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Friday Reflection: October 20

19 Oct

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Our students need the skills to know when they are being manipulated so they can take control of their learning and their life. They also need to know that if they get a recommendation from a company to purchase something, they don’t have to buy it. They need to be able to spot fake news. They need to be critical thinkers. They need to be sceptical, curious, and critically consider what will be best for them. That’s our job as educators. It’s about encouraging learners to have a voice and choice so they are intrinsically motivated to want to learn.

Let’s help them navigate the new world of what some call “personalization.” But let’s be clear what that means for teaching and learning and fight for our students so they are the ones personalizing their learning experiences with teachers guiding the process not a company that is using their data to tell them that they know best how they learn.

We need students that are not “compliant” following the leads from a company based on clicks. They are so much smarter than we give them credit. We need to encourage learners at a very young age to learn how to learn, to reflect on their learning and to be the ones in control of their learning so they are lifelong, self-directed learners.

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A Change in the Classroom

10 Oct

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Change happens whether we like it or not. Schools were instituted upon two fundamental certainties:

(1) Knowledge has unique value and is known best by experts

(2) The way we communicate with each other is limited by time and, very often, location.

In New Zealand have seen very significant shifts in these certainties in recent years, shifts that should have significant implications for schools.

I have been contemplating this change by keeping in mind the tools we have and our students use. What use is knowledge in the age of the smartphone? Most students carry the sum total of human information with them each day. A great deal of teaching must go around this too. If a taxi driver takes you to your destination from memory or GPS, do you care? If the GPS version is cheaper, do you begin to care?

My daughter the other night had the task of adding roman numerals for homework. To solve the problem she used a smart phone. I am certain that is not the way her teacher intended the task to be solved by that was it was awesome to observe.

Do we allow the same freedom to students with basic questions that Google can answer for them or do we judge them critically for using technology that they use naturally on a daily basis in every circumstance except school? If Siri knows basic arithmetic and the capitals of the world, do we still need to spend time on these thing?

These are the questions we should be asking to ensure we are heading in the right direction for our students? For it means more time teaching critical thinking and messy play.

Being an Expert

5 Oct

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I love the way training and teaching continually complement each other. Today’s reflection is no different. Hargreaves and Fullan state: “To ‘teach like a pro’ is a personal commitment to rigorous training, continuous learning, collegial feedback, respect for evidence, responsiveness to parents, striving for excellence, and going far beyond the requirements of any written contract.”

Taking this on board, I look around my own school and the experts begin to stick out and they may not necessarily be the most experienced. When it comes to respecting the evidence, the first words I may hear in a conversation about teaching and learning is: “In my experience…” or “from my experience…” An educator’s experience may not acknowledge any other sources of evidence, which can be problematic.

Experience allows us more opportunity for reflection, experience allows us more opportunities to get it right and experience gives us more opportunities to learn and develop wisdom. Though to be an expert teacher, we cannot rely on experience alone, we have to spend time looking at education research, questioning it, discussing it, applying it and, at times, refuting it. My experience does not carry the same weight in conversations about education, if I have not taken time to read about my profession and how I can better support students.

With 25 years in education, I can certainly call myself an experienced educator but there are colleagues that I work with who have spent less time in the profession and have considerably more expertise in certain aspects of education; I can learn from them. I have to keep reminding myself that “if you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”

References:

Hattie, J. (2003, October). Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence? Paper presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference on Building Teacher Quality, Melbourne.

Hargreaves, A and Fullan, M. (2012, March). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. Teachers College Press. ISBN: 0807753327

Leadership Reflection for September

27 Sep

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This week I have been away with my Year 12 students considering leadership. Too often people associate leadership with a status to be earned, or a title that bestows power. Certainly, under some circumstances, those definitions are accurate. But I like to think of leadership differently. I think a great deal about St Paul’s thoughts on servant leadership.

There is a belief that I hold dear—we all can be leaders, and each of us has our own unique brand of leadership to contribute to the world. The question is if, when, and how we actually ever step into that leadership.

