Archive | March, 2019

Computational Thinking

31 Mar

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This week at school we have done some work on implementing the new digital curriculum in 2020. We have entered a modern age of education where classrooms are commonly filled with students who are programming robots, using data to create a plan for reducing food waste or plastic or working with a computer to design a 3D model of an area of our local environment. Computational Thinking one of the elements of the digital curriculum.

Computational Thinking is not “thinking like a computer,” but a set of foundational skills that harness the power of computing to solve problems. It involves formulating problems in a way that a computer can solve them, analyzing data, using models, creating simulations and employing a step-by-step approach to solve problems efficiently and effectively.

Today’s students have grown up with technology at their fingertips. Computational Thinking transforms students from consumers of content into creators of content.

Advances in computing have expanded our capacity to solve problems at a scale never imagined, using strategies that have not been available to us before. Students will need skills to be successful. Students will need to learn and Computational Thinking skills to take full advantage of rapid changes in technology.

Through workshops last week we identified Computational Thinking activities in many classes, from maths and art to music and Te Reo. We know there’s a strong economic imperative to prepare the next generation of -literate students but I think it’s about giving students the essential skills to create their own futures and helping them find meaning in the tech-powered world around them.

How are you delivering this new curriculum? What are your challenges?

 

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Catholic Teachers Focus

31 Mar

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One of my soapboxes is that Catholic education is more than having a religion class every day and learning about the Sacraments or ways of our faith. Catholic education is living out the Sacraments and treating one another well.  Catholic education is being able to recognize a student that is struggling with a difficult situation and approaching that student and saying a quick prayer. Catholic education is being able to find those teachable moments and guiding a student to learn to trust the Holy Spirit will guide them to become an even stronger student.

Placing Christ as the centre of my teaching is essential. It’s not just important because I teach at a Catholic school, but it’s also important because my students deserve it. Students deserve an environment where they can grow and learn in the faith. They want this environment. They want opportunities to ask questions about Catholicism.

Our theme at school this year is living our lives with love. As teachers in a catholic school we have to continue to let our light shine. We cannot stop letting it shine because of challenges that we may encounter. We need to have our lights shine brighter during these difficult moments. We each face challenges throughout our lives, but we need to find ways to let our light shine through any crack in that challenge and find a motivation to move forward.

I need to ask myself in our environment ‘Am I there to teach or am I there to lead students to draw closer in their relationship with God?’

I feel I am there to lead students to draw closer in their relationship with God. I enjoy attending Mass and participating in liturgy as a school. I need to be reminded of how my students are forming their conscience and growing in their faith. This reminder makes me realize that I am still learning and growing in my faith.

The growth of my students is an aspect of their learning that I find joy in undergoing. Yes, I am there to teach them history, numeracy, literacy, reading, and rope climbing. But more importantly than the national curriculum or the key competencies, I am around to teach them how to be positive members of our community. I am there to teach them that decisions need to be made with faith and morality as their guide. My faith needs to be a role model. My responsibility is to the community, the parish, the parents, and most importantly the students. If I can’t provide my students with the best religious education experience possible, I need to find ways to do that. I need to lead them to a stronger relationship with Christ.

Catholic education is my vocation. I feel that I have been called to be a teacher in a Catholic school. I feel that I need to be in a classroom to share my faith and to learn with my students. I want to be in the classroom and grow in faith. Teachers need to share the why they are teaching with students and I do share with them my reasons.

Catholic educators need to provide opportunities for students to grow their faith. Walk along the path with them as they journey through new ways to grow their faith. Being a Catholic school teacher is a privilege. Teachers need to treat it as such. Where else can we participate in the education of children and help them become positive leaders in our faith all while growing in our own faith at the same time?

 

Not Leading …

28 Mar

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Leadership is hard but it’s also important. Vitally important. And it begins with how leaders treat people. Unfortunately, if you’re a leader and you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir. Ineffective leaders are those who have all of the attributes from the above list. Have you worked for one? What would you do differently?

I have found how I lead in the school environment depends on the situation. I need to remember they have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and they lose those best intentions. I sometimes enter into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) I 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. I often use the GROW MODEL. Understanding the current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

In Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he shows us this.  Covey showed me leadership isn’t about getting what we want and feeding our egos. Leadership is about raising the self-efficacy of others and collectively working to improve our school community together. That happens in creative communities more than it happens in compliant communities, and we know which 7 habits belong to each one.

Just like there are habits of highly successful leaders, there are habits that can bring leaders to a place of ineffectiveness.

These are things which I have been reflecting on this week as we reach the crunch time of the term.

Be reactive – Leaders who always seem to not see things coming and lack the ability to work with their school community on a collective goal.

There’s no end in mind – Everyone in the school is working on their individual goals…if they have one…and the leader doesn’t think about the future as much as they keep getting stuck in issues in the present.

