Friday Night Thought

20 Apr

Feedback is an essential part of learning, especially when we want to improve our practice and attain high professional standards. And the best form of feedback is right there in front of us in our classrooms. #nzai #assessment #edchatnz

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Assessment

19 Apr

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This term we are looking at curriculum change. This week I attend a workshop run by NZAI. This got me thinking. More on this later. In in developing curricular units of study and the corresponding assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” in front of “learning skills” as I think we all understand in 2018 that we are in the 21st century. I noted this week our teaching practices to support those skills also need to be different. How we use the evidence gathered from high-quality assessment is a key component to furthering and deepening the work.

Collaboration is an important skill. Collaboration skills may be the “black sheep” of the skills assessment world – until recently there has been very little attention paid to this competency, with very few assessments worth noting. With the rise in importance of collaborative work skills, especially for the productive development of creative work products by work teams, there has been an accompanying rise in attention paid to assessing levels of productive and creative collaboration.

It’s fair to say that we need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. It’s also important that we shift to conceptual understanding and away from understanding by an algorithm or rule. Both shifts will require more student agency, collaboration and conversations.

As an offshoot of the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that tamariki today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they talk less. Teachers will need to provide the time to have students explain not only their answers but also their thinking as they developed those answers. Quiet time in class is important, as important for teachers having reflective practice.

Ultimately this will mean less teacher talk time (think of five minutes as your maximum before turning it over to your students) and more collaboration between students. This will require a shift.

Using the evidence gathered from assessments and using the assessments as formative, will result in a shift in the dialogue occurring in classrooms today. It will mean more of the “ working noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning, and their teachers are interested in hearing about that learning. It will mean a shift to what was once valued and haled as the most productive classroom—the one where silence was golden and reigned supreme.

Changes in Teaching Philosophy

15 Apr

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With the changing role of the teacher, we have never been more important with the best of us being  continuous learners who operate within the strong disciplinary framework of our subject areas. We are living in a technologically fast changing world where, as teachers, we need to be models of adaptability to our students. Schools create the professional space for genuine teacher reflection and learning and acknowledge and support teachers who are at different stages. They also give the space and permission to teachers to take acceptable risks to explore new approaches in a supportive environment. In short, a teacher needs to become a modern connected learner himself/herself and embrace the tools and see the potential of how they can open up new and different ways of learning in their curriculum area or year level. Until they do that, little will change. With this in mind it is important to remember that.

Teachers and Learners need to not only be well connected but also be provisioned with well-chosen tools that enable genuine collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation – i.e. to open up new and different ways of learning to occur (p36 NZ Curriculum). Learning tools should be cloud-based and low or zero cost to enable easy access for all students from anywhere and at any time. The ICT infrastructure must be an enabler, rather than a disabler which can frustrate and impede progress – teaching & learning, as opposed to administration, management or other, must be the priority when choosing tools. Student devices (BYOD) are now not an option but are an essential component for students to access their online tools to enable their ability to learn from anywhere and at any time. Their devices should work seamlessly at school and from home. With appropriate learning tools and infrastructure in place.

Connection

10 Apr

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As George Couros says often, “Isolation is a choice that educators make.” There are so many resources available for educators to connect with and learn from one another.  It is easy to get comfortable doing what has always worked.  If you aren’t connected to other educators in your school, district, or globally, you are not exposed to new ideas or pushed to think about better ways of doing things.  It is easy think that the way you have been doing it is the only or best way when you aren’t seeing other models.  To continue learning and developing your practice, it is important for teachers to get out of their classroom, both physically and virtually, to leverage the collective genius of the many educators across the globe

Learning for the Week:

6 Apr

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The more distractions you have during competing that big project, the less chance you’ll have to discover that mind-blowing, problem-solving, genius idea. While it’s good to get up and move (think walking meetings “walk with me”; getting outside on duty for lunch; periodic stretching at my stand up desk) make sure that you’re not constantly stopping and starting your work–especially when you’re onto something.

I have learnt this so far this year. Gather up everything you need ahead of time. Minimize distractions by finding a quiet place and letting others know that you’re not available for talking about last night’s game (we’re not above popping in a pair of silent earbuds if that’s what it takes). Take five minutes to prep your space and materials so that nothing takes you out of the zone once you find your zen. It has also minimized mty mistakes. I hope.

Solutions to Coaching Barriers

3 Apr

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Like any new project I have led in school there are barriers. Now I would like to look at the way of overcoming the barriers I talked about last time.

