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An Effective Professional Learning Community

18 Jul

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What is a Professional Learning Community (PLC)?

In my school we call them House Hubs. It is an ongoing process in which teachers work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLCs operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for teachers.

 The very essence of a learning community is a focus on and a commitment to the learning of each student. When a school or district functions as a PLC, teachers within the organization embrace high levels of learning for all students as both the reason the organization exists and the fundamental responsibility of those who work within it. To achieve this purpose, the members of a PLC create and are guided by a clear and compelling vision of what the organization must become to help all students learn. They make collective commitments clarifying what each member will do to create such an organization, and they use results-oriented goals to mark their progress. Teachers work together to clarify exactly what each student must learn, monitor each student’s learning on a timely basis, provide systematic interventions that ensure students receive additional time and support for learning when they struggle, and extend and enrich learning when students have already mastered the intended outcomes.

An assumption is that if schools are to become more effective in helping all students learn, the teachers in the organization must also be continually learning. Therefore, structures are created to ensure staff members engage in job-embedded learning as part of their routine work practices.

There is no ambiguity or hedging regarding this commitment to learning. Whereas many schools operate as if their primary purpose is to ensure that children are taught, PLCs are dedicated to the idea that their organization exists to ensure that all students learn essential knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

 

Getting on the waka

19 Feb

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The job of a school leader is complex, broad, and challenging. We often focus on the notion that students need to be at the centre. I am not disputing this, I do believe that leaders need to focus a lot of their energy on the teachers. Happy teachers make great teachers.

As SLT we need to know staff as individuals. They are not superheroes. They are human. They have good days and bad days. Sometimes, they have really bad days that turn into really bad weeks. We need to connect on a personal level, understand what is going on in their lives.

When building an effective team in a school we can’t get the right people on the bus if someone is in their seat. I know it seems harsh but as SLT you owe it to a teacher who is stuggling to support them and let them find their way the profession. Do the math. A poor teacher in a secondary setting will impact over 150 students a year. Over a 25 year career that equates to more than 3,700 students. Is that the legacy you want to leave as SLT?

All that is required is a frank conversation. Talk to them. Most struggling teachers are miserable. Negative people never know they are negative. The same can be said for miserable people. Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t just ship that person to the next principal. Think about the nearly 4000 kids you are saving.

Getting the right people on the bus is much easier than getting the wrong ones off the bus. Start with the positive. Any person of the street can write a good lesson plan and type a nice resume. Sustaining this in the classroom is hard and as senior leaders and middle  leaders we must support our people. Allow yourself to not just find the most intelligent person but the best person.

Having been in almost every educational setting from inner city to rural, I can tell you that relationships trumps rigor every day. I am not saying rigor is unimportant, just that kids truly don’t care what you know until they know that you care. All teachers have gone through a rough patch and it is important we support them.

Courageous Leadership

9 Feb

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As leader it is really important to be courageous. I have been reading lately the work of Dr. Brené Brown, as detailed in her book Dare to Lead .

As Brené Brown says, “You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability.” This means having the courage to show up fully when you can’t control the outcome. It’s about being vulnerable in your relationships with others in every meeting, email, phone call and face-to-face conversation inside and outside the workplace.

Brown say to focus on clarity, as when you do you increase trust and decrease unproductive behavior. Being clear creates more connection and empathy. Clarity also creates a boundary that allows the other person to decide what to do with the feedback.

Know your triggers. When you’re triggered, do you try to control the situation, protect yourself or start people pleasing? Knowing this can help you move into a place of choice to step into vulnerability.

Courageous leaders who live their values instead of just talking about them are never silent about hard things. For example, courageous leaders do not partake in willful blindness. As a leader, you must be aware of what is going on around you. You must realize when to act and know that sometimes you need to act in difficult situations. It takes courage to recognize these opportunities for leadership and to set an example for your team. Making decisions that honor your values will be tough because doing the right thing is rarely easy.

I really liked this clip which emphasized what I am reflecting about.

https://hbr.org/video/5335748697001/what-great-managers-do

Being innovative v teaching the curriculum.

15 Jan

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The viewpoint of “teaching the curriculum” and “innovation in education” is that the curriculum is on one side of the continuum, and innovation is on the opposite side. What separates the great teachers from everyone else, is not what they teach, it is how they teach.

What I am trying to get staff to understand is that how we teach our rich NZ Curriculum is the innovation. This can be seen by the finding of the NCEA review document. Think about how NZQA is now approaching assessment differently.

Recently at an NZQA seminar Principals Nominee were talking about instead of lecturing on a topic, could you have the students create a video or Vlog on the topic, to explain it in an in-depth way?  I don’t think that classrooms should be absent of providing content to students, but I do believe that what we create with the content provides a deeper understanding of what you are learning.  What does it matter if a student does well on a test, but doesn’t understand the ideas a week later?

Instead of downloading Apps students could be creating them. Simply focusing on the word “create,” and thinking about how that would enhance the learning could make a significant impact.

Ok I am not saying that lecture is a bad thing.  I do it all the time and I have seen some great teachers deliver wonderful lessons. I think there are great lessons learned from lecture, but I don’t think that any one way is the best way for all students.  I know that from the experience of being both a teacher and a learner.  But I challenge you to look at one thing in the context of your work, whether it is in leadership or teaching, and ask Is there a better way?

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