Ego first – In Jim Knight’s work we talk a lot about status. Leaders have it because of their position. However, great leaders have status but they lower theirs and raise the status of those around them, which is often referred to self-efficacy. Unfortunately there are leaders who let their ego rule and that’s what they lead with every time.

My way or the highway – Instead of focusing on being collaborative and working with these leaders are more concerned with controlling everything and getting their own way. They walk into a faculty meeting with one idea and walk out with the same one.

Seek to be understood – Ego first. My way or the highway. Get on the waka or get out.

Discord – These leaders always seem to disagree with someone and they try their best to build consensus by getting others to agree with them at the same time they vilify those who disagree with them.

Efficacy Killers – These leaders are consistently going after new initiatives, so their staff feel tired, lost and insecure. They micromanage and look for compliance on all issues.

I sometimes see myself here but not often. The Leadership Framework is now a key document for all teachers. We are all leaders in some way. How is this reflected in your appraisal documentation?

 

Perspective

20 Mar

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It is often in March that I get down to the real business of the focus of the year. As I discerned over recent weeks I need to reflect upon where I have been and where I want to go. 2018 was a great year for me as an educator. I grew as a teacher and mentor. I also learned the importance of reflection and prayer as a tool for professional development and growing my PLN. I would say that my word for 2018, Passion, was a driving force behind all that I did. I know that my passion for education has grown and I know that I will still use passion as a special word for me.

Now as we begin 2019, my new word for this year will be Perspective; that is ensuring maintaining a work life Perspective to ensure I can be the best I can be in my leadership role. I need to keep what I do in perspective of where my students are. I need to ensure that my perspective remains on what is best for my students. I need to venture out and see new ideas on what other teachers are doing and how they are educating their students. I also need the perspective of seeing my actions and how I treat others through the eyes of my students. I need to remain fair and just to all my students.

My perspectives on many educational topics differ than those of other teachers in my building. Even though we differ, I cannot simply say that they are wrong and that I am right. I need to see perspectives on educational topics from the viewpoints of those that differ from mine. I am not so good at this. This is a work on.

I also need to allow students to show their Perspectives through creativity. I want students to share their Perspectives on topics that we discuss in class. I want students to have their Perspective recognized as important.

Perspective is also important to my career. I need to reflect on what is going to be next. This is a big deal for me. This will be an essential area of reflection for me. Perspective is going to be an area of growth for me.

What is your big focus?

Catholic Parish and School

16 Mar

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In the catholic education sector we recognize that our schools can support some of our parents by offering more opportunities for communal prayer and providing information to help them work on deepening their faith with their children; however, we also recognize the diversity of our communities and we welcome children and families from all religions of the world in our schools. All our celebrations, liturgies and para-liturgies are inclusive and are designed to allow children to develop their own spiritual identity whether as Catholics, Christians of other denominations or of other faiths. The biculturalism of our nation demands it. As a New Zealanders I expect it. Catholic schools promote personal and communal prayer and reflection and as a community of faith we seek to empower each individual to understand, live and bear witness to his/her faith whilst maintaining a respectful awareness of others’ beliefs. We are on a journey of faith together as a community. We often talk about Student Learning Outcomes in educational circles but what is our desired “outcome” for our children, or for that matter ourselves? For most of us that is an eschatological dimension – something beyond our current reality. In establishing our personal relationships with God we can subsequently grow as a community of faith and journey together towards passing the ultimate test and securing everlasting life.

Problem Solving with Staff

15 Mar

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Reminder One:Teachers are well-intentioned, hard-working people who care about students.

This seems obvious to everyone who works in schools. “Of course teachers are good people.” However as SLT we sometimes find that their everyday thoughts and actions don’t always reflect this belief.

There are many more of these kinds of issues that provoke this kind of complaining among staff:

  • increase reports and completed paperwork
  • new projects eg the Digital Curriculum
  • changing school directions

In schools where leaders are working hard to be collaborative, respectful and responsive to needs, we can sometimes fall into what I call the “rabitt hole” where there is an expectation of an endless supply of time to listen to complaints that are directed at a situation they didn’t create.

The emotions it evokes are usually from the anger to indignation – from annoyance to seething resentment and outrage. There are often some fear emotions that are evoked as well. For me this is exhausting.

This rabbit hole contains the belief that a good leader must listen to people’s complaints, even when there is a limited scope for making substantive changes.  The challenge implicit in this belief and behaviour is that the act of listening, often leads to an implicit expectation on the part of the complainers that something will be done. To listen and not to act, can therefore erode your relationship with people over the long term.   To listen over and over again, can lead to a host of frustrations that don’t have an outlet. Recently in this space I have been doing some reading and trying a few new things in my leadership journey.

1) Be strong about what is your purpose.

We know that there is rich information in complaints. I have discovered Appreciative Listening.   So, instead of listening, and feeling it’s your job to defend or sell the change, start with listening to hear what is behind the complaints. Consider communicating your purpose by saying: I’m listening because right now because I don’t yet know the best way to implement this required external change. My hope is, that by understanding all aspects of this change and it’s anticipated effects, it will help us to be more creative and conscious about the choices we have in the implementation of this change.

