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Spiritual PLD

23 Apr

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Professional development also needs to be designed for the purpose of the school. For Catholic schools, there is an even greater challenge. Schools need to meet the professional growth of teachers and their spiritual growth. How do Catholic schools meet this need? What methods can schools use to expand the spiritual strength that teachers need?

The spiritual growth of Catholic school teachers is essential for the success of schools. Catholic school teachers are entrusted with not only the academic knowledge that students learn, but also the faith formation of their students. Teachers are called by the Holy Spirit to develop the knowledge of their students in subjects both secular and sacred. Catholic school teachers take on this additional role with pride and passion, but it is critical that schools aid their teachers in developing their faith and strengthen their desire to teach the faith to students

Faith Formation

20 Apr

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Opportunities for faith formation  are available in the same way professional development opportunities are available. They are not seized upon as much as I would like them to. There are lecture series available, webinars, classes, and informal meetings that teachers can attend. By the way my my favourite is Going Deeper. 

Next question is this, “how many teachers know these opportunities are available?” How are we as SLT focused primarily on the academic content and not focused enough on the spiritual needs of their staff? This lack of attention is where schools start to separate themselves.

Schools need to inform teachers of ways to grow their faith as we are a faith community. Connecting the faith to the daily lives of our students in Catholic schools helps schools reach students where they are and pushes them to where they need to be as Christian leaders. Teachers need to find new ways to model the faith and connect the faith to students.

Teachers need to be willing to share what they see as opportunities. Teachers need to find their PLN and attend events together. Teachers need to be willing to step up and do their part. Teachers also need to take an active role in developing new professional development.

Another important aspect of professional development, especially in the realm of spirituality, is what we can do to best serve our students. How can we display our faith more to show what Catholicism means to us? We need to provide a safe environment where students feel safe to ask a question about where their faith is going. We need to learn ways that encourage students to strive to love Christ more deeply. I  hope working  on the Bishops Document will help us grow in this area.

Respect

19 Apr

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Creating a positive culture goes beyond conversations about diversity and celebrating differences.  A foundation of how we treat others and solve problems and modeling that school-wide is far more important than isolated assemblies, monthly themes and small group crisis management.  Giving students interpersonal skills can be a huge benefit for them in their adult life, and much of the distress we see in our world currently can be ultimately drilled down to a general inability to disagree respectfully and continue to work for a harmonious solution

Quick Thought

17 Apr

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The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among the people who do it. We grow by private trial and error, to be sure — but our willingness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a community that encourages such risks.                                 

The Courage to Teach; Palmer, 1998, p. 144

Experience is a truly remarkable thing. It’s a gift we give ourselves each day. It’s a hard teacher, and often plans lessons we don’t want to learn. But it makes us look at things differently with each turn. Experience makes us evaluate where we have been, and what we are headed into next. It makes us collaborate with others on the journey too. In order to experience, you need to take chances and live. It’s risky, it’s terrifying, it’s pretty awesome. If we don’t experience we don’t grow.

Learning is not an ‘add on,’ to be done when we have some free time or at training sessions. Some of the most significant innovations have been in infrastructures and day-to-day practices, allowing teams and intact work groups to integrate working and learning.

— “The Academy As Learning Community: Contradiction in Terms or Realizable Future?” Senge, in Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Department Chairs, Lucas, A. F. & Associates, 2000, pp. 280-281

Improving Schools through TED talks

14 Apr

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I recently came across a talk by Michael Fullan on making change. I heard him at ULEARN 16 where he was phenomenal. I thought this talk would be useful to share but it also reminded me of a TED talk by Linda Hill, which when combined might give schools and their leadership teams some real incentive and instruction for change. They also combined to indicate that progress will not be made with either top-down or bottom-up approaches but from a developing a new school culture towards shared, networked collaboration at all levels. It got me thinking about a few issues.

