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Things to Think About?

20 Dec

Contemporary business people working in team in the office

Great schools all have one thing in common: great organizational culture. I have reflected on this many times this year. Here some things, which I think, are important:

  1. Don’t Micro-Manage Teachers/Middle Managers

Teachers and principals need to be focused on one thing: their students. Too often, their focused is shifted from maximizing student achievement to compliance issues, paperwork, or other aspects that are not important or urgent. However, they will get email after email, memo after memo, reminding them to complete the tasks that will have no bearing on student achievement. Let them keep their focus on students. Trust in them that they know what their students need. After all, they are with them all day long.

  1. Give The Staff a Voice

No one likes to have decisions dictated from the top down. Teachers and principals must be trusted to make decisions for the students they work with. These decisions need to come from within.

  1. Share Success with Your Community

The use of Social Media here is really useful here.

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Summer Goals

15 Dec

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Summer is here and so is my month long break from school. The following are my goals for the summer or at least until January 15.

De-clutter: We as teachers need to take time to let it go. Have a clean out and get rid of all those daily worries for the time being. January will bring new perspectives.

Reflect on Your School Year: Here is another opportunity to take advantage of specific starting and ending points in our profession. Make time with a colleague to reflect upon the school year. Discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and what you will do differently next year. This process will help bring closure to one year and set you up for the next year.

Spend Time With Loved Ones and Reconnect: As teachers, we spend our entire day with other people’s children. From the early morning until the late afternoon, we interact with very few adults. Take time over the summer to have adult conversations.

Have a Real Coffee: With others or By yourself. Most people don’t understand that teachers can’t go out for lunch. We just do not have the time. Do it over the summer.! Be an adult.

Read and Relax: Especially not work related content. Enough said.

Living the Mission

30 Nov

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I love the writing of Malcolm Gladwell. His latest podcast series is also simply brilliant. In Malcolm Gladwell’s text ‘Tipping Point’, he references the concept of ‘Broken Windows’, the brainchild of James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, promulgating that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. The following has been adapted from this text. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes.In the mid 1980s Kelling was hired by the New York Transit Authority as a consultant, and he urged them to put the Broken Windows theory into practice. They obliged, bringing in a new subway director by the name of David Gunn to oversee a multibillion dollar rebuilding of the subway system. Many subway advocates, at the time, told Gunn not to worry about ‘small’ issues such as graffiti and to focus on the larger questions of crime and subway reliability.

But Gunn insisted that the graffiti was symbolic of the collapse of the system. He stated: “When you looked across at the process of rebuilding of the organisation and morale, you had to win the battle against graffiti. Without winning that battle, all the management reforms and physical changes just weren’t going to happen. Gunn drew up a new management structure and a precise set of goals and timetables aimed at cleaning the system line by line, train by train. Gunn made it a rule that there should be no retreat, that once a car was “reclaimed” it should never be allowed to be vandalised again. “We were religious about it,” Gunn said. The idea was to send a perspicuous message to the vandals themselves. Gunn’s graffiti clean-up took place from 1984 to 1990.

At thatpoint, the Transit Authority hired William Bratton to head the transit police, and the second stage of the reclamation of the subway system began. Bratton was, like Gunn, a disciple of Broken Windows. With felonies on the subway system at an all-time high, Bratton decided to crack down on fare-beating. He believed that, like graffiti, fare-beating could be a signal, a small expression of disorder that invited much more serious crimes. Bratton turned the transit police into an organisation focused on the smallest infractions, on the details of life underground.

The positive effect on both the subway from the approaches of Gunn and Bratton were remarkable. After the election of Rudolph Giuliani as mayor of New York in 1994, Bratton was appointed head of the New York City Police Department, and he applied the same strategies to the city at large. When crime began to fall in the city, as quickly and dramatically as it had in the subways, Bratton and Giuliani pointed to the same cause. Minor, seemingly insignificant quality-of-life crimes, they said, were the tipping points for violent crime.

This is got me thinking this week.  That is, the small, immediate things do matter. So when we ask the students to look tidy, or be punctual to class or pick up litter, we are not simply asking them to accord to a set of arbitrary requests. Rather, it is a recognition thatthe undertaking of such requests and responsibilities contribute ina meaningful manner to a broader culture and set of behaviours, attitudes and values which are aligned with the mission of our College. It is being part of society. It is Living the Mission.

