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Support Systems

28 Jul

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On a cold Friday afternoon in term 3 it’s easy to lose sight of why you wanted to get into school leadership to begin with, but my faith or vocation is the anchor that will keep me going when times get tough. If it’s been a while since you thought about your anchor, then make it a priority this week to set aside some time and think it through again. What are your values? What gives you energy and joy? Why did you want to do this job to begin with?

Once you’ve done that, you can then take stock of where you are now and where there may be some gaps between the reality and your big why. How can you bridge those gaps?

You need to make sure that you have some good emotional and mental support, and I’m not talking about other school leaders. While it’s great to have industry friends, what so often tends to happen is that school leaders transition from comforting each other into sharing war stories. When this happens the conversations place a drain on your emotions and you only end up feeling even more battle weary. Having a neutral source of support outside your immediate circle is so important. Conversations with a professional outside of your context can enable you to gain new insights and see your problems from a different perspective. Rather than drain you, these conversations help to fill up your emotional wells so that you are able to approach the demands of your job with renewed energy and vigour. Let me know about your anchor. Would love to hear from you. 

Workplace Culture

25 Jul

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Keep it on the quiet but I love the people that I work with and the mahi that we do. I believe is truly a special vocation. But even in the strongest of relationships (especially in the strongest relationships—we take those the most for granted) we can unintentionally slow down progress or build resentments if we’re not careful to honor what’s important; not just what’s important to me, but what’s important to we.

Come to think of it, how much better would all of my relationships be if I started to pay closer attention to the “we” importance over the “me” importance? I must be careful about the language I use eg Leading my team. I know when staff get frustrated because they refer to me as a manager rather than leader. Very subtly of course.

Because I suppose the truth of it is, we’re all right about what’s important? So rather than trying to figure out who gets to decide which one of us is more important, why not try to hold both as equal? Because in the end we just want to feel heard; we want to feel respected; we want to feel understood. And the best way to do that for each other is to listen and ask questions… to take the time to find out what each other wants.  To take the time, period.

Encourage the Critical Element

20 Jul

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As I lead my team this year I must consider this idea more. As educators, we want our students to be critical thinkers—to question and show skepticism. We teach them to cite data to support their opinions and to test theories and hypotheses for evidence that supports a claim. But when it’s time to implement school change, we often don’t appreciate these same qualities in our colleagues. Wouldn’t it be better if all teachers just followed suit, never offered any criticism, and made the job of the leaders easier?

Actually, if our fellow teachers are questioning our ideas and making change efforts difficult, someone along the way has done an excellent job of promoting critical thinking and skepticism in those teachers. But how do we both value constructive critique and move an initiative forward at a pace that leads to implementation in less than a decade? The key may lie in what Intel calls “disagree and commit.”

The SAMR Model

12 Jul

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SAMR, most basically, is a technology integration model for educators developed by Dr. Ruben Puntedura.  It outlines four categories of technology integration as in the diagram above.

While I’m still striving to transform many aspects of my instruction with technology, I now recognize the enhancement levels are completely appropriate for a number of tasks and occasions.  In fact, I still appreciate the “no technology” level at various times as well. The key, I believe, is matching technology integration to pedagogy or purpose. This has been fundamental to our journey.

Substitution: Technology is a direct substitute for what was done before; the core idea of the task remains the same

  • Students annotate an article with MS Word–they highlight, insert comments, and keep it for later use with a writing project→ Though done in a digital format, the annotation task and resulting product remain the same
  • Students complete and submit an exit task in Classroom; the teacher scrolls through the responses and makes mental notes of what to re-teach tomorrow→ Again, though completed digitally, the feedback loop remains the same as what was with scratch paper responses submitted as students walked out the door.
  • PowerPoint being used by staff instead of a blackboard.

It is important to reiterate to staff that LwDT is more than substitution.

 

Super Coach

4 Jul

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There is no doubt that Graham Henry has a wonderful ability to bring out the best in others. Most School leaders recognize that performance management is an essential process that exists in schools for managing adult behavior. However, because the process is often seen as perfunctory, and in some cases is not seen as a significant driver to assist school improvement, a real opportunity is missed for developing potential and bringing out the best in others.   When school leaders are skilled in using the principles of coaching to assist their performance management meetings they help to create a clear path for creating a school culture where there is an organic sense of self-improvement fueled by the genuine and self-motivated desire of all individuals to make things better.