The SLT must be seen by the teachers as an equal participant in learning. This I got from Fullan in his talk he gave about transforming the Canadian school system. He highlights that a principal behaving as an active learner was a surprise key indicator in his research into schools making significant and positive change.
Hill talks about innovating or dying. This so important for schools as we sit at a watershed moment in time in NZ education. Our courses cannot remain the same. Linda Hill says “Innovation is not about solo genius but collective genius.” She goes on to outline how the most successful organisations build organisational structures and cultures that are “iterative, inter-related and quite frankly messy.” She also highlights that investing in all the people to give them time to develop and collaborate around new challenges and ideas. It is also critical to build a culture where everyone feels they might have something to offer in improving the operation of or output from the organisation.

This is a huge issue for schools, where many teachers never bring problems to the leadership team because they do not think it’s there place to suggest change. Schools are often not flexible or iterative enough to adapt to changes as they arise. A fixed-time vision for learning in a school issued from top-down can kill excellent ideas that surface during the period in question. What I took from Linda’s talk was that schools need to develop a staff culture for collaborative problem solving, discovery driven learning (and that’s the teachers we’re talking about) but run integrated decision making where everyone is confident to express ideas

Being SLT in Term One

11 Apr

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“Good relations between teachers and their colleagues and between teachers and their students can mitigate the negative effects of challenging classrooms…”

 In March 2015 the OECD released a report from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Schools for 21st Century Learners (2015) by Andreas Schleicher. It identified some good news, and some not-so-good news:

The good news: The most successful education systems are those in countries whose society values the teaching profession.

The not-so-good news: Fewer than one in three teachers believe that teaching is a valued profession in society.

On my ongoing development there are some key areas that I have been working on in my leadership in SLT in 2017.

  1. Distributed leadership, provides opportunities to participate in decision making at school.
  2. Positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and their colleagues and teachers and their students
  3. Meaningful appraisal and feedback that recognises and celebrates teachers’ strengths while simultaneously challenging teachers to address weaknesses in their pedagogical practices.
  4. Provide a culture of collaboration among teachers through:
    • jointly teaching the same class
    • observing and providing feedback on other teachers
    • engaging in different classes and age groups
    • professional learning

“The strongest association with teachers’ job satisfaction appears to be participating in collaborative professional learning activities five times a year or more.”

  1. Quality professional development. A focus on the three components of self-efficacy – classroom management, instruction and student engagement. Learner agency has been a common term for me this year. 

Networks of Schools

7 Apr

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“The future of schools lies in networks rather than hierarchies, in lateral rather than vertical organisations. Networks cannot be managed the same way that hierarchies are managed. Social networking is a different way of organising.”

This week I have been thinking about the concept of Communities of Learning. George Siemens has been writing about moving from hierarchies to networks for a long time, and when Matt Esterman and I wrote about Teacher-Led Conferences for Learning Forward, we reported,

Brafman & Beckstrom (2007) contrast traditional “spider” organizations which have a rigid hierarchy and top-down leadership, and revolutionary “starfish” organizations which depend on the power of peer to peer relationships. Their metaphor is that if you chop off a spider’s leg, it will be permanently crippled. However, if you chop off a starfish’s leg it will grow another one and the old leg can grow into a completely new starfish.”

I have recently come across this article on Hierarchy and Network which asserts that a hierarchy opposes change and that,

“The successful organization of the future will have two organizational structures: a Hierarchy, and a more teaming, egalitarian, and adaptive Network….My idea of the Network is a system of teams with representatives from all divisions and all levels, who leave formal titles at the door to participate in a decidedly  anti-hierarchical forum….With this Network, potential opportunities and changes are identified, urgency around tomorrow’s possibilities is fostered and maintained, strategies for organization-wide changes are formed, barriers identified and addressed, and change is achieved.”

I am fascinated by the concept of network leadership in schools and would like to explore this further.

Trend Two: Digital Fluency

14 Mar

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Fluency” is broader than “literacy.” Being ‘digitally literate’ means acquiring the skills to make and create meaning, and select technologies to do so. … Digital fluency can also be considered as part of a broader set of competencies related to ’21st century’ learning.