White Space

17 Nov

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Recently, I have been reading with members of my PLN (Professional Learning Network) about the concept of white space. White space can be described as the focused time you create for yourself to slow down and reflect. I have become a proponent of this type of mindfulness. My peers have described that they create white space by running, swimming, praying, sitting and listening to music, exploring their passion in the kitchen, enjoying art, unplugging and sightseeing, and spending time with family and friends. Does white space have to be you sitting in a soundless, sterile room getting in touch with your thoughts? ‘m not sure. White space can be anything that connects you to yourself and connects you to others. Biking, running, reading, playing in the snow, all of those can be white space moments for you. I blog. it is my “winter” or white space. I’m doing this for my own benefit as well as to share and explore the white space concept with others. Recently, I read an article about how Norwegians embrace winter and I attributed some of that enjoyment to embracing white space time. I am taking on this challenge to help me reflect, learn about myself, learn from others, and embrace “my winter” in new ways. Next year I am going to encourage my teams to participate in this further.

Fullan and Leading Change

6 Nov

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Michael Fullan has long championed the critical importance of transforming school culture and writes extensively on the topic. His perspective is also clear: “Structure does make a difference, but it is not the main point of achieving success. Transforming the culture – changing the way we do things around here – is the main point.”

For many, simply introducing change to schools is the golden bullet solution. Our recent HOF Inquiry understood this fact early. There is no point in making change unless you have clarity around “why?”

Despite the massive investments that reveal the productivity towards this trend, the reality of organizational change is far more complex. The jury is no longer out on the impact of technology on formal learning. We know that attempts to engage in change (be it digital or otherwise) without vision are simply not going to have much of an impact. Attempts to transform schools because there is some populist pressure to do so have proven similarly facile. Embracing innovation for student-centered reasons with vision and culture that is carefully cultivated to allow this vision to thrive is the way forward. I consider myself fortunate to work in a school where this is part of the ambition for every learner.

I have written about culture often recently. I guess it is on my mind. Change without attention to culture is no change at all. Levin and Shrum’s study echoes this perspective: “Leaders that engage the school community in the effective use of technology… appreciate the power of school culture. They create … cultures in which meaningful teamwork based on trust is the primary force of professional learning and continuous improvement.” This trust must be centered on a conviction that we are doing what is best for students and that, as professionals, we routinely question what this means.

The following have been on my reading list in 2017. Worth a look.

Couros, George. In the Service of the Right Aims, 2016.
Richardson, Will. Learning. All. The. Time. 2016.
Bersin, Josh. Predictions for 2017: Everything Is Becoming Digital. 2016.
Fullan, Michael. Leading in a Culture of Change. 2007.
Levin, Barbara B.  & Schrum, Lynne. Leading 21st-Century Schools: Harnessing 

Doing it Better

21 Oct

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I have a lot on my plate at the moment. Last week I worked over 60 hours at school with many crucial meetings and by the time Friday came around I was tired. As a result, I made a couple of errors and let standards slip. Part of being a good leader though, is recognising when that occurs and doing something about it. And here I go doing something about it.

Yes, I know that leadership in schools in the 21st century is complex and challenging and most of the time I feel like I’m on top of things. On Friday night, it took me one km in the pool that night and a rigorous 8km run on Saturday morning to finally gain control of my emotions and to think it all through and plan a way forward.

You see, there are times when you are tested as a leader, often when you least expect it. The most important thing that I have learned as a leader is to work on your self-leadership skills. If you can’t lead yourself, then you will never, ever lead others successfully.

So what did I learn:

  • Breathe deeply and give yourself time to think. Consider that sometimes your biggest problem may be your biggest opportunity. Choose actions that will make you a better person. Actions that are aligned to your values and reflect what you love to do.
  • Use a Growth Mindset. A Growth Mindset ensures strategies to keep learning and growing. A Fixed Mindset will stall your growth and development and you will find yourself blaming others.
  • Remember that working your way through problems and frustrations will develop your resilience.
  • Remember that it’s not always about you. It’s about what you can do to help others grow and develop.
  • Always focus on learning. What am I learning and how can I improve.
  • There is always tomorrow. The staff at our school are reading one of four books over the summer holidays.

