Archive | July, 2018

More LwDT

22 Jul

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Last week I left my phone at home and the day at school was difficult. A little, like this.

Think about this. When was the last time that you left your cell phone at home? If you left it at home, did you go back home to get it? My students are bringing their devices to school everyday, so there is not a question of whether or not to have BYOD, Bring Your Own Device.  Our school is a BYOD school because parents have equipped their children with devices. I have seen different ways that we have embraced BYOD. It reminds me of the SAMR model.

  1.  Negative Embracement

For fear that students will use their devices for inappropriate purposes, teachers ban them altogether.  They institute fine systems for pulling them out in class; therefore, students learn to use personal devices in a very secretive way. The result of this form of embracement is negative in every way: time wasted correcting students and negative student perceptions of school.  Even worse, there is a negative impact on learning because students will find a way to use their device regardless of punitive tools at your disposal.

  1. Dispassionate Embracement

Because school staff know that devices are everywhere, and they can’t eliminate them, they choose to put policies in place that tolerate cell phones. Students are allowed to use them at times where learning does not occur such as during class change, during lunch or during “free-time” at the end of class. In this system students are conditioned to believe that devices carry no real potential to enhance learning. They are explicitly taught that personal devices are for personal business and nothing more. The result of this form of BYOD is negligible.  Time isn’t wasted, but it isn’t really maximized either.  Learning isn’t really enhanced either.  The status quo keeps pretty much everything stagnant. This form of embracement puts learning in neutral.

  1. Constructive Embracement

Since the potential found in devices is limitless, schools are finding unique and innovative ways to incorporate technology into every aspect of their system. Schools are eliminating announcements in place of using social media to communicate with kids. Research is being conducted on screens instead of in books. Technology is being leveraged.  Positive effects are abounding because with proper procedures and training for staff, students are more engaged, more connected and more focused. Their learning becomes more relevant, more purposeful and more productive. The more successful the integration, the more positive rewards students will reap from their learning.  Positive embracement of technology occurs only when technology is infused into areas where learning is expected to take place.

Take time to quietly reflect how is your school approaching this? Which category do you really sit in?

 

 

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Don’t Stop Believing

19 Jul

Leadership

One of my mentors often says to me “You have to believe in yourself”.   You cannot accomplish anything if you do not believe in yourself.   However, this statement does not fully apply to education. Educators work in a comprehensive system; therefore, educators can believe in themselves all they want to, but there is a truckload of other factors and people that affect how one teacher can perform.  In other words, if every teacher in the system is to reach the pinnacle of success, it will require beliefs that are much deeper than a tangible belief in ourselves. At this stage, it make want to dance around my lounge to that song by Journey.

Belief in yourself is not the ultimate goal for educators but the first step. If an organization desires to reach the pinnacle of excellence, a bunch of people who believe in themselves is a great goal but if the focus is on kids, individual belief isn’t enough because believing in yourself and no one else can only impact 1 year in a child’s life.   If you don’t believe me that believing in yourself isn’t enough, then watch “Mr. Holland’s Opus” or any other Hollywood movie of a teacher with the ultimate belief.

My role this term will be to believe and empower my team more. Teams that trust in each other believe in each other. They have positive presuppositions about one another’s motives, abilities and contributions. They lean on each other in times of difficulty and hold each other to high standards because of that belief.  A team of individuals who believe in themselves and in one another is a huge step up from any belief in yourself because it takes courage, trust and confidence in something bigger than yourself.  Furthermore, teams that believe in themselves expand a positive influence and impact directly onto more students, but this is not the ultimate belief. The team only impacts one segment of the system, not the entire system. There has to be something bigger to affect all tamariki in every day of their education.

Asking Good Questions

18 Jul

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As reflect on my classroom practice during the break I remind myself I must do better at asking question. I am reminded by Simon Sinek about talking last. This is no one of my strengths.

In class here are some techniques I am working on.

What are you thinking? When I want to elicit responses from my students, I give them time to clarify their thoughts through writing. This time to reflect prepares them for class discussion. As hands go up, I say each student’s name and ask, “What are you thinking?” After I listen to the response, I follow up with questions such as, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “What led you to that conclusion?”

Sometimes I will add my own thoughts, but often it’s enough just to hear theirs. I sometimes share too much and this can shut the conversation down.

My students know that I care about what they think because their insights lead us all to deeper understanding. Fostering real conversations ensures that our classrooms become places of academic inquiry and collaboration founded on a sense of fairness and mutual respect.

Feedback. I love using Microsoft forms as student voice. I have also adapted student voice panels to use a form of twitter or elevator pitch.

Do you remember when? I often circle back to students’ contributions to show them that their thoughts and efforts matter to me. I’ll remind Jess how I loved her frequent and enthusiastic understanding of Catholic Social Teaching this year, and I can always get a rise out of Charlotte if I question the role of women in the Catholic Church.!”

