Archive | January, 2018

Can you tell me Why?

30 Jan

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Explaining what we do is a lot simpler than putting our why we do it into words. It is also less effective. One book I read last year was Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. In his book, Sinek talks about how successful individuals and organizations communicate. Instead of explaining what they do, they start with why they do it. “There are only two ways to influence human behaviour,” Sinek says, “you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

This entire practice  of asking “Why” is relevant for all of us not only educators. As a school leader I need to be crystal clear about the value of the change and make sure everyone within the organization understands the why driving the change. I must ask some of the following questions:

  • How will it improve the students’ experience as learners?
  • How will it free teachers to spend more time on the aspects of their job that they enjoy?
  • How will this create more dynamic and relevant learning?

If leaders are clear about their why, teachers are more likely to buy in and take risks. Similarly, teachers will be more effective if they articulate their why for themselves and explain their why to students.

So as I start the year I am asking this “Why” questions a great deal more. How about you?

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Professional Reading January

29 Jan

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I know there are lots of books out there on creativity but Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert has a great deal to say. Gilbert writes that one of the biggest roadblocks to creativity is fear. Whether it’s the fear or failure or the fear of rejection, staff must be encouraged to speak up because often they won’t because they’re scared that their ideas won’t pass the test. As a leader, it’s up to you to communicate to employees that creative ideas are welcome and encouraged. A way to do this effectively is by clearly communicating that ideas are encouraged, and failure is not shunned, but instead viewed as a learning tool. We are teachers after all. Lifelong learners.

It can be hard to let your people make mistakes, but the same failure that stops them in their tracks can be the failure that helps them develop a stronger solution or idea. Instead of expecting perfection, good leaders inspire their employees to fail quickly and makes them feel safe enough to share and try their ideas. We do it with our students so why not with staff?

 

Leading in the Age of Change

22 Jan

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As school leaders looking to lead complex change, must clearly define and articulate the vision for a staff to get behind it. Such leadership is central to keep our schools relevant. We must do more than talking and spouting phrases such as we are future focussed.

If we expect an instructional pedagogy to shift, the learning space – must also shift. Shifting instructional practices requires shifting spaces. No longer is the desks-in-rows, easy-to-clean set-up relevant for a personal approach to learning. If we expect collaborative work focused on higher-order thinking skills and problem solving, the learning space must reflect the desired pedagogy. All staff must reflect his also.

For our students’ future success, teachers must utilize high quality pedagogy, accelerated by technology, to unleash the needed skills. The teacher-centric, industrial-age model of classroom instruction will not prepare tomorrow’s students for a world of work where automation and robots have removed many of today’s traditional, low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Tomorrow’s workers must be able to problem solve, collaborate, and think creatively. Simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction doesn’t create the needed learning opportunities for tomorrow’s workforce.

Above all else our relationships are so important. Building dynamic relationships helps transform culture, laying the foundation for instructional shifts to occur.

As I reflect on our curriculum inquiry I was fascinated in this resource this week.

 

Classroom Walkthroughs

17 Jan

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Conducting classroom walkthroughs is not a new concept. This year as a Leader of Learning group I would like to pursue these further. These can be powerful tools but only when used correctly. Here are some of my thoughts on these:

  1. Do it together.

It is a partnership. Classroom walk-throughs are not meant to be conducted in isolation. Have staff walk through classroom. This way, the teachers conducting the walkthroughs can debrief after each visit, discussing what strategies the teacher was utilizing. Make it safe and relational. You want staff to embrace and discuss the data, not be defensive. It can be stressful so to avoid this concern, leave a post-it note on the teacher’s desk at the end. Pick out one positive instructional element and praise them for it. This will put them at ease and open the door for future conversations.

  1. Purposeful and Authentic

Classroom walk-throughs need to be a priority. Time must be scheduled to do these. It is important that these are at different times of the day.

  1. Share the Data

Like in any case collecting data will not be of any service to anyone unless it is shared, analyzed, discussed and acted upon. Remember to be clinical, not critical with the analysis. Use the Data To Make Change. Remember data is useless unless you do something with it. Once the data is analyzed, discussed, and digested, use the data to decide where you need to go with professional development.

Have you had much success with classroom walkthroughs? Have you any tips for me as I go forward with these?

Learning and Teaching

12 Jan

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Teaching is a specific skill. It is in our country undervalued. The instructional core values of the role of the teacher in the ever-changing educational space is complex. There is a need to focus on good teaching, and in this comes from reflective practice. In New Zealand, Our Teaching Standards are working to make teachings standards actually living documents and focus points for lifting the esteem and productivity of the profession. The most important work of the standards, as I see it , is their advocacy for building learning communities; teachers as learners.

I have been thinking deeply about the core teaching business. Like all educators I have had good lessons, great lessons and some unsuccessful ones too. Good and not so good inquiry. Indeed some real failures. I mentioned earlier the idea that we want to unpack as Leaders of Learning this year is  the concept of the instructional core, in preparation for classroom observation.

Teaching of content clearly leads to learning but we can look at this framework as the core business, where good teachers affect learning by building relationships with their learners and a deep passion for the content. It is the teacher who makes these connections sparkle.

I agree that PBL/ Inquiry is key to ‘education’, the joy in learning the specifics of our world and the ideas of fellow people are awesome and certainly, an understanding of such siloed concepts is taken higher when students are guided in inquiry and cross curricular discovery. When students have agency it goes through the roof.

I suppose as I conclude two things are central to my thinking:

What is Learning?

How do I know it is successful? (It must be more than about formal assessment also)

What are your thoughts?

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