Personalized learning and technology

19 Oct

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As I was out running yesterday I was watched the people in the local shopping centre. I thought about how people live now. It is all about them. “Me” not “you.” This is one reason why social media works. Facebook is about “you” building and connecting to “your” friends. It’s about sharing what you like, liking what others do, and showing off what you do. Twitter is even more about “you.” Yes, you can use these tools to think beyond yourself. You can use these tools to promote and share. But they became big because of how they are about “You.” Even Linkedin as a professional tool is about building up “you” to the world. It’s about how many connections you have and who these connections are.

When it comes to being connected, we are more connected today than ever before. Almost everyone must have a smartphone, especially teenagers. They must be available immediately to their friends. Texting is now bigger than email and using the phone. That’s old school. With unlimited texting packages, we can write back and forth whenever we want with as many words as we want. And we do.

Interpersonal relationships mean more to most kids than their own families. They check their phone often. This is why texting why driving is such a problem. Smartphones alert you when there’s a text, a tweet, or some other response or nudge about almost anything. You are “always” connected to your network unless you turn your phone off. If they turn off their phones, they lose their connections.

I loved this clip which appeared in my feed this week:

This got me thinking about the options we are providing for students.  We can focus on learning that is personal, but we need to teach and model compassion, kindness and empathy. We need to demonstrate what it is to be part of a social network and how to look beyond yourself. We also need to use these tools so kids can learn the way they learn best. Take advantage of them. But we also need to show them that they need to look up and out at the world. Connect with others to not only build connections but to share what you learn and learn from others. Teach the skills to recognize bias, validity and authenticity. Help them to be able to articulate intelligently and thoughtfully. This is their future and right now I’m a little concerned if they are ready for it.

 

Leadership in My Environment

5 Oct

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In my daily work I reflect on the Kiwi Leadership Model. These key points are Manaakitanga (leading with moral purpose), Pono (having self-belief), Ako (being a learner) and Awhinatanga (guiding, supporting, building relationships).

I reflect on the document Tü Rangatira. The metaphor running throughout the document depicts a seven key roles of the leader. All of which I need some work on. He Kaitiaki (guardian), He Kaiwhakarite (manager), He Kanohi Matara (visionary), He Kaiako (teacher and learner), He Kaimahi (worker), He Kaikötuitui (networker) and He Kaiarataki (advocate).

I believe a Principal must be an outstanding teacher.  Principals play a major role in developing a “learning community” of teachers who guide one another in improving instruction. The relationship is strong albeit indirect: Good leadership improves both teacher motivation and work settings.

Above all else my leadership philosophy has been led by a commitment to Catholic education. Jesus Christ must be at the center of this.  It is easy to become caught up in a maelstrom of secular educational issues, however it is important to focus upon the spiritual development of the child, lest he or she lose connection with our Catholic faith. The gospel of Jesus Christ and his very person are to inspire and guide the Catholic school in every dimension of its life and activity.

The key to attaining this vision of Catholic education is to ensure that we, lay educators, are well versed in Catholic teachings, as well as educational research and methodology.  Our Catholic leaders should embody servant leadership.  Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 1:43-44). .

And how do we model leadership for the youth that we serve? Once we’ve fully stepped into our own leadership, we can point out how our leadership might look different than the leadership displayed by those to our right and those to our left.

SLT as Teacher

3 Oct

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I love being a teacher.  When I became a Deputy Principal was very worried that I would lose touch of what it was like to be a teacher.  I heard stories of SLT who had become disconnected from what really happens in the classroom, and I was determined that was not going to be me.  The first two years of being a SLT I walked through classes as much as possible and got to know the kids.  I still taught two classes as I do today and took tutorials. I wanted to stay connected and by walking through classes and getting to know kids I felt a certain level of being connected but not as much as I wanted.

Teachers would ask if I ever missed a full load of teaching and I would tell them I really did; I missed it a lot.  But I recognize now that I have many classrooms. The staff-room and the assembly hall.

I learned many valuable lessons from teaching the classes.  These are just a few:

-Teaching classes shows others that you are willing to take risks

-You gain a better appreciation for what teachers do on a daily basis

-You gain a better understanding of what teachers and students need which will help when decisions need to be made

-You can try some of the strategies that you have learned from observing other teachers

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.

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