Then ask the question: When you anticipate this change being implemented, what concerns does it raise for you? (You can ask, if you want to, what hopes or benefits do you see?   However, depending on the nature of the change, this might be a better question to ask at the end of the conversation.)

Your task then is to capture what you hear people say in order not to miss anythingDo so visibly in a notepad in front of you. Or, on a white board. Or, on a projected screen. Or, ask someone to help the group keep track so that you can in fact, stay focused on the speaker.

2) Find the underlying value or quality that is implicit in the complaint.

Ask help to identify what value or quality underlies each complaint, until people feel that they’re repeating themselves and there is nothing new to be learned.

3) Next step: Take these values and qualities and ask for help putting them into the major themes related to this change.

4) Ask the question: What are the possible ways we could manage the implementation of this change so that, as much as is possible, we integrate what is important to you?

This part of the conversation may take place in one meeting or over several meetings, depending on the complexity of what needs to be implemented. I have found success in encouraging brainstorming and collaboration. Ask specific questions like, how can we implement this new directive AND manage workloads effectively?  How can we implement this new directive, AND sustain high quality service to clients?

The best brainstorming ideas, of course, will address several of the criteria – i.e. they will protect time with clients, they will help with the balancing of workloads, etc.

I find this hard because it’s important to even allow the “not too practical” ideas, because they act as sparks.

When there are lots of ideas, find the ideas that can be put together in such a way that it leads to the optimum preservation of what is important to people.

What do you think?

 

Why should we assess?

10 Mar

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Schools often ask  when they should use standardized  testing.  Twice a year?  Once a year ? There is no definitive answer, just a few questions, which, when answered by the school, will make choosing the time of year to assess more logical.

In a way, the introduction of teachers making their overall teacher judgement about where a student sits in the NZ curriculum, has given schools much more freedom in their assessment choices. Moderation is more common and teachers are using a range of assessments, with few relying on single sources of evidence  to make their judgement (Wylie, & Berg 2013).  So where does standardized testing fit in to the assessment picture?

The NZ Curriculum has a good statement at the beginning of its assessment section on pg. 39:

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both …respond to the information it provides. 

Keep that statement in mind as you ask yourself:

  • What information do I need to gather on which children?
  • Does the assessment chosen match the teaching  the students have received?
  • What is the purpose for gathering this data – how will it help teaching and learning?

There are many different reasons teachers choose standardized assessments to support their judgement. For many schools, the days of blanket testing twice a year for all students are gone.The reasons for using standardized assessment are becoming more considered, more refined, as schools underpin their self-review with deliberate planning.

Reasons might be:

  • Closely monitoring a particular cohort of children who have received specific interventions
  • Tracking the progress of the cohort identified in the annual target
  • Gathering information for a priority  learning group
  • Gathering school-wide data to inform strengths and needs in a subject
  • Gathering year group data to inform strengths and needs
  • Assessing teaching strategies in a particular subject
  • Getting reassurance about the moderation process and decisions about individual children
  • Cluster data to improve collaboration around improving teaching and learning in a particular subject
  • To monitor progress, determine professional development needs, and assess the value of interventions in a particular area

Schools have enormous freedom now to choose the tool and the time that best suits their purpose, but it requires a collaborative response to the question:

What is the purpose for this assessment?

Assessment and Agency and all that Jazz…

5 Mar

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We can be committed to learner agency and different forms of assessment but often still over assess. I came across the great article from NZCER.

Teachers making decisions about their students’ achievements based on a range of sources of evidence is the cornerstone of an effective cycle of inquiry in any school. The evidence-based cycle of inquiry is the engine that drives improvement to teaching and learning in classrooms and in school-wide initiatives (Timperley et al, 2010).  Research says this is how you make a difference.

The expectation is that it is the professional responsibility of teachers to decide what the students can and can’t do, using multiple sources of evidence. That evidence will inform the decisions schools make to meet the needs of their students. Isn’t that what we’ve always done and continue to do?

Learner agency is about moving students from passively responding to acting with purpose to reach a desired goal or outcome. When students have an authentic purpose and audience beyond their teacher to share what they are learning, they are more motivated to learn and often go above and beyond.  I am excited to see more schools moving toward structures that empower learners to share and drive their learning process through portfolios and student-led conferences. Opportunities for learners to share their work beyond the teacher in student-led exhibitions can be powerful to ensure students have an authentic audience and are doing work that has value.

We can teach necessary skills while creating experiences that allow learners to take ownership of the process. Learners have access to an abundance of resources and experts that enable us all to learn in ways that extend beyond the expertise of one teacher or classroom. By tapping into those resources, we can create more experiences that can allow students to apply their newly learned skill in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them and others.

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