Sometimes, I’ll repeat memorable lines from student presentations: “Hannah, that reminds me of when you said..”  Students follow my lead in recounting favourite moments from the year, which builds community and strengthens relationships.

 

In the Classroom

16 Jul

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I have been reflecting on my classroom practice. In my role, I see I have two classrooms. One is Room 115 where I teach two Religious Studies classes per day. The other is the Staffroom. My connections with staff is vital in my role as a member of the SLT. Here are a few descriptors of some things that are my focus on a being the best I can be as a teacher.

Seeing Christ in all of our students. Man this is hard some days.

Being able to Collaborate. This the focus of our inquiry at school this year. A constant desire to learn with and from colleagues to find ways to improve my pedagogy.

Tenacity that is the ability to be obsessive about creative ways to hook every child into learning and discovering their purpose in life.

Breaking through barriers. I know every day we face difficult conversations but this just makes us stronger.

Energy that is the kind that inspires learners to surpass content consumption and see the impact that their learning  can make on the world. This can be tough especially in the winter term.

Being accountable to a focused and committed environment that takes learners from where they are to where they need to be, but goes a step further by transforming engaged students into empowered learners.

Hardwork, which generally goes far beyond the hours and confines of the school building.

Inward Inquiry and Being a Lifelong Learner. Constantly asking the question, “How can I improve?”

The greatest teachers know how to elicit greatness from their students. Teaching is a difficult profession.  It is sometimes thankless, but there are those times when it is the most fulfilling and most personally rewarding gift that a person could ever give themselves.

My Leadership Journey in 2018

11 Jul

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Ahh the holiday and I reflect today on my work. I am working on growing our middle leaders at school this year. I have learnt when it all boils down to it, leadership is about two things: vision and trust.

Trust can be earned. By practising the leadership skills that engender trust you can become a better leader. However, the size of the vision you can cast will determine how far you go with your leadership.

Vision has been defined as a combination of ‘a deep dissatisfaction with what is and a clear grasp of what could be’. Some people have a natural ability to cast a vision, to see what could be, others don’t have that natural ability.

For example, when looking at places to buy some people can see potential in a run-down house, what it could become, while some will just see the run-down house, and still others will accept it for what it is and move in regardless.

Without vision, seeing a different future or possibilities, you are simply managing.

Leading is the ability to take a group of people and realizing the vision. This can only be done if those you are compelling to join you on the journey are willing to trust you. Otherwise you will have to resort to doing it all on your own, or coercing people through manipulation.

Be the best you can be

9 Jul

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I want to be the very best school leader I can be. Why, because for me being a principal (or a teacher for that matter) is more than a job, it’s a vocation. I don’t go to work to produce something, to sell something, or to manage something. I go to work to make a difference. And that difference is measured in people’s lives.

What I do, the decisions I make, the school culture I create, the way I lead will make a difference in countless people’s lives. It can make a difference to the earning capacity of a young person; it can make a difference to a person’s sense of self-worth, to their well-being, the lives of their families. The sense of responsibility is huge.

I often compare myself with other leaders, listen to what they do, learn from their wisdom and experience. However, one thing I really need as a leader is feedback. Without feedback I cannot truly understand the real impact I am having and how I can improve.

To promote growth feedback is vital. But to be of real value a recipient really needs to want it, be willing to listen to it and ultimately, have the desire to be the very best they can be for the responsibly they carry as an educator is enormous.

The same can be said about teaching. I don’t understand why all teachers aren’t driven by the enormous responsibility they have to very best they can be. Our children, and their children deserve outstanding teaching and outstanding schools.

Do you value and welcome feedback? What motivates you as an educator? Is teaching and school leadership more than just a job? If you are a leader, where do you get your feedback from?

Talking About Your Practice

7 Jul

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The staff room is often the best PLD source you will get during the year. I see it every lunchtime. As teachers engage students in dialogue about their learning, the guiding principle must be looking at how student involvement in each teacher-created assessment reflects a bigger plan for involving students in their own assessment. The role of the classroom teacher is to help each student bridge the gap between where that student is and where that student needs to be. It is really important not to over assess. This requires specific assessment practices, such as differentiating instruction, re-teaching certain targets, or re-sorting students to allow for small-group work connected to teacher strengths.

For example, an analysis of the results of students on a common assessment may reveal that although some students struggled with certain concepts, Teacher A had great success with that concept with a class of students. Teacher A can then re-teach the key concept to the struggling students while the remaining teachers in the departmental or grade-level team moves forward with the other students.

It’s also clear that changes in teacher practice requires support from leadership. If Teacher A is going to be able to re-teach struggling students, for example, she requires a principal who supports flexibility in teacher and student timetables. School leaders can further support teachers’ effort to close the gap by providing common preparation time for teacher teams or subject-area specialists, ensuring that professional development is aligned with the goal of improving student success, and providing time at staff meetings for a focused look at results of recent assessments.

