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Education 3.0

20 Jan

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A brief reflection today. In 2020 we as teachers need to understand a few things.

  • Education, infact schools, are changing.
  • Our students are different than they ever have been before because the have learnt differently at primary school.
  • That technology is not something to fear and that it will just one day “go away.”
  • That the role of the school leader is one of collaboration.
  • That summative assessments does not provide a clear picture of student learning and understanding.
  • That standing in front of kids and talking for 40 mins straight does not actually teach anything.
  • That social media can be a useful tool.
  • University is not the be all and end all of education.

 

Some Lessons to Learn

16 Dec

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I was thinking about the ideas of what makes a great teacher as I reflect on the year. To be truthful as I started writing the same applies regarding a leader in a school. I add one of my favorite models at the foot of the page.

Model expertise

Modelling this is part and parcel of every lesson: confident answers and conspicuous depth of knowledge of the subject that models the value that is placed on learning it.  Actual expertise matters more than simple enthusiasm.  There is no short-cut here: study the subject continually, know your stuff, get ahead.  Don’t wing it or teach, guessing your way through.

Prioritize Curriculum

Linked closely to Model Expertise, it’s essential to know how your subject is deconstructed into key concepts, skills and knowledge elements that allow learners to make progress – so-called pedagogical content knowledge.  Do you know how the course curriculum relates to the wider subject knowledge base? Is there an optimal sequence or at least one you could make a good case for?  You should have a sense of a sensible sequence and hierarchy of ideas and be able to see where content areas overlap.  You should have good knowledge of the assessment criteria in general and the specifics of any public exam.  Knowing the types of questions that students should be able to answer is essential in understanding and planning your subject curriculum – the enacted curriculum that students experience in your lessons.

Hold Attention 

Without this, most of the rest won’t be effective.  It always pays to reinforce the routines around attention so that you get it promptly from everyone.

Explain well

Sometimes I have not done this well as I have been reflecting on my practice lately. By relieving in some junior classes I have noted the need to find different ways to explain the same thing – not simply repeat one method over and over.   It’s often overlooked because people spend so long talking about what to teach, rather than how to teach it.

Respond 

This links to your curriculum thinking and planning.  Designing good questions is a skill you acquire with experience and research – initially it pays to explore sources of questions rather than make them up. Planning how to organise questions in a classroom context: The trick is to involve every student, solicit multiple responses and engineer a collective response that deepens everyone’s understanding – rather than skimming from person to person.

Feedback effectively 

Giving good feedback is an essential teaching skill.  Your goal is to seek improved performance, correct errors and challenge misconceptions but also to affirm and deepen successful learning. Feedback needs to be positive and specific and be very much geared towards an immediate practice opportunity.  You need should tell them what they’re doing right; identify a specific aspect of their technique to change and improve and then get them to practise.

Routines

It is ok to change things up occasionally, but routines keep a sense of certainty.

Manage time

Time: it can all be managed well or managed badly.  It pays to map out the long term, set some time goals and milestones.

Show kindness

Relationships –are a product of other actions.  I’m suggesting that showing kindness is an essential element to relationship-building.  You can be assertive, authoritative and inspire confidence in your expertise but still have difficulties – or cause them – if students don’t connect with your human qualities; if they fear you or resent you.  Kindness means allowing mistakes to be made, extending a degree of parental warmth and acknowledging emotions.  You can be quite formal and disciplined and still be kind.  Crucially, it’s essential to give kindness in order to receive it in return.

React

Being responsive to students’ answers is crucial to maximize the learning from the process.  You need to tackle misconceptions and explore errors without making it seem a big deal to get things wrong; you need to probe and challenge for deeper and better answers; you need to involve other students in building on each other’s answers.

I hope your year has gone well.

Do you have any suggestions for leading your class or staff-room?

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Growing others

1 Nov

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This week I have been reflecting on my own leadership style and growing other leaders on my staff. Coaching is an important part of my job and growing new leaders is an important part of this. My current principal has taught me the foundation of a great school is shared leadership. All participants must have a seat at the decision-making table. This ensures that the vision and direction of the school is decided upon collectively and in the best interest of all parties. Teachers are key players in the process and need to be encouraged to step into leadership roles. After all, great leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.

  • Have Middle Leaders Lead Professional Development Trainings

Professional development for teachers should be designed, implemented, and vetted by teachers. Training days need to be planned by the individuals who will be tasked with implementing the new program or idea. Furthermore, teachers should oversee running the training. Teachers should be modelling and providing information to their colleagues. Teachers will respond better to a training designed and implemented by their colleagues that one created by administration.

  • Create an opportunity for Middle Leaders to Step Up

There are times when a school is left without a member of the senior leadership team on campus due to meetings, illness, or travel. With my role in the NCEA review I have been MIA a bit this year. This is a great model to use for teachers who want to become senior leaders. Rotating this position throughout the year will give multiple teachers exposures to the work that happens up in the office and give them the opportunity to lead.