When a school’s culture is as described above, what is created is a set of common understanding and beliefs about performance management. That accepts it as a process for accelerating the achievement of school targets through:   – Creating alignment between organisational and personal objectives – Growing and developing others – Enabling others to step outside of their comfort zones – Supporting others to achieve their full potential – Inspiring confidence in other’s ability to succeed – Ensuring ownership and accountability.   When opposite beliefs and attitudes exist about the purpose and value of performance management, school cultures are created in which individuals: – Struggle to take responsibility for their own actions – Become dependent on others for solutions and place limitations on their own ability to problem solve – Lack the internal motivation and desire to succeed – Weaken their ability to take risks and learn from error. Graham Henry like many great coaches did this so well.

When coaching is placed firmly at the heart of the performance management process, teachers and other staff members experience a process in which belief in the development of human potential becomes central to the conversation.Individuals come to see more fully their unique role and the contributions they can make towards bringing about improvements in their school. Rather than seeing it as something that is done to them, they begin to understand what it means to be accountable to themselves and others and they start to own the process.

With self accountability, comes confidence and growth. With growth comes an increased sense of one’s own potential. When one has both confidence and a true sense of what could be, then a space is created for the individual to try and test out new behaviours.

Early Findings

30 Jun

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Our HOF Inquiry this year has been the following:

What will an innovative learning environment look like at Sacred Heart Girls’ College New Plymouth?

Recently I added this particular clip by Charles Leadbeater.

I am now reading the findings of the inquiry along with the HoF group. We are discussing next steps. I believe the following are key conditions that can make a difference:

  1. A vision for learning is incessantly and clearly communicated

What is our vision? Make sure you know where you are going.

  1. Learning is future-focused

The world is changing, make sure the learning context recognises this. Observe the students, how they work and communicate. Email is becoming obsolete. Find different ways to assess e.g. make a website or tweet an answer.

  1. Culture takes time and perseverance

Once you have the vision – prioritise your steps. The reality is, change will take time. If you believe it, be resolute. Help those who are struggling to change, but stick to your guns.

  1. Be student centred

Do students have voice or agency? Put current practices through the ‘learning’ filter – do they still belong?

  1. Equipped and supported staff are essential

Vision + ‘Learning’ Filter = Regular PD to support through change. (Fullan)

  1. Technology is an environment for learning, not the driver

Students live in a world of technology – the school-world needs be relevant.

  1. Relationships matter

In the midst of all the learning, technology and activity nothing matters more than quality relationships. Students need to belong, be known, valued and accepted. This is only achieved through relationship. Our GEMS programme is central to this.

  1. Learning is authentic

Set in a real-world context, skills will be learnt readily when there is purpose.

  1. Creativity and innovation have expression

There will always be barriers to innovation, find ways to break or go around them. Support those who are willing to make the first step and embrace failure. See an earlier blog on this.

The inquiry continues.

Barriers to Innovation

23 Jun

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It’s amazing to me how many fantastic, game-changing tools are blocked on some school networks. I’m not saying we should remove all filters – they do help to prevent us from accidentally stumbling onto things we don’t want to see and can’t unsee. But in 2017, our filters do almost nothing to prevent students from intentionally accessing inappropriate material. Blocking content is ineffectual for four reasons: (1) Most students have smartphones with a direct connection to the internet. (2) Most students have unfiltered internet at home. (3) Any student who walks home through the city centre has unfiltered access to the internet. (4) Students know about VPN services which bypasses our filters.

Over-strict filters just thwart our best teachers’ efforts to make learning more meaningful. Our failed attempts to keep a few miscreant students from doing the wrong thing just hampers the majority of students who want to use the internet for the right thing.

Inturn our attempts at innovation are being imped that we are making hard for those teachers who have outrageous ideas. The are being boxed in by logistics. As a SLT we must create the space.