Becoming digitally fluent is for people to be able to act as successful citizens in whatever contexts they choose for themselves. The recent report – Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection (OECD, 2015) – highlights the importance of bridging the digital divide, not leaving the development of digital fluency to chance.

Digital tools are transforming essential elements of the education space. Understanding how they are impacting teaching and learning and consideration of which tools are useful and how to best implement them is even more vital.

For Digital Fluency to truly flourish the following needs to grow.

Increased collaboration: Just as social media has given rise to new definitions of community, digital tools are transforming community and the give-and-take between students and teachers. Platforms for web-based discussion threads and creation of course or class wikis alter the types of student involvements in project-based and writing-specific assignments. A piece of student writing can become a diverse and substantive document when it is the basis for a step-by-step exchange of ideas and questions between teacher, peers, authors, and mentors. When digital tools are integrated in a pedagogically sound fashion they also promote and enhance other essential skills sets such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, digital literacy, entrepreneurship, global awareness, and digital responsibility/citizenship.

Innovate assessment: NZQA with a emphasis on NCEA has seem room for innovation, I question whether there should be more room for innovation in the primary area as primary teachers are hamstrung by National Standards.  As formats and contexts for assignments evolve, the methods of assessment have had to keep pace. The openness of the online environment and the integration of such things as game attributes, shape all kinds of assessment, especially formative assessment, which measures learning progress (not only endpoints in learning).

Enhanced Student Agency: The type of activities that stimulate real involvement “give pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, or the intentional noting of connections; learning naturally results”.  The process of choice increases engagement, authenticity, and ultimately more value in the learning process. Unleash the power of digital tools and empower students to take ownership of their learning.

Lots to think about then.

 

 

Learner Agency on Tour

7 Mar

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While on the NASDAP tour I have started thinking about underlying principal of student agency driving an improvement in student achievement. This was triggered by our examination of collaborative learning environments.

This page will provide you with a great introduction to the concept.

It seems that agency is about student learning and teacher teaching. It is about the teacher providing the right environment, support and approaches to learning that enable learners to develop the skills and attitudes for agency to occur, and about the student being engaged in, and empowered by assuming responsibility of their learning through reflection, goal setting and a range of other self-monitoring behaviours.

Some of the key words that describe student agency for me are therefore; enabling, empowering, self-monitoring, goals, feedback, authentic.

Here are some further thoughts:

The learning-teaching process is primarily for the benefit of the learner, not the teacher.

All students want to, can, and will learn given the proper learning environment.

Students actively and individually make sense of what they learn by connecting and integrating it with what they already understand. Teaching cannot occur without learning. I should always seek and value students’ points of view in order to understand students’ thought processes and knowledge acquisition.

My responsibility as a teacher is to create a learning environment that facilitates learning for every student.

This may also be a great resource:

 

Relational Trust is Key

28 Feb

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A complex art if there ever was one, building relationships and creating relational trust is the foundational skill. Without trust, no amount of content knowledge, pedagogical know-how, or formative assessment is likely to move students to want to learn from you.

In a recent TED Radio Hour  called “How Does Trust Happen in Music?” orchestra conductor Charles Hazlewood recalls that during his early days as a professional, his conducting sometimes resembled a “rabid windmill.” The more forceful his body language, the less his orchestra members complied. The more disappointed he became, the more his direction became a blur. Trust erodes when you don’t embody it yourself, he learned.

He later directed a racially diverse group of South African singers, some of whom had previously been bitter enemies. And he founded another ensemble made up of musicians with severe disabilities, many of whom had never had the opportunity to play instruments together. From these disparate groups, he learned that the creation of music relies on trust and builds more trust. Yes, the conductor needs to have a “cast-iron understanding of the outer architecture of the music,” but he or she also has to trust the players to reveal the music’s inner truth. He came to believe that conducting music is like holding a bird. Hold too tightly, you crush it; hold too loosely, it flies away.

This will be part of my own manaakitanga goal this year. How are your own annual goals developing in your appraisal document?

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