Finding our leadership is about finding our best selves, and then figuring out how and where to contribute our best selves to the world. Stepping into our leadership is about having the courage to do just that. Sometimes having courage to not step up when the time is not right.

This week I have been thinking about this quote around leadership:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord, there are different workings by the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

I am self-aware that my leadership philosophy is continually growing and developing. I am truly a life-long learner. I believe a leader must be vulnerable and admit to not have all the answers. This is something that I have learnt over the past twenty years.

Leadership development calls forth the diverse gifts of people in our faith communities, and affirms their talents and abilities. So much depends on leadership in our ministry and as leaders we need to be called, trained and encouraged. As I am called to be leader I call others to walk with me acknowledging who they are. The idea that we see the whole person, the three ‘identities’ he tangata, he tangata, he tangata – acknowledging our past, present and future.

Culture vs Strategy

19 Sep

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Is culture really more important than strategy to an organisation? Peter Drucker’s oft-quoted appreciation for the importance of culture is rooted in his strong belief in community. But surely a company that places greater value on culture over strategic planning is doomed to failure? I don’t think so. In fact, when it comes to schools, I think culture devours everything it encounters.

While places of learning need to be strategic, nothing is more important than school culture, what Michael Fullan refers to as “the guiding beliefs and expectations evident in the way a school operates”. Culture is all about people. Therefore it follows that the single most important thing a great school needs is great teachers

We know that placing the latest cutting edge technology in the hands of a weak teacher will do little to improve learning. And so it is in a school with a great strategy and a weak culture. School leaders need to pay more attention to recruiting the very best teachers then supporting them in a collaborative, supportive environment that enables them not only to embrace change, but to lead it.

Restorative

10 Sep

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Restorative justice, by its nature, is a responsive practice, but I suggest that schools cannot simply implement a practice of restorative justice without considering the disparate impact that implicit bias will continue to have in the application or selective application of community-building principles on their students. We must welcome and establish critically reflective practices amongst our staff and students as we develop restorative justice in our schools, beginning with the terminology we use with which to describe the players.

Helicopter Institutions

4 Sep

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It is Mock Exam time at our place next week. It is a busy term with a variety on. We are busily running extra sessions for students so it made me question: Does the presence of extra sessions, Study Days, or 24 hour access through the flipped classroom give the message to students that even if you produce minimal work in lessons then there is still time for you to catch up later on? Are we creating a helicopter institution?

I chatted to a knowledgeable student today and posed this exact question about additional catch up sessions.  They came up with a number of reasons in a balanced way justifying their place, and even their removal, from school.  One of the biggest things he said was that the presence of them might be giving students who “can’t be bothered” a reason to choose not to do any work.  The knowledge that they could catch up at a later date might allow them to pick and choose when they wanted to do anything in actual lesson time.

With the creation of additional sessions after school, are we inadvertently creating two schools?  With the school day ending does another one begin?

Are the pressures of teaching being passed onto students?

With the increased levels of accountability and pressure for results, do teachers feel that they are required to run these sessions to fulfil targets?

With this in mind, is the expectation and requirement of students to attend these sessions actually removing the love of learning?   Are additional sessions shifting the responsibility for student’s grades from the student and onto the teacher?  Does it feel like we have to work harder to get students through their NCEA or National Standards?

With workload itself being a national talking point, are we laying more pressure on teachers to not only teach their timetabled lessons, but to also teach additional lessons outside of curriculum time?

Because we want the best for our students, and we want to ensure we have the best results possible for our own professional progress, do we feel that we should be doing these sessions?  Is that part of the problem though?  If they weren’t rolled out in schools would students work harder?  So can we be that little bit better at using catch up classes?

Well- Being

31 Aug

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As a leader in a school, school development is fundamentally tied to emotional development — yours and that of others. Emotional intelligence only has meaning when you’re in relationships with others, and even more so when these relationships test your emotions.

School leadership is a journey on which each and every day you have to learn how to respond consciously to the stresses of your role instead of simply reacting and putting out fires. People who know will smile when they read that as it is a common comment I make.

There are going to be times when you’ll feel like a stranger to yourself as you try to find new frames of reference for handling new circumstances, relationships, and challenges.