  • Inclusive Leadership Teams

A school’s leadership team should comprise of a mix of administration, teachers, and support staff. Teachers need to have a seat at this table in order to ensure that their voices are heard. Decisions about curriculum, programs, innovations, and school procedures. Without a voice at the table, teacher will be less likely to support new initiatives. Having these new ideas vetted and discussed by teacher leaders will give the initiative stronger legs to stand on and provide a path for success.

How are you growing new leaders?

Thoughts on September day

25 Sep

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Schools are operating on a 19th century bureaucratic model. It is a compliance-oriented structure, based on:
• Deficit-based versus asset-based models of student learning.
• Teacher to student versus student to teacher models of authority.
• Extrinsic versus intrinsic models of motivation.
• Fixed versus incremental models of intelligence.
• Cognitive versus social-emotional models of knowledge.
• Status versus developmental models of performance.

We know that the impact of PLD on practice and student performance is inverse to its distance from the classroom. Yet most current PD is the carwash model, spray and pray, the least effective form of PD. Schools persists in practices that do not work. I really like that metaphor

Leadership is about building highly functional people into highly functional teams.
We know that teams learn best when…

  1. Through collaborative structures

Until this year when leading this area I have missed the boat here. I have tinkered with this but never seen the success it should have. Collaborative structures help to decrease teacher isolation, codify and share successful teaching practices, increase staff morale, and open the door to experimentation and increased collective efficacy. High levels of teacher collaboration improve teaching and learning, student behaviour, and student achievement on high-stakes tests. A team focus on learning helps teachers to discover causal connections between teaching and student learning and encourages collective questioning of ineffective teaching practices.

High levels of collaboration are likely to exist when the leadership marks it as a priority, when common time and physical space are set aside for collaboration, and when teaching and learning is seen as a team responsibility, rather than an individual responsibility. Collaborative structures enable teachers to learn from the experience and expertise of their peers.

Collaborative structures imply the provision of both time and space for staff to interact. Time is perhaps the most precious resource, and time to meet and talk is an essential resource for schools. Collaboration is time-consuming and staff need to be provided with adequate time to interact. The movement from ‘me’ or ‘I’, to ‘us’ or ‘we’, requires frequent teacher interactions which can be achieved through common planning time, team-teaching, and coaching and mentoring. Physical structures also need to support collaborative learning. Classrooms, staff workspaces, and furniture all either reinforce or detract from collaboration. Lets change this.

  1. Teachers are encouraged to take risks and be creative

Teachers need to be encouraged to be creative and to take chances to be wrong. Leaders need the support, encouragement, and freedom to challenge group norms and disrupt routines. When leaders display readiness to consider alternative points of view, staff can feel empowered to suggest their own innovative ideas. Risk-taking is also enhanced when leaders model their own learning publicly. This can be hard.

  1. Leadership is distributed

Over-managing slows teams down. Distributed leadership develops leadership capacity and talent throughout the organisation. Leadership can be provided by someone other than an appointed team leader. Sharing the responsibility of chairing team meetings or even rotating leaders within teams helps leadership become a collective endeavour.

  1. They are united by a common purpose

Every teacher should have an Individual Learning Plan, set in standards and the school improvement plan, and receive coaching based on that learning plan. Every subject department should have an improvement plan. The aim is a development culture, not a compliance-oriented culture. The aim is not to evaluate teachers, it is to analyse teaching and learning. The focus is on how to improve, rather than who to scapegoat for poor performances.

A leader’s role is to hold the team accountable to action, to help facilitate the next level of work conversations, and to ensure reflection on the process. The job of a leader is to follow the work, not to dictate the work. Imagine a developmental culture where for every team meeting a different team member was responsible for not participating, but just recording the team process and then providing feedback. There is also potential for providing coaching for teams to improve their performance in team meetings.

When people in schools are accountable to each other and work together towards achieving school aims, such strong internal accountability places schools in a sound position to respond to external accountability demands. Teams that are aligned across a school within a culture of individual responsibility and collective expectations provide an internal accountability system which is more powerful than any external accountability systems.

 

The Coaching Team

4 Sep

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When I started teaching, the principal was the sole holder of power within the school. They were it. The principal had the first and final say on all matters relating to the school. The role of the principal has evolved, and the demands of the job now require more than a dictator making unilateral decisions. I liken it to the All Black coaching team. There is a scrum coach (Digital Curriculum expert), Defence coach (Pastoral expert) and Kicking coach (Careers Expert). The most successful leaders are collaborative and use a system that makes stakeholders and leaders out of everyone.  Creating other leaders makes the work more manageable and is one of many great benefits of being more democratic with authority. Here are some things I have observed that great leaders in schools have done:

The leadership panel

Empowering a teacher leadership panel composed of faculty- at my school these are the Deans and Leaders of Learning. This group determines goals and policies for the year and reviews the successes and opportunities for growth at the end of that time. You can then empower them to make necessary adjustments. It is at this level change occurs

Empowering community 

Community are incredibly important stakeholders in the school community, and school leaders should empower them as well. Create a discussion board parents can moderate that you regularly check in on. When parents feel like they have a voice in the school, they can become one of a principal’s greatest assets.

