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.

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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!!!

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.

CONNECT 17

21 Aug

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I had the pleasure last week to be involved in the NASDAP national conference. There were an abundance of great speakers which I will reflect on in the coming weeks. Here are my thoughts as I reflect a week later:

Andrew revisit your Vision as a School Leader:

Take some time out and reflect on the reasons why you stepped into the school leadership role. What was it that you had hoped you could achieve? What was the legacy that you had hoped to leave behind? It takes courage to have a big vision and as a school leader, wanting to make a difference to the lives of future generations, your vision will be bigger than most.

Andrew reflect on your values: 

It is highly likely that with the challenges that have arisen as the result of the new education innovation, that there will have been times when you will have found your values severely tested. When we are under stress we can sometimes find ourselves behaving in ways in which our values are severely compromised, we find our -selves becoming disillusioned and if pushed too far, deciding to jump ship.

Andrew find support:

You can’t do it alone! You are not superhuman and really there is no such thing as a super head! All school leaders feel pain, anger and frustration. The problem is many school leaders seek to hide their true emotions both from themselves and others.

When we ask for help, we may find that we open the door that leads us to becoming a bigger vision of ourselves. 

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.

Pedagogical Tools

20 Aug

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The list of digital technologies that might be used for teaching and learning is extensive. It includes: LMSs (Learning Management Systems); MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses); BYOD (bring your own device); BYOT (bring your own technology); BYOC (bring your own connectivity); makerspaces; robotics; digital portfolios; online discussion forums; blogging platforms; wikis, microblogging; back channels; audio recording and music making; image and video editing; creation of infographics, slideshows, and presentations; digital storytelling; social media; collaboration tools; mobile apps; game-based learning and environments; coding and computer programming; augmented and virtual realities; technologies for creating physical or virtual 3D models; gesture-based computing; learning analytics and statistical analysis software; online authoring tools; wearable technology; affective computing; rubric generators; quizzes; online response systems such as polls and surveys; video conferencing; cloud computing; and student feedback tools such as Turnitin, GradeMark, and PeerMark.

E-learning technologies are sometimes defined as asynchronous (any-time) or synchronous (real-time). Flipped learning is that in which traditional teacher instruction is delivered between classes via online video or presentation technologies, and class time is used for application and collaboration. Blended learning melds traditional classroom pedagogies with online learning tools and environments.

The Future

15 Aug

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“we are preparing kids for that jobs don’t exist.”

Are we sometimes preparing kids for jobs that will no longer exist

As we seek to retain Gen Y into the teaching profession, the school as a workplace needs to think about these elements and reinvent. One of the reasons why activity-based work has taken hold in the corporate sector, is that this generation are motivated differently and command and control culture is no longer achieving results. Gen Y employees will leave if they aren’t sufficiently engaged and they will take their talent and build their own start-up.

What are the key elements of activity-based work that can, and are, relevant in school education – for staff, as well as students?

Am thinking about this in week 4 of the term.

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.

 

Learner Agency

9 Aug

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This year I have been exploring “learner agency” in my classes and school wide with the HOF group. In a funny kind of way, the staffroom is my classroom. Like most classes all around the world, I have had a range of abilities from dependent to independent. I believe the teachers’ role in an agentic community is not the gatekeeper: ‘the traditional, stand at the front and talk, I hold all of the knowledge and power and decision making’ type gate keeper, no. An agentic learning community needs an expert lead learner. Someone who inspires growth and challenge from within each individual learner. So, this is where I’ve developed this concept of “counting to five” or “breathe in, breathe out”.

I was introduced to something similar at my daughter’s preschool. I understood the concept it as this: The day is a series of tides: and they had moments of high tides and low tides – the activities would change depending on which tide phase they were in. Hey I really liked the concept.

So I have approached this year, with all my learners, new to ‘learner agency’ and agentic learning by ‘breathing in’: structure, goal setting, independent learning and reflection. And then ‘breathing out’: inquiry based, student decision making, goal doing (where you practise or work towards the goals you have set) and reflection. Now I must be honest I have had a range of success.

Most of my learners have flourished this year and I think it has benefited them by having the agency in to lead their learning.

Appraisal and Our Body of Work

2 Aug

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How might a teacher’s performance be appraised? How can the whole, as well as the parts be considered? Of what use is the performance of teaching for observations by management, versus relaxed one-on-one discussions with students or an experimental lesson tried for the first time? And of what use are the ‘individual works’ such as unit plans, student work examples, lesson data and external test results? Data can provide a tangible, depersonalized third point for professional conversations, just as a particular work of art can be representative of an artist’s work. An exhibition from a particular period of an artist’s work can give a broader picture of their work during that time. A posthumous exhibition of their life’s work can provide the broad narrative of how their work has evolved. These are all different but meaningful lenses for appreciation and critique; each is a useful way of viewing the work and worth of the artist or teacher.

On the one hand, teaching does become a body of work over time. A life’s work for some. This gestalt includes ever-expanding subject knowledge, evolving pedagogies, relational skills and behaviour management tools. Many of the things teachers do become internalised, less-deliberate moves, part of a way of being. Perhaps a teacher should not be judged by a lesson that they teach or one set of student results, but there is value in each piece of work being reflected upon and closely considered for the understandings it might surface about that teacher’s practice; the details it might reveal; or the points of celebration, critique or change it might incite.

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