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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.

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Leaders and Listening

24 Sep

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One of the most important tips on leadership I have received was from my Mum. She has not lead a school and she left school at a very young age but she knows a thing of two about leadership. I only have to look at my siblings as evidence of that. Her tip was always LISTEN.

I have been really moved this week through my coaching sessions. Once again, I have been reminded of the tip from my Mum regarding listening. I have been reminded that when individuals are listened to deeply, they are given a space which quite simply allows them to be. In this space they learn to take off the armour, to be vulnerable, to show true emotion, fear and courage and through doing so re-connect with what matters to them most. This is when relational trust really occurs.

The simple act of being listened to, become the means through which people begin to unwind and take a step back from the stresses of their roles. Active and emphatic listening is so important. It is the ability to listen to another in such a way that they know that their own self-worth is not dependent on anything that they either say or do. Emphatic listening is powerful because when listened to in this way, individuals feel a great sense of liberation. The act of being listened to so deeply helps them to listen to and understand themselves with a greater degree of accuracy. Thoughts, feelings and emotions that may have been weighing them down are released. As a result individuals are able to experience a lighter emotional and mental state.

Through emphatic listening, fear and internal emotional blockages are cleared. Individuals become more in tune with their own emotions. They learn not to run away from them, but learn to listen and understand them; so that they are able to exhibit greater control over their behaviours, particularly in stressful situations. When individuals master the art of self-control and self-management they show up as a more balanced and in control version of themselves.

As a school leader it is important to find someone to listen to you, to be that critical friend yourself. I know the team I have is invaluable. Shout out to them this week. You know who you are.

 

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?

Helicopter Institutions

4 Sep

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It is Mock Exam time at our place next week. It is a busy term with a variety on. We are busily running extra sessions for students so it made me question: Does the presence of extra sessions, Study Days, or 24 hour access through the flipped classroom give the message to students that even if you produce minimal work in lessons then there is still time for you to catch up later on? Are we creating a helicopter institution?

I chatted to a knowledgeable student today and posed this exact question about additional catch up sessions.  They came up with a number of reasons in a balanced way justifying their place, and even their removal, from school.  One of the biggest things he said was that the presence of them might be giving students who “can’t be bothered” a reason to choose not to do any work.  The knowledge that they could catch up at a later date might allow them to pick and choose when they wanted to do anything in actual lesson time.

With the creation of additional sessions after school, are we inadvertently creating two schools?  With the school day ending does another one begin?

Are the pressures of teaching being passed onto students?

With the increased levels of accountability and pressure for results, do teachers feel that they are required to run these sessions to fulfil targets?

With this in mind, is the expectation and requirement of students to attend these sessions actually removing the love of learning?   Are additional sessions shifting the responsibility for student’s grades from the student and onto the teacher?  Does it feel like we have to work harder to get students through their NCEA or National Standards?

With workload itself being a national talking point, are we laying more pressure on teachers to not only teach their timetabled lessons, but to also teach additional lessons outside of curriculum time?

Because we want the best for our students, and we want to ensure we have the best results possible for our own professional progress, do we feel that we should be doing these sessions?  Is that part of the problem though?  If they weren’t rolled out in schools would students work harder?  So can we be that little bit better at using catch up classes?

Friday thought on Culture

28 Aug

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A collaborative culture also leads to higher levels of trust and respect among colleagues and translates to improved student learning. Empowered learning requires investment in technology. It requires talented teachers who are supported. But too often the infrastructure and the investment are as far as the planning goes. Government agencies and district leaders are left frequently bewildered by the lack of impact of huge investments. This vital message is, in many instances, ignored: it’s the culture, stupid.

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.”

The best schools and the deepest learning are characterized by one simple truth. The work is about individual learner needs, not systems. It’s about the ecosystem and a humane environment that permits teachers to work for the students, not the system. As everything becomes digital, school culture matters more than ever.

Fullan, Michael. Leading in a Culture of Change. 2007.

Support Your SLT

23 Aug

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This week as an SLT we took some time out to plan the year ahead. An exercise well worth doing. The most important part of this exercise was supporting each other. We must remember to do this. Here some points that I have been thinking about:

POINT ONE: Recognise that vulnerability is courageous. In the “one mistake and you’re out” environment that education has become, it’s incredibly hard to be vulnerable.  But it really is only through vulnerability that we grow as people, and it’s only when you grow that you can lead. It’s ok to say yeah I got that wrong. It does hurt to say this but it’s ok.

