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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.

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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Time to Reflect Again…

15 May

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By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

I love that quote by Confucius. His opinion is still valid, of course, although I’m less sure of the order in which he presents the three paths to wisdom. Perhaps imitation is the easiest, but teaching by modelling involves the use of imitation to some extent, and it is through modelling that the teacher can begin to map the routes to wisdom for the learner. If modelling and imitation come first, then the path to wisdom is broadened and made firmer under-foot through offering practical experiential learning to students. Learning from experience plays a critical part in combining information and skills in context to create knowledge, and the meaning and form that such experiences can take are as varied as the countless subjects and disciplines themselves that comprise the broad sweep of human activity.

In teaching there are many forms of reflection. Some which I am good at yes take a bow Andrew. Others not so much. This can be a reflection on teaching but also on the way you lead your Faculty.

  • Critical self-reflection – taking the time to go back over our own teaching, either from memory, or from notes taken, or increasingly today from a video of our teaching; we do this with the aim of challenging ourselves on what went well or not, and why;
  • Collaborative reflection – working with one or more colleagues who join with you in reflecting on your teaching, perhaps having observed your lesson live, whether via live video, or having watched a recorded video of your teaching after the event; of course, this can, and perhaps should, be reciprocal – collegiate reflection can be very powerful indeed;
  • Coaching and mentoring – working with either a more experienced colleague or an external expert who watches you teach (again either by classroom observation or through the use of video) and is able to offer advice – this can be done live or in retrospect, or both. Equally, working with a colleague or colleagues to mentor/coach each other can make for very effective professional reflection. Our experts sometimes come from our own community.

“Our Code, Our Standards – draft for consultation”

2 May

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This was well worth noting this week. “Our Code, Our Standards – draft for consultation”

Our Code, Our Standards articulates the expectations and aspirations of our profession, and has been crafted by teachers, leaders and teaching experts. It reflects what it is to be a teacher in Aotearoa New Zealand. This video invites learners to discuss and provide feedback on the draft. Read the document and have your say at educationcouncil.org.nz/OurCodeOurStandards Please view the video here: 

Curriculum for the Future

30 Apr

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The future of teaching in schools is a current, very complex education issue. Teaching is being informed that it must change and retain a focus on core skills to develop students who can participate in our 21st century society. Transformation of practice is often cited as a key goal for teachers’ and their curriculum to achieve these expectations.

Last year I attended an online webinar around future curriculum. This in-turn set underway our future curriculum review.

There are 3 important drivers of this conversation;

    1. LwDT; over the past 25 years technology has been used to amplify our teaching methods, engage students with their learning and make educational infrastructure more efficient. Today, technology can transform teaching, classrooms and schools in ways we never considered possible 25 years ago. Individual teachers and some schools are exploring breathtaking innovations…educational innovation is as diverse as it is spontaneous and irregular currently.
    2. Brain science; growth mindset, mindfulness, the science of learning has revealed significant new insights into how students learn best and the unique nature of each students learning. We need to focus on developing the intellect of each individual and concede that the teach content and test content academic model falls well short in the 21st century.
    3. The future needs of students; to ensure they can be active participants in a 21st century society where citizenship, career and communication are envisaged to be so different to existing contexts.  We need to understand and cater for students, perhaps our brightest students, can now genuinely consider creating their own job rather than go to university or follow a traditional career path.

In order to develop students who are best equipped for the future a new core set of skills have been identified as being essential for successful participation in the 21st century economy and society. They are usually identified as;

1. being creative and innovative in their thinking

2. being able to collaborate, sometimes over distance

3. being able to problem solve

4. being able to communicate well in a different modes

5. being entirely comfortable and innovative with LwDT.

A key to this thinking has been Michael Fullan’s work around the 6Cs. Watch this space.

Meetings

17 Mar

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It has been a massive week here at school with one thing and another. As I walked away on Friday I ticked over 54 hours in school for the week. No violins please it is the job and I love it.  I thought about meetings though as I was driving home. Here are some pieces of GOLD.

