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Being Relational and Empathy

16 Jul

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Empathy is so important and it something we all need to work on. Empathy is now considered one of the most important skills in the 21st Century. Teaching empathy. Learning empathy. It is something I reflect on often in my role. When interview students and staff I think about these things. I found at a recent workshop on the Law and Education that being good at these things solved so many problems.

When interviewing I practice the following:

  • Ask why. Even when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things. The answers will sometimes surprise you. A conversation started from one question should go on as long as it needs.
  • Never say “usually” when asking a question. Instead, ask about a specific instance or occurrence, such as “tell me about the last time you ______.”
  • Encourage stories. Whether or not the stories people tell are true, they reveal how they think about the world. Ask questions that get people telling stories.
  • Look for inconsistencies. Sometimes what people say and what they do are different. These inconsistencies often hide interesting insights.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Be aware of body language and emotions. Have tissues handy.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Interviewers often feel the need to ask another question when there is a pause. If you allow for silence, a person can reflect on what they’ve just said and may reveal something deeper.
  • Don’t suggest answers to your questions. This can unintentionally get people to say things that agree with your expectations.
  • Ask questions neutrally. “What do you think about buying gifts for your spouse?” is a better question than “Don’t you think shopping is great?” because the first question doesn’t imply that there is a right answer.
  • Don’t ask binary questions. Binary questions can be answered in a word; you want to host a conversation built upon stories.

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.

Partnership between School and Parents

30 Jun

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This week I have been thinking about the role of the parents in schools. I’m a parent. It’s a partnership. Like all partnerships, a school parent partnership will be most effective when both parties commit to the partnership fully and when each party brings their strengths to it.

Communication is a key factor. When parents share news about major events or changes in the family that might affect their child, and relevant information about their child’s health or living situation, SLT and teachers can be better prepared to provide extra attention to the child as needed. Similarly, when a school staff member sees signs that something might be amiss, alerting parents and guardians in a timely manner may ensure extra support and help at home.

Shared goals and priorities can lead to opportunities for strong collaboration between the school and the family. Does the family think it’s important for the student to graduate high school in four years and go on to college? If so, they can be allies in making sure students are on task academically. Does the school see a budding Einstein in a student whose parents have minimal education? Teachers can give parents strategies and encouragement to support an academic potential in their child that may otherwise intimidate them.

Although we often overlook it, a shared concern of the children can create a powerful bond between parents and teachers. Every time I’m in a school I witness the passion so many teachers must help their student understand, achieve, and excel. Teachers need to let families know how hard they work for the children to succeed, how dedicated they are to helping kids thrive and grow into adults with meaningful and fulfilling lives. School staff and parents all want what is best for the child. Our students need to be at the centre.

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.

HOF Inquiry: Creativity

28 Jun

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This week I have been thinking about context v capabilities courtesy of our work with the Royal Society. Education is about more than accumulating large repertoires of facts and routines. However the demand for coverage unfortunately often results in a pedagogy of ‘teaching by mentioning’ that rewards formulaic learners. The challenge is to create a culture of teaching and learning that develops creative capacity. While teachers have always taught routine habits needed to solve routine problems, they now need to focus on the creative capacity building needed to solve more intractable problems. Profound pedagogical implications flow from this sort of thinking.

I loved the way we were given the opportunity to “blow stuff up.” That is sit in the seats of students. Creativity has become the economic engine of the 21st century and it is no longer a luxury for a few, but a necessity for all. Ken Robinson (2007) states that creativity is as important as literacy, Richard Florida (2002) writes about the rise of the creative class, and Dan Pink explains that,

“We’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again – to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers.” (2005: 50)

If education is to prepare young people for a very different global environment, we simply must invest in students’ creative capacities. New combinations of creative abilities are increasingly in demand in a complex post-millennial world and what we know today is not as important as what we need to learn for tomorrow. Habits held too tightly become burdensome. As Leadbeater states, “What holds people back…is their ability to unlearn” (2000: 9). Learning is usually an incremental process, but when the environment suddenly changes the key is to dispense with past learning because old practices and routines will no longer work. This means challenging ingrained assumptions and people’s sense of identity.

The extent of this change is described by Bauman (Gane, 2004) when he considers the behaviourist ‘rat-in-the-maze’ experiments that paralleled the social shape of the world fifty years ago with its, “firmly fixed division of labour, career tracks, class distinctions, power hierarchies, marriages…(and) social skills…” (p.21). But Bauman proceeds to ask what would happen in a script-less and fluid social world,

“…if the maze were made of partitions on castors, if the walls changed their position as fast, perhaps faster than the rats could scurry in search of food, and if the tasty rewards were moved as well, and quickly, and if the targets of the search tended to lose their attraction well before the rats could reach them, while other, similarly short-lived allurements diverted their attention and drew away their desire?” (p.21)

Florida, R. (2002) The Rise of the Creative Class, New York: Basic Books.

Gane, N. (2004) The Future of Social Theory, London: Continuum

Leadbeater, C. (2000) The Weightless Society: Living in the New Economic Bubble, New York: Texere.

Pink, D.H (2005) A Whole New Mind, New York: Penguin.

Robinson, K. (2007) “Do schools kill creativity?”, TED, YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY (Accessed 23 June 2017)

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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.