Student Voice

Students, who often feel isolated, can act as representatives during leadership meetings to give their input on school issues. They can meet with administration to discuss and negotiate pressing issues that impact them. These students can also receive input from other students, giving all a sense of being a part of the process. Whether it’s a meeting about doing away with lockers or a change in dress code policy, you’re giving students a voice. Having student voice on assessment and pedagogy is invaluable.

Communication

The most vital ingredient necessary to developing a successful school leadership strategy is strong communication. This could mean a weekly email to staff, students, and parents about the things you are working on in the front office. Social Media and APP Alerts are brilliant. Whatever you choose to do, having an open line of communication is essential to inviting your community into leadership.

What are your tips?

Treat Meetings Like A Class

8 Aug

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How do you believe meetings and professional events could be more productive?  Can we perhaps share positive experiences and ideas about how we can make the most of meetings? As a school leader I spend I great deal of my time in meetings. Some this week have gone well. Others not so well. So here are some thoughts.

  1. Meetings need to be carefully planned and thoughtfully structured.  We would expect meetings certainly to have agendas, circulated in advance so that those present can prepare themselves, mentally and practically, for whatever is to be covered.  If you are responsible for compiling such an agenda, ask yourself: are your own items dominating, or have others had a fair and reasonable chance to contribute? Is the order of the items sensible, with the most crucial issues covered earlier on when the group is fresher, and the later items able to be deferred to another meeting if the timing does go askew?
  2. When planning a meeting or event, can you be clear at the outset what you want to achieve by the end?  What do you want those present to think about/be able to do as a result of being there?  How is that best achieved?
  3. It is worth considering how receptive and responsive you are as a meeting chair.  If you want real engagement and involvement there needs to be the opportunity for members of the meeting or the event to consider key questions, to reflect individually, in pairs or small groups and exchange views and opinions, perhaps to provoke and challenge each other, but in a professional, supportive and productive way which leads to development in our thinking.  Can you gather ideas from those assembled and use whatever is expressed in a constructive and helpful way, even if – in fact, especially if! – it is not what you hoped to hear?  It may not be appropriate for decisions to be taken in a meeting, but the discussion within the meeting, robustly recorded and subsequently carefully considered.
  4. Think about how much of your meeting time focuses on the operational rather than the strategic or developmental.  If the relatively low-level operational tends to dominate, consider scheduling in occasional strategic meetings with one-item agendas, perhaps led by different members of the group.  This could be an opportunity for all involved to give thought to, exchange views on and ideas about, something fundamental, something you can really get your teeth into, which will make a difference to how the team and the school operate, and the learners benefit.
  5. Use minutes/action points/recorded outcomes appropriately to ensure that what was considered and learnt is captured, remembered and used.  If those present can see that the gathering was productive, that their voices were listened to and that this led to something worthwhile, their contribution to future meetings and events is likely to be more committed and energized.

What do you think?

 

Leaders of Learning

27 Jul

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This week our middle leaders (Leaders of Learning) have been doing some great mahi in leading change. It has been challenging. There are many difficult jobs in a secondary school – but leading a subject area, especially a large subject area, has to be one of the most difficult.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some inspiring Curriculum Leaders.  They grow and nurture teams, who then achieve fantastic outcomes for the students they teach.  As I look out my window today, I thought I might the strengths of my people.

  • Role models – they are always, first and foremost, great teachers and they understand what makes great teaching within the context of their subject and can articulate this clearly with their team.
  • Set the standard– they clearly identify the standards they expect to see on a day to day basis – and live and breathe these themselves.  This creates a shared clarity of purpose.
  • Moral purpose– they have an unswerving commitment to getting the best deal possible for the students who pass through their subject.  They understand that a good education can transform life chances.
  • Expect excellence– they strongly believe that all students can get better and be successful.
  • Pride in their faculty– they patrol their s area and make it clear to the students that they are in charge – and that the students will meet their expectations!
  • Parental contact– they won’t hesitate to call home – and will support their team with doing the same.

 

I believe while SLT leads our school strategically the Leaders of Learning make things happen.

 

An Inquiry

17 May

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I have been reflecting on the idea that student become anxious and lack self-belief in the classroom. I did some rereading around this idea. Inquiry should underpin our teaching – if students are going to believe that they can be successful, they need to experience success.  So, we need to provide the opportunities for this to happen.

The following report, ‘What Makes Great Teaching? ‘ provides a good starting point when thinking about planning learning.  It identifies content knowledge and quality of instruction as key components of great teaching.

Content knowledge. Teachers with strong knowledge and understanding of their subject make a greater impact on students’ learning. It is also important for teachers to understand how students think about content and be able to identify common misconceptions on a topic.

Quality of instruction. This includes effective questioning and the use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also found to improve attainment.

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?

 

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?

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