each other is to listen and ask questions… to take the time to find out what each other wants.  To take the time, period.

365 Rules OK

23 Jul

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The beauty of Office 365 is that you can get to your work from any device; be it your personal mobile phone or your wife’s work device. I have learnt that if you aren’t using your usual device, make sure you note your login and password details somewhere safe – there’s nothing worse than realising that your own devices automatically log you in, and you don’t recall what to do when things don’t happen ‘auto-magically’.

A Relational Approach

23 Jul

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I am a great believer in starting with a clean slate. There is no better to time to this than at the start of the term. The first day of the school term and every day after provides the perfect opportunity to stand at your door, in the hallways, and meet and greet everyone. When I mean everyone, I mean everyone! I propose this because we will never know what student or colleague will build a connection with us. These short and sincere encounters with people in our communities are what begin to build the strong fibers of an interconnected environment. Ask: What is your name? What is your favorite thing about school? What do you want to be when you grow up? What are your interests? How has his day been so far? Relationships, like trust, build slowly over time. As leaders in the community we must provide the time and space to nurture all kinds of relationship building, whenever possible. What would our schools be like if we knew everyone? Building relationships with everybody helps all of us build a community. A whanau. It allows us to know who connects with whom and who can support whom in a time of need. The same can be said with staff culture.

What are your best practices in relationship building? Where do you struggle? Share both with us below in the comments sections—we’ll celebrate along with you and troubleshoot wherever necessary.

Encourage the Critical Element

20 Jul

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As I lead my team this year I must consider this idea more. As educators, we want our students to be critical thinkers—to question and show skepticism. We teach them to cite data to support their opinions and to test theories and hypotheses for evidence that supports a claim. But when it’s time to implement school change, we often don’t appreciate these same qualities in our colleagues. Wouldn’t it be better if all teachers just followed suit, never offered any criticism, and made the job of the leaders easier?

Actually, if our fellow teachers are questioning our ideas and making change efforts difficult, someone along the way has done an excellent job of promoting critical thinking and skepticism in those teachers. But how do we both value constructive critique and move an initiative forward at a pace that leads to implementation in less than a decade? The key may lie in what Intel calls “disagree and commit.”

Kids are Addicted to Technology

17 Jul

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I found this recently and I believe it is about the best summary of teenagers and use of devices I have ever read. So I share.

The idea kids are addicted to technology. Yes, it is true that nearly a quarter of teens go online “almost constantly,” according to the latest research from the Pew Research Center. But it’s not the technology that teens are addicted to — it’s their friends. Their use of technology, especially mobile phones, allows them to easily connect with peers and receive validation for who they are and who they are trying to become, which is developmentally and socially normative behavior.

What are your thoughts?

Being Relational and Empathy

16 Jul

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Empathy is so important and it something we all need to work on. Empathy is now considered one of the most important skills in the 21st Century. Teaching empathy. Learning empathy. It is something I reflect on often in my role. When interview students and staff I think about these things. I found at a recent workshop on the Law and Education that being good at these things solved so many problems.

When interviewing I practice the following:

  • Ask why. Even when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things. The answers will sometimes surprise you. A conversation started from one question should go on as long as it needs.
  • Never say “usually” when asking a question. Instead, ask about a specific instance or occurrence, such as “tell me about the last time you ______.”
  • Encourage stories. Whether or not the stories people tell are true, they reveal how they think about the world. Ask questions that get people telling stories.
  • Look for inconsistencies. Sometimes what people say and what they do are different. These inconsistencies often hide interesting insights.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Be aware of body language and emotions. Have tissues handy.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Interviewers often feel the need to ask another question when there is a pause. If you allow for silence, a person can reflect on what they’ve just said and may reveal something deeper.
  • Don’t suggest answers to your questions. This can unintentionally get people to say things that agree with your expectations.
  • Ask questions neutrally. “What do you think about buying gifts for your spouse?” is a better question than “Don’t you think shopping is great?” because the first question doesn’t imply that there is a right answer.
  • Don’t ask binary questions. Binary questions can be answered in a word; you want to host a conversation built upon stories.

Getting on the Waka together

14 Jul

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The winter term is a particularly busy time in schools and can often be when fractures in relationships are more obvious. It can be all too easy with the frenetic pace of school life to forget that relationships need to be kept well oiled to enable school life to function smoothly and with as little disruption and conflict as possible.
Being a restorative school and being on the related contracted has made me reflect on these. Recently at a course on education and the law I noted that so many issues can be solved by being restorative and relational. So when conflict and disruptions occur what are the 3 key steps that individuals can take to restore fractured relationships?
 
Korero.
 
If there is an unresolved issue between you and someone that you lead or manage, make time to talk with and not to or at them. Every person has their side of the story that needs to be told. In the right environment, telling our story enables us to make sense of our experiences and can bring a sense of clarity and perspective.
To ensure that this is successful, you will need to find an objective’ space in which to meet;  one that allows you both to  be and assume equal status for the discussion.
Listen
 
Listening can be one of the most powerful tools that an individual can have in seeking to restore a relationship. If you are in conflict with another person and truly want to bring resolution to the relationship. I often in my coaching sessions let people talk until they get off their chest what has been going on for them.
In our busy working lives, we have forgotten how to truly listen; most of the time our minds our pre-occupied with either how to respond to what we have just heard, or the next task that we have to complete on our ˜to do’ list or what to cook for supper.
With all the PLD out there we have become masters at given the impression that we are listening, but that’s just all it is, an impression. Sometimes its not for real. You must also reflect back. Ask questions. So have a think is there any relationship that you are in at the moment that could benefit from the simple process of: Finding a safe space and time for good robust korero, listening to one another and reflect back.

The SAMR Model

12 Jul

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SAMR, most basically, is a technology integration model for educators developed by Dr. Ruben Puntedura.  It outlines four categories of technology integration as in the diagram above.

While I’m still striving to transform many aspects of my instruction with technology, I now recognize the enhancement levels are completely appropriate for a number of tasks and occasions.  In fact, I still appreciate the “no technology” level at various times as well. The key, I believe, is matching technology integration to pedagogy or purpose. This has been fundamental to our journey.

Substitution: Technology is a direct substitute for what was done before; the core idea of the task remains the same

  • Students annotate an article with MS Word–they highlight, insert comments, and keep it for later use with a writing project→ Though done in a digital format, the annotation task and resulting product remain the same
  • Students complete and submit an exit task in Classroom; the teacher scrolls through the responses and makes mental notes of what to re-teach tomorrow→ Again, though completed digitally, the feedback loop remains the same as what was with scratch paper responses submitted as students walked out the door.
  • PowerPoint being used by staff instead of a blackboard.

It is important to reiterate to staff that LwDT is more than substitution.

 

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