PIECE OF GOLD #1: Never have a meeting run more than an hour.

Research tells us that adults need to switch up activities every 5-20 minutes to stay engaged. This will give you at least four different topics to discuss during your meeting. Your audience will not be able to mentally digest any more than this.

PIECE OF GOLD #2: Turn your meetings into work sessions.

If you ask educators what they need more of, often they will say time. Teachers need time to grade, plan, and analyse assessment data. SLT need time work on strategic plans, balance budgets, and analyse formative and summative assessments, among other tasks. Turning your meetings into work sessions to complete these essential tasks will benefit everyone. Plus, it will make everyone more productive, and more collaborative. It will also make them happier.

PIECE OF GOLD #3: Try flipping your meeting.

The flipped classroom concept has been around for years. Teachers preparing content online and letting their students work on it at their own pace instead of needless lecturing has shown to be very effective. Why not run your meetings the same way? After all, educational leaders should be modelling research-based strategies. Bringing in instructional technology will create excitement and intrigue.

PIECE OF GOLD #4: Cancel your meeting if it is not needed.

If you have nothing to meet about, please do everyone a favour and cancel the meeting. There is nothing wrong with sending out information via email.

PIECE OF GOLD #5: Prioritize Mentoring or Coaching Meetings.

These are vital for go forward.

 

 

Trend Four: Data Driven Organisations

17 Mar

Trend FourData-word-cloud

I love analytics. Moneyball, Brad Pitt aside, is one of my favorite all time movies. Analytics, according to Wikipedia, is “the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data.”

New technologies make it all possible as they provide massive storage for any kind of data, enormous processing power and the ability to handle virtually limitless concurrent tasks or jobs.

In New Zealand, we can see this trend in data driven organisations. The government has set up the New Zealand Data Futures Forum to guide thinking about the use of data in response to questions such as “Who has what data about me/us and what will they be doing with it?” “What data do I/we have access to that can help us?”.

Using analytics goes well beyond formal reporting or collation of results, enabling a deeper understanding of your students by harnessing longitudinal data and cross-referencing with multitude of different data-sets both internal and external to the school.

Have you ever wrestled with how exactly to measure the value-add of your school beyond delivering the prescribed curriculum? What about understanding how your pedagogical framework is driving improvement in outcomes, or greater engagement? Learning analytics can help to demystify some of these questions, providing quantitative data to measure and assess the success of various programs in your school.

Using various data-sets, and supported by the right tools, it becomes easier to cross-reference aspects such as how students who learn a language compare against overall scores. Or to look at the academic progression of students who are involved in school sport. Predicting and then evaluating actual performance against widely-recognized bench-marking also becomes more simple, and an activity that a school can undertake of their own accord where once a consultant was almost always required. Learning analytics has been crucial to building better pedagogical based on insights into student interactions with such things as new curriculum content, online learning and new technology platforms.  Learning Analytics helps leaders measure whether changes have been effective and should be sustained.

One common fear associated with learning analytics in schools is the concern it will become a tool to put teachers under the microscope and a way of attacking their performance. In fact, the positive information and analysis associated with learning analytics far outweighs any of these concerns, most of which go unfounded. Teachers and school leadership alike genuinely want to find better ways to support their students on their learning journeys – and all the better if the pedagogy or policy is informed by real data, rather than guesswork. None of this is to say that a professional educator’s eye is still not a key piece of the puzzle, it is in fact imperative as anyone will tell: data itself does not provide the answers, but points savvy educators toward sharper questions and deeper understanding. Thus, empowered with new hypotheses, educators and leaders alike can scrutinize data and apply their professional judgments to further enrich the data, and encourage a culture of continuous improvement across the board.

Students are also beginning to experience the benefits of learning analytics as they engage with mobile and online platforms that track data to create responsive, personalised learning experiences with adaptive learning and assessment. This can then help students to monitor their own progress and take ownership for their learning, which, per Hattie and others, has significant positive effect on achievement.

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