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Mentoring and Successful Schools

10 Nov

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As school leaders, we recognise that appraisal an essential process that exists in schools. The evidence gathered in the process is central to the ability teacher registration. However, because the process is often seen as mechanical, 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.

As I work on my own appraisal and appraisal meetings I note the importance of self-accountability 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.

When mentoring is placed firmly at the heart of the appraisal process, teachers and other staff members experience a process in which belief in the development of human potential becomes central to the conversation. At the heart of these must be the PTCs.

When school leaders are skilled in using the principles of mentoring to assist their appraisal, meetings they help to create a clear path for creating a school culture where individuals to make things better.

Mentoring accepts it as a process for accelerating the achievement of school targets (that is annual goals and strategic plans) through:

– Creating alignment between organisational and personal goals

– Growing and developing others

– Enabling others to step outside of their comfort zones

– Supporting others to achieve their full potential

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 their mistakes.

The truth is, when systems for appraisal exist that do not develop an individual’s sense of self-worth, a void can be created between the individual’s perception of self and what they feel capable of achieving. In such environments, individuals either consciously or subconsciously limit what they give both to themselves and their school.

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.

 

 

 

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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 

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?

A Mid Term Reflection

22 Aug

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I love being a connected educator. I have gained immensely from connections I have with others through Twitter, Facebook, Edchats, podcasts, at EdCamps, and in person. But, I have a confession, sometimes I feel inadequate when speak with some these talented teachers.

Before becoming a connected educator, I operated in a vacuum, in isolation. I would connect with my faculty and staff but our work wasn’t about sharing best practices or what we were doing in our buildings. It was mostly about listening to ministry and making sure we were leading those. Being connected has opened a new world for me, a world in which I see the amazing things educators are doing every day. And that contributes to my feelings of inadequacy. Often, I have thought, “Wow, that is inspiring; I wish I could do that.” I wish I could communicate and reach out more through blogs, podcasts, You Tube channels and other media as prolifically and proficiently as others do. I wish I could spend more time in classrooms, on the playground, and learning with students as much as others do. So some thoughts:

I reach out to my PLC. Through Twitter I can share with groups or individuals. The times I have reached out individually through Twitter have been powerful and cathartic. It’s amazing that I can share through social media with other educators whom I have never met and feel supported and validated. Just being able to share and have another person, or persons, listen makes a huge difference for me.

I remember to take small steps to put things into my practice. I continually look at our annual plan which indicated a need for improved communication. I think start small and make trying new things part of your practice. By learning from others I have explored and used augmented reality, robotics, video production, and coding.

I must use twitter to refuel. I participate in Twitter chats and engage in discussions. Through thought provoking questions and engaged conversations, I glean a lot from others but I also get to share things I’m doing. The feedback and support I receive makes me feel like I am headed in the right direction. I had been contemplating finding a way to positively recognize more students. Last summer a teacher in a Twitter chat stated she made one positive phone call home daily. What a great idea. What are you doing that innovative? Love to hear from you.

Messy Play

20 Aug

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Much of our professional growth comes through those ‘Aha’ moments or Messy Play in the classroom with our students. We may have heard from a colleague that “The lesson was not going so well but then I tried this and all of a sudden things changed.” By chance, and some design, the teacher changed something or seized upon a moment to engage and challenge our students. It is good design, however, that ensures that many of these ‘Aha’ moments get shared with others in the team, so that all teachers in the team can learn and grow from each other. It is a shame when these key teacher moments are not shared – I think our students would want them shared for the benefit of all concerned.

It is clear that learning by design trumps learning by chance, though those chance moments can be particularly powerful for both teachers and students, even more so when they are shared. In saying that, it is worth contemplating whether student learning is more akin to winning a prize in a raffle or whether our schools are taking every success to minimize differences in classrooms that are no conducive to optimal learning for all students.

365 Rules OK

23 Jul

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The beauty of Office 365 is that you can get to your work from any device; be it your personal mobile phone or your wife’s work device. I have learnt that if you aren’t using your usual device, make sure you note your login and password details somewhere safe – there’s nothing worse than realising that your own devices automatically log you in, and you don’t recall what to do when things don’t happen ‘auto-magically’.

Network

26 Jun

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My wife and I are in very different industries. Yet we both value the impact of networking. If students and teachers work together as co-creators, then the traditional supply and demand chain of teaching and learning is usurped by a networking approach. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the way in which people are connected. We are moving from hierarchically arranged, densely knit groups to permeable, diverse social networks. Reminiscent of Ivan Illich’s learning webs (1971), knowledge is distributed across networks of connections and learning consists of immersing oneself in networks by creating and sharing. This networking ability is central to creative capability.
Students who make new connections beyond their immediate group or class demonstrate creative capacity building. These ‘border crossers’ who can access a diversity of networks are able to introduce new ideas and knowledge. Therefore effective teaching for creative capacity building will encourage students to actively network and build diverse connections.
Connective technologies such as Skype, Twitter, RSS feeds, wikis and YouTube offer enormous potential for teachers to introduce students to the concept of connected knowledge and networking. For instance, when students build their historical understanding of the Gallipoli campaign by communicating with students in Turkey it takes student learning into a whole different realm. The same could be said when we examined Syrian refugees.

As the old saying goes, “when the peasants learned to read, the kings began to look stupid.” Our understanding of the relationship between networking abilities and creative capacity building mean that using these connective learning technologies is central to effective pedagogy.

Illich, I. (1971) Deschooling Society, London: Marion Boyars

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)

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.
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