Often, as teachers gain the authority to influence and effect change in a school, their openness to change diminishes. Teachers enter the teaching profession wide-eyed and keen to try lots of different things and experiment with new pedagogies. They don’t have much power though because they are seen as “green” by older, wiser, more seasoned teachers who hold the decision-making power. I’ve seen young teachers silenced, gossiped about and even bullied because more experienced teachers took offence at these young, upstarts thinking they know a better way to do things. Eventually these new teachers learn to tone it down and conform to ‘the way things are done around here’. The most effective school leaders I have seen, identify innovators (irrespective of their seniority or experience) and invest them with the ability to influence.

In our inquiry we must create space and cut down barriers if we are to keep students at the centre.

Improving Pedagogy

21 Jun

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In my opinion the best way to improve pedagogy is to speak to the students who are in the classrooms. Recently our students provided the followed recommendations to us through the curriculum survey which I thought were worth sharing:

  • less teacher talk: which we are thinking about making this a class challenge: How can we give you the student more opportunities to just get on with it AND make sure you have the instructions you need?
  • More hands on: they just crave opportunities to make and create. Make tasks relevant.
  • Clarify what “progress” means: students don’t seem to understand the role of activating prior knowledge and that learning is evidenced by growth from that base line (this may mean we have to also vary the way we collect this prior knowledge)
  • Continue the learning assets (e.g. self managers): students understand and can articulate these as they give a framework they use to improve and set goals – maybe include these in the letters students write to their new 2015 teachers.
  • Maintain the excursions as they love them for the powerful information and shared experience they provide.
  • Keep connecting to the community: they enjoy learning from experts in the community. Again see the point regarding relevant learning and assessment tasks.

Failure is OK

12 Jun

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I play a You Tube Clip to our students leaders on Leaders Day in January all about failure. It is a process many of them have not had to deal with.  All the great success stories, from Michael Jordan to Steve Jobs to James Dyson, are steeped in failure. Most successful people will tell you that you absolutely must fail in order to succeed, and that failure is essential for growth. Many great innovations were born out of failure. Failure, then, is not bad, but rather something to be expected, embraced, and learned from.

I have been thinking that students’ intelligence is determined by how well they succeed, and those who fail are deemed inferior.

Students are celebrated for their successes and punished, teased, or rejected for their failures.

Rarely, in a traditional classroom setting, is failure used as a pathway to innovation.

So our students enter the workforce having grown fearful of failure, believing that any failure will prove them unworthy, and many workplaces prove them right, unwilling or unable to foster an environment where failure is okay.

But if we know that on the other side of failure potentially lies innovation, growth, and discovery, then we need to practice failing, and failing big.

So, how can we change the current mindset, both in ourselves and others, that failure = bad?

Top companies like Google, Toyota, EXXON, Apple and AIG all encourage failure by staff by highlighting the following:

  • They make sure people don’t feel the need to hide or cover up failures, because they make sure their staff know they won’t be fired for the failure—instead they understand that the more quickly they own their failure, the more quickly it can be learned from and built upon.
  • They celebrate failures, sometimes as literal celebrations with beer and wine and sometimes just as public opportunities to say “Great try! We’ve learned so much from this”.
  • They require employees to fail big in their first three months of employment.
  • They actively practice a “no blame” culture, where those who make mistakes are not publicly shamed or blamed, but rather the entire team looks at the mistake and what the next steps or opportunities are.
  • They see mistakes or failures as just that—opportunities for something new or unexpected.
  • They understand that if their team is actively trying things and failing, they will eventually discover something great.
  • They see failure as a beginning not an ending.

Do we advance failure? How are we responding to this now? This week I will remind my staff and students alike that it is OK to FAIL>. 

IT PrObLeM and Solution

10 Jun

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I was writing reports this week and like those around me the tension was building. Errors creep in . Here is a common one and it was my learning this week. .

PROBLEM: having to retype text when you have left your CAPS LOCK on?

SOLUTION: quickly change the text typed in capitals back to the proper case without having to retype it.

If you accidentally leave your caps lock on while typing it’s not a train smash.  Thankfully it’s an easy fix.

  1. Select the text.
  2. Press SHIFT + F3 [keep the Shift key held down while you press F3 as many times as required until the text is displayed in the case you require], or from the Home tab in the Font group click the Change Case command and then select the case you require.

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together.

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