 

Tui Motu article: As a teacher….

6 Jul

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I teach in a Catholic school because I love being part of the authentic community that is Catholic schools. We are called to teach with Christ. This passion was formed after eleven years of Catholic education under two religious orders. The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, (“Brown Joes”) and the De la Salle Brothers. In 1994 I began my teacher career in Catholic schools at Francis Douglas College four years after I had been Head Boy.

Our schools are a tight-knit community of teachers, students, whānau , and parish.  Some could say that it is because we all have that one thing that binds us together-faith, but I think it is more towards the fact that we truly care about each other.  Over the years, I have had students who return after graduation talking of how much they loved the sense of belonging while attending our schools and the role we played in their faith journey.

I teach in a Catholic school because we are whānau. We are linked together over students we have watched grow over the years.  We get to know each child on an individual level.  Staff, students, and parents all come together and pray for those who are sick, celebrate a new baby, or even provide a special gift to a family in need.

Being a teacher in a Catholic school encourages me in my faith. All teachers are being watched daily by their students and parents.  Eyes are always watching to see how to react and how we should structure our behaviours.  Parents are personally making sure teachers are meeting their child’s needs.  In our schools, students are also watching my own responses to faith.  My students can smell the difference between real and fake, so this encourages me to constantly keep myself in check and be authentic in my relationship with my students and God. This can be a real challenge. While a DRS and coach of a crack Under 16 rugby team the boys would often look at my reaction to referees call. I constantly reminded myself I was “in the presence of my God!”

Everything is geared towards Christ. In the Catholic school, I am able to complement, discuss, and even explain my beliefs without worry of offending my students.  I can commend a student or thank a student for their help during Mass.  Students can openly discuss their faith and our daily lessons are often linked to our charism.

No matter where you work, obstacles are always encountered.  Working in a Catholic school, you can seek help from a higher authority.  Our staff begins each week in prayer.  We gather together in our staffroom, and thank God for our abilities and blessings, and ask for his help.  Throughout the school year, we support each other in highs and lows.  We celebrate the small victories and pray over difficult times.  We are assured through our faith that no matter what happens, God’s love for us will be there forever. I teach in a Catholic school because I feel I am, we are, all living the Christs mission.

 

Mentoring: Leaders and Managers

4 Jul

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This week I asked one of my leaders of learning what being a leader is all about and I shared this Covey (1989) analogy:

Imagine a group of people cutting a path through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out. The managers are behind them, sharpening the machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up work schedules. The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, ‘this way’.

Don’t be confused, management is not leadership. The key difference is vision. A true leader has a vision, and that vision is compelling enough to entice people to follow

Vision is important as a school leader but vision is not enough. No one is a leader without someone to follow; and no one will follow a leader, particularly into the unknown, if they don’t trust him/her. Trust is the critical ingredient that goes hand in glove with vision. Without it leaders cannot expect people to work together to achieve the vision: and ultimately, without trust, the leader will lose credibility and fail (Sergiovanni, 2005; Reina & Reina, 2006).

When a leader turns their attention to trust they begin to reflect on their own behaviour and how it impacts their relationship with the people who choose to follow them. When you examine the practices all the qualities of good leadership espoused in the plethora of literature, models and styles, is encompassed by the notion of trust. For example, humility, transparency, honesty, confidence, respect, courage, empathy, and above all, a genuine focus and commitment to the people who have chosen to go for the vision, rather than the selfish ambition of a bad leader. Good leadership boils down to just two things: vision and trust.

Covey, S. (1989). Seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Reina, D., & Reina, M. (2006). Trust and betrayal in the workplace  (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Sergiovanni, T. (2005). Strengthening the Heartbeat. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

Being Smart with Smart Phones

1 Jul

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I have witnessed the impact that rapidly evolving smart phones had in the classroom. A new behavioural issue fast became a key challenge – how to deal with yet another distraction.

However, those same phones also became a valuable resource for many innovative teachers. Here was an opportunity to develop innovative learning strategies using technology which provided students with access to a knowledge base far beyond the confines of the classroom.

Some teachers use interactive learning activities such as the game-based platform Kahoot!, others may simply wish their students to use those devices for research, recording interviews or taking pictures of a brainstorm of a class discussion. In these cases, it is reasonable for teachers to encourage their students to use their smart phones.

But this innovative approach comes with complications. How can teachers be sure that students are using their phones for learning rather than accessing social media? Students themselves are then expected to justify the use of their smart phone. This requires a high trust model. A relational approach.

Technology has developed at a speed which is difficult to keep up with – and with each advancement comes an expectation for teachers to have either a solution or strategy. As a profession we need to consider how we can make this effective tool work for us.

 

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