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Solutions Orientated

5 Sep

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I like to think I am solutions orientated so on the back of my last piece here are some ideas around how we can be better at catching students up.

Make Catch-Ups Purposeful

Ensuring catch up sessions aren’t just an opportunity to recover what was taught in lessons. Because this may convey the message that if they don’t listen first time in class, they can listen to it again in our time after school.

Enrich

Instead of catch up classes, can sessions after school actually go beyond the curriculum?   Can we link with specialist providers in our field to show how our subjects are used in industry?  Can we bring in experts to share their knowledge and push learning beyond its existing level?

Set Boundaries

There are students who genuinely need this additional support and I don’t know any teachers who would want to not provide this.  But do we ensure that those who need it get it rather than those who can’t be bothered getting a second chance

Phase them out

Could the way we design lessons, curriculums and schemes be reviewed?  Could we analyse our teaching and learning?  Asking the question why additional sessions are actually needed could lead to some real improvements to the department.  Why do we not have the time to deliver the course in lessons?  Why isn’t the content sticking? How could we use technology to complement this?

In conclusion though and why would you remove them if hardworking students are seeking to improve their grades further?  But then again, would removing them and addressing why we might need them solve the problem itself?

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Being Less Happy

24 Aug

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Your smart phone could be making your miserable.

Young people today are experiencing levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and related conditions at rates higher than they were a generation ago. (And the rest of us aren’t doing much better.)

In the USA according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 Americans suffer from some form of depression, and people between the ages of 18 and 24 report the highest incidences. Forty million Americans over the age of 18 have an anxiety disorder, but again, as the recent report, “Stress in America,” made clear, millennials are the hardest hit. More evidence: Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, claiming 4,600 lives per year. All of this, in a society that has more wealth than much of the rest of the world combined.

However it is not enough to simply ban devices. On the back of this I share this video today.

Teaching as Inquiry

11 Aug

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The culture of inquiry is so important in our school among all ako. By that I mean students and teachers. As part of our annual plan I have been thinking a great deal about these. For a superb summary of this please click here.  Here some thoughts on the topic:

A Good Question

Questions are an effective way to frame a unit of inquiry. When students struggle to find the answer, it raises the level of inquiry. Questions encourage students to think outside of their class/content area. The inquiry needs to be framed up by this.

Five Benefits of Good Questions:

  1.  Essential Questions establish a learning focus for students.
  2.  The process of identifying Essential Questions helps educators clarify their intended purpose.
  3.  Essential Questions promote critical thinking.
  4.  Essential Questions support integrated instruction (i.e., teaching and learning across disciplines).
  5.  Essential Questions help students see the Big Picture, while allowing each student to connect prior knowledge to new understandings.

Reflection

Reflection is a lost art in classrooms and by teachers. We are constantly battling paper. With the push to cover more content and standards, teachers often make a choice between coverage or pausing for reflection. Reflection comes in many forms: reflective journals, group work, whole class, silent reflection, reviewing yesterday’s work, reflecting on an essential question, or creating a product that shows your thoughts on a previous lesson or understanding.

How often do students feel like the pace of schooling is rushed? Once a unit is finished, the teacher moves to the next unit. Reflection involves slowing down to share what we learned. In the absence of reflection, it is unlikely that a classroom is a Culture of Inquiry. How do students reflect and make meaning out of their experiences?

Learning takes place when inquiry is present. As you meet with your teacher team to develop lessons and assessments, analyse the amount of time students have to question, talk with their peers, and reflect. Career Readiness is not a score on a test or NCEA. Readiness means that students graduate with the skills that provide them with opportunities for success beyond high school. Here’s a thought. Contemplate how the courses in your school foster critical thinking, problem solving, and application of academic knowledge.

 

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. 

A Relational Approach

23 Jul

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I am a great believer in starting with a clean slate. There is no better to time to this than at the start of the term. The first day of the school term and every day after provides the perfect opportunity to stand at your door, in the hallways, and meet and greet everyone. When I mean everyone, I mean everyone! I propose this because we will never know what student or colleague will build a connection with us. These short and sincere encounters with people in our communities are what begin to build the strong fibers of an interconnected environment. Ask: What is your name? What is your favorite thing about school? What do you want to be when you grow up? What are your interests? How has his day been so far? Relationships, like trust, build slowly over time. As leaders in the community we must provide the time and space to nurture all kinds of relationship building, whenever possible. What would our schools be like if we knew everyone? Building relationships with everybody helps all of us build a community. A whanau. It allows us to know who connects with whom and who can support whom in a time of need. The same can be said with staff culture.

What are your best practices in relationship building? Where do you struggle? Share both with us below in the comments sections—we’ll celebrate along with you and troubleshoot wherever necessary.

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.

Getting on the Waka together

14 Jul

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The winter term is a particularly busy time in schools and can often be when fractures in relationships are more obvious. It can be all too easy with the frenetic pace of school life to forget that relationships need to be kept well oiled to enable school life to function smoothly and with as little disruption and conflict as possible.
Being a restorative school and being on the related contracted has made me reflect on these. Recently at a course on education and the law I noted that so many issues can be solved by being restorative and relational. So when conflict and disruptions occur what are the 3 key steps that individuals can take to restore fractured relationships?
 
Korero.
 
If there is an unresolved issue between you and someone that you lead or manage, make time to talk with and not to or at them. Every person has their side of the story that needs to be told. In the right environment, telling our story enables us to make sense of our experiences and can bring a sense of clarity and perspective.
To ensure that this is successful, you will need to find an objective’ space in which to meet;  one that allows you both to  be and assume equal status for the discussion.
Listen
 
Listening can be one of the most powerful tools that an individual can have in seeking to restore a relationship. If you are in conflict with another person and truly want to bring resolution to the relationship. I often in my coaching sessions let people talk until they get off their chest what has been going on for them.
In our busy working lives, we have forgotten how to truly listen; most of the time our minds our pre-occupied with either how to respond to what we have just heard, or the next task that we have to complete on our ˜to do’ list or what to cook for supper.
With all the PLD out there we have become masters at given the impression that we are listening, but that’s just all it is, an impression. Sometimes its not for real. You must also reflect back. Ask questions. So have a think is there any relationship that you are in at the moment that could benefit from the simple process of: Finding a safe space and time for good robust korero, listening to one another and reflect back.

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.

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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