A Reflection: June 1

31 May

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If you have not spent time seriously exploring pedagogy, then you are going to fall into the trap of teaching the same way, just on a bigger scale.

Truly interrogating what you currently do requires some serious consideration of what is currently seen and accepted as best practice. Why is it best practice? Who decided? Is it best practice for all groups of learners? Is the numeracy project really meeting your identified student needs? Who says it is best practice? How well does it marry our curriculum? How well does it marry with BES? Is it moving your kids? Is there stages that they just roadblock at and need something different? Same for writing and reading? Where are the authentic links? Are they authentic for the actual kids in front of you? Or are they authentic in an adult’s head and world?

Restorative Reflection

29 May

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In my work this week I have been trying to get my head around restorative and relational practices. I have been thinking what makes effective practice and how we can apply this in my own environment. The question I am posing then on mountain2surf is just what does creating a Restorative Culture within a school or other community look like?

Positive relationships form the basis for any healthy community. For a Restorative Culture to develop, it is essential that community- and relationship-building be intentional. Relationships of authentic trust between adults and youth, and within both staff and student cohorts, are the foundation of the connections that will be restored through the use of RJ practices. We must first form these relationships, then, in times of trouble, there is something to restore. So building good relationships is key.

Reflection is something I believe we do not do enough of. It is essential to a restorative culture. Prayer in Catholic school provides an ideal opportunity for this. When students “act out”, do we examine our own contribution to the situation? What feelings and beliefs do we bring to the circumstances? In our busy and challenging position as educators, have we really done all we can to meet an individual student’s needs or is there something else we could try? Out of our best intentions, have we given some students so much slack that, without realizing it, we have set the bar too low and inadvertently sent them a message that they are not capable? This type of deep self-reflection and willingness to examine one’s own feelings, biases, pre-conceived notions, and actions is not easy, but it is one of the essential keys to establishing a Restorative Culture in schools.

But where should this self reflection take place. Now for self-reflection to take place and to build positive relationships, a safe space must be provided. Safe space encompasses not just physical well-being but also emotional and intellectual safety. Are behavioral and academic expectations clear? Are standards upheld consistently? Is the aftermath of making a mistake free from shame? If I take personal responsibility for my actions will I be met with compassion and a willingness to listen, rather than a quickness to blame and punish? Does the community embrace and validate different experiences, beliefs, and perspectives and allow for them to be expressed?

 

Just some initial thoughts.

 

Thought for a Friday May 26

25 May

checklist

My leadership style I have learnt sometimes depends on the situation. You can head into a leadership position with big dreams and the best intentions, and then remember you have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and suddenly lose those best intentions.

Other times as a leader you go into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) you can 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. Understanding our current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

Leadership is not for the faint of heart…

Personally I always go back to Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he showed us with 7 habits that all successful people have, and taught us that with some hard work we can adopt those habits too.

Be proactive – Anticipate and act, no matter how difficult the situation.

Begin with the end in mind – What do we want out of leadership, and what should we want as a school community?

Put first things first – Drop the politics of distraction, understand our current reality, and take actionable steps to achieve that goal.

Think win/win

Seek first to understand then to be understood – Leaders should listen more than they talk, and try to understand where the other person is coming from before they try to move forward.

Synergize – This is all about collective efficacy, which Tschannen-Moran, M., & Barr, M. (2004) says,“refers to the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.”

Sharpen the Saw – Know when to take a break. Schools with initiative fatigue never sharpen the saw.

Head of Faculty Inquiry

24 May

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I am finding Maslows model useful in my own inquiry. It considers what the teachers need from the leader and outlines “a set of knowledge, skills and dispositions required for meeting those needs”. During the leader’s ascension, toward the apex there are key checkpoints, questions that leaders need to ask themselves for the vision realised. This is my simplified version of Knuth & Banks strategy:

First Level: Your actions match your words
Leaders model core values and principles. You are able to inspire trust and articulate vision. Principle-centred leaders inspire trust by displaying consistency between core values, words and actions.

Leader Checkpoint 3: Is your internal compass in or out of alignment?
If your words and actions don’t match there’s no need to go any further.

Second Level: My physical and material needs matter to you
The work environment is clean and attractive. Sound, air-quality and safety needs are considered. Teachers have the resources they need to do their job well.

Third level: I am appreciated for my contribution
Leaders actively foster a sense of belonging. Encouragement and recognition is personalised. They put a human face on policies and systems.

Checkpoint 2: Is it your priority to ensure the basic needs of your people are met?
Without valuing people, clear systems, policies and training for staff, a leader’s energy is consumed by chaos or disorganisation and probably interpersonal conflict.

Fourth level: We’re on a journey together
As a community we own the vision, good systems are in place and we are able to direct our collective energies to our core mission.

Checkpoint 1: Do you feel like settling?
It’s all humming along nicely now, let’s just enjoy this. The fourth level is considered the ‘false apex’.

The Apex: Higher order change
This is rarely linear, rational or comfortable. It is disruptive, chaotic and tested by ambiguity. Leaders here demonstrate adaptive leadership skills. This is where the disruption happens. Remember: it isn’t actually an end point.

Fullan & Langworthy (2014) – A Rich Seam: How new pedagogies find deep learning
(Ch 6 The New change leadership)

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