Admitting your own vulnerabilities when faced with the challenges of school leadership isn’t a form of weakness — it’s what will get you through. Indeed it has got me through. I accept who I am and so do those I work with.

What’s more, if you don’t get the support you need in the role (and my goodness I am so lucky I do), you’ll end up overwhelmed with the enormity of your role and be emotionally drained. At this time there is so much literature about well-being in schools take time next week to look after yourself.

Support Your SLT

23 Aug

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This week as an SLT we took some time out to plan the year ahead. An exercise well worth doing. The most important part of this exercise was supporting each other. We must remember to do this. Here some points that I have been thinking about:

POINT ONE: Recognise that vulnerability is courageous. In the “one mistake and you’re out” environment that education has become, it’s incredibly hard to be vulnerable.  But it really is only through vulnerability that we grow as people, and it’s only when you grow that you can lead. It’s ok to say yeah I got that wrong. It does hurt to say this but it’s ok.

POINT TWO: Actually follow through on that by asking for help when you need it. OK, so you’ve watched Brene Brown’s TED talk and talked to your PPTA staff rep so you think you’re set on the whole emotional intelligence/vulnerability thing. But this isn’t something you can do in theory. You have to actually take action and ask for help when you’re feeling vulnerable.

POINT THREE: Realise that the most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. If you don’t do the work to develop self knowledge and self awareness, you simply won’t have the capacity to effectively lead those under you.

POINT FOUR: Personally I love my weekend run with a mate. Talking rubbish and pushing ourselves to the next level. Create spaces where you can let down your guard. So often, it feels like you have to wear three inch thick armour when you’re walking around at school. But you have to have spaces where you can put that down and just be yourself or you’ll burn out.

POINT FIVE: Learn to be honest with yourself. Although being honest with yourself can be uncomfortable and even scary, it’s crucial to becoming a great leader.

POINT SIX: Differentiate yourself from the role. Just because you work as a school leader doesn’t mean that that’s all you are. This is hard as people will constantly remind you of this.

POINT SEVEN: Fill your own cup first. There’s no way that you can be a great leader if you’re constantly run down and stressed out. Make sure you make a date during the week. Its ok to do Pilates on a Tuesday!!!

A Mid Term Reflection

22 Aug

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I love being a connected educator. I have gained immensely from connections I have with others through Twitter, Facebook, Edchats, podcasts, at EdCamps, and in person. But, I have a confession, sometimes I feel inadequate when speak with some these talented teachers.

Before becoming a connected educator, I operated in a vacuum, in isolation. I would connect with my faculty and staff but our work wasn’t about sharing best practices or what we were doing in our buildings. It was mostly about listening to ministry and making sure we were leading those. Being connected has opened a new world for me, a world in which I see the amazing things educators are doing every day. And that contributes to my feelings of inadequacy. Often, I have thought, “Wow, that is inspiring; I wish I could do that.” I wish I could communicate and reach out more through blogs, podcasts, You Tube channels and other media as prolifically and proficiently as others do. I wish I could spend more time in classrooms, on the playground, and learning with students as much as others do. So some thoughts:

I reach out to my PLC. Through Twitter I can share with groups or individuals. The times I have reached out individually through Twitter have been powerful and cathartic. It’s amazing that I can share through social media with other educators whom I have never met and feel supported and validated. Just being able to share and have another person, or persons, listen makes a huge difference for me.

I remember to take small steps to put things into my practice. I continually look at our annual plan which indicated a need for improved communication. I think start small and make trying new things part of your practice. By learning from others I have explored and used augmented reality, robotics, video production, and coding.

I must use twitter to refuel. I participate in Twitter chats and engage in discussions. Through thought provoking questions and engaged conversations, I glean a lot from others but I also get to share things I’m doing. The feedback and support I receive makes me feel like I am headed in the right direction. I had been contemplating finding a way to positively recognize more students. Last summer a teacher in a Twitter chat stated she made one positive phone call home daily. What a great idea. What are you doing that innovative? Love to hear from you.

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