POINT TWO: Actually follow through on that by asking for help when you need it. OK, so you’ve watched Brene Brown’s TED talk and talked to your PPTA staff rep so you think you’re set on the whole emotional intelligence/vulnerability thing. But this isn’t something you can do in theory. You have to actually take action and ask for help when you’re feeling vulnerable.

POINT THREE: Realise that the most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. If you don’t do the work to develop self knowledge and self awareness, you simply won’t have the capacity to effectively lead those under you.

POINT FOUR: Personally I love my weekend run with a mate. Talking rubbish and pushing ourselves to the next level. Create spaces where you can let down your guard. So often, it feels like you have to wear three inch thick armour when you’re walking around at school. But you have to have spaces where you can put that down and just be yourself or you’ll burn out.

POINT FIVE: Learn to be honest with yourself. Although being honest with yourself can be uncomfortable and even scary, it’s crucial to becoming a great leader.

POINT SIX: Differentiate yourself from the role. Just because you work as a school leader doesn’t mean that that’s all you are. This is hard as people will constantly remind you of this.

POINT SEVEN: Fill your own cup first. There’s no way that you can be a great leader if you’re constantly run down and stressed out. Make sure you make a date during the week. Its ok to do Pilates on a Tuesday!!!

Term 3 Focus

2 Aug

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As the term begins for us here in New Zealand it is a good time to take stock. What are your goals for the next 100 days of school? Do your goals take priority over learning styles and student needs? Is your professional development (PD) plan a success if all of the teachers complete the face-to-face PD, but do not implement the instructional strategies?

As a teacher, the world may not be second-guessing your decisions or requesting that you explain your school improvement plan on national TV. Impacting the lives of hundreds of students in a school is much more complex than a checklist. This term I will be asking my middle leaders to reflect on the reason they became an educator. Knowing “your why” will help you support teaching and learning. While a teacher’s legacy is the successful transition of children into adults who contribute to society, it is important to focus on the students you have this year and not your legacy.

Here are five focus points for you:

1.  Focus on The Students You Have This Year

2.  Recognize The Importance Of Continuous Improvement

3.  Focus On Goals, But Not At The Expense Of Student Growth

4.  Provide A Culture Where Multiple Perspectives Are Valued

5.  Reflect On The Reasons You Became An Educator

Being Hamstrung by Policy

1 Aug

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This week as part of my role we were looking at policy with the BOT. To run effectively, schools require policies, guidelines and procedures. They are important to give schools points of reference from which to operate and ensure that everyone in the organisation is on the same page.

Every school that I know has some form of staff handbook; a manual for staff that usually provides details of the school’s key policies and procedures. Depending on where you have worked, these manuals vary considerably in terms of their content, both in length and quality. You can gain an idea about the school culture when you ask teachers whether they know about what is in the staff handbook and the policies that they are aware of and are familiar with. School leaders are often frustrated when staff are not aware of the policies that have been put in place; many of them to support teachers in realizing important aspects of a school’s vision and mission and safeguarding of students’ well being.

Sp why the disconnect? Why are teachers not so familiar with the school handbooks, policies and procedures?

Could it be that teachers cannot be bothered? Perhaps they do not see the relevance until it the manual needs to be consulted, after all we are professionals, right?

There’s an element of truth in all these plausible responses.

Fact: Policies are not an enjoyable part of teaching, so making them attractive and interesting to read is not easy.

Fact: Policies are an important part of being professional and ensuring important levels of consistency in how people work together in a school.

So, how do school’s overcome the problem in having clear and effective policies that are viewed as important and are adhered to by the staff?

Cut down the number of policies
Too many policies and procedures make it difficult to enforce all of them, so cut down the number of policies in order to reduce any cynicism that may be aimed at their ineffectiveness.

Collaborate
Where possible, create collaborative teams to establish new policy or review existing ones. We have plenty of tools to create these.

Regularly refer to policies at staff hui and whakakaha
Keep important policies front and center to the work that is being done. It is important, therefore, to spend time looking at them in meetings and discussing their application. For example, if your school has an academic honesty policy or behaviour management policy, give it life in meetings rather than let it sit and gather dust on the shelf.

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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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.

 

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