  • Accept this will take time   Don’t be impatient. Establishing a coaching programme may need to be in it for the long haul. Spend sufficient time gaining insight into the reality on the ground so that future visions can be specific to actual school conditions. This requires research, planning and networking. Out of this will come success
  • ‘Educate’ key individuals   You know who they are. Once you have that compelling rationale, back it up with case studies from other relevant organisations/high-profile individuals. Organise PLD, send staff to related conferences, and begin to organise coaching sessions for them with respected external coaches. A different voice saying the same message while frustrating for you is gold. Once key individuals can study, understand and experience the benefits of coaching they will be much more likely to prioritise it. ‘Educating’ key individuals is also likely to encourage the spontaneous emergence of ‘champions’ for the coaching cause. From these an individual with sufficient profile, charisma and influence can be approached to spearhead the creation of buy-in throughout the organisation.

 

  • Modification. Be prepared to change the vision. It is ok.
  • Remember, successful implementation of contextualised coaching programmes within your school takes time, determination and clear planning.  It will take a mind-shift. Interesting while this has been about coaching you could apply this to any item of leading change. What has been yours?

Mindful Communication

2 Apr

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Have you ever said or wrote something you later regretted? Me too. Even though I read and practice mindfulness it all sometimes get the best of me.

Mindful communication helps us use the space between our thoughts and words to “undo” potentially troublesome language before we put it out into the world. Here is something I am trying to perfect.

How do I do it? Ask yourself these questions before turning a thought into words:

First, ask whether the thought is true.

Second, ask if it’s kind.

Third, is it necessary.

Fourth, is the thought beneficial?

If the thought does not meet all of these four criteria, avoid communicating it.

Wish me luck with this and feel free to take it up yourself.

Barriers to Successful Coaching

2 Apr

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Coaching is an important part of what we do at school now. For it to be effective several barriers need to be addressed. Different combinations of factors may contribute to the creation of barriers. We at school therefore need to get to grips with the sheer variety of obstacles, and then to gain insight into how they combine. Only then can coordinated strategies be put in place that may have a chance of overcoming the barriers to coaching (and a coaching style) which exist in any organisational context.

Here are some barriers:

Leadership culture     The tone set by leadership is crucial. Coaching will not be valued or prioritised lower down the SLT if it isn’t valued higher up. Look out particularly for dictatorial non-supportive leaders who ‘instruct’ or manage by threat and blame. Such leaders may find it very hard to accept that more supportive, non-dictatorial behaviours bring any benefits. SLT in such a context are unlikely to believe in the coaching ‘philosophy’ either, and may even perceive it as a negative influence.

Organisational prioritisation     Which activities does your school prioritise? Those are the ones that will be fast-tracked. If coaching is not on the priority list as an activity to be implemented as part of the overall learning and development strategy, plans to introduce it won’t get very far very fast. Without prioritisation, coaching will not be viewed by SLT as a valuable process. It must be the focus of PLD and connect to the annual goals.

Lack of preparation     Yes I have seen it and you have too. Sometimes SLT is interested in establishing coaching programmes. Bazinga. But programmes can and will fail if there has been insufficient preparation to ensure their success. It’s then very easy for the programmes to take the blame rather than the lack of preparation. Expect negative attitudes to and lack of respect for coaching to be the result. Even worse, if and when anyone else tries to introduce a coaching programme, their first hurdle will be lack of cooperation, lack of resource allocation and general cynicism.

Note: The following is a major barrier to any new project:

  • Lack of a clear ‘champion’ of the process     If the push for modification of structures/schedules does not come from the top, any campaign for reallocation of resources and time will make little progress. The campaign needs an obvious and respected champion who can drive modifications through. Without such a champion momentum will not be achieved.

 

Appreciative Listening

23 Mar

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Lots to think about this week. One of the things I did notice was the idea of listening.

Listening is complicated. It is the sign of a good leader. This week we have done some work on this skill.

Active listeners are listening both with an emphasis on enhancing the interpersonal relationship and to gather information. People have natural listening styles or ways that they process what they’ve heard. A Comprehensive listener will listen to gather information and put it together to create the big picture. An Evaluative listener is automatically judging the information they are listening to. Discerning listeners have a natural style that sifts and sorts fact from fiction. An Empathic listening style helps the listener tap into the feelings of the person they are listening to.

Listeners who have an Appreciative listening style listen for the entertainment and enjoyment of listening, not necessarily to gather information. Understanding our own personal listening strengths and our opportunities for growth is tapping into the power of listening. Almost everyone who experiences being listened to appreciatively, reports that it feels good to feel so deeply heard and respected.

 I find like most leaders, talking is what characterizes our days. Answering questions. Setting direction. Speaking with people about what needs to be done.   It is not unusual for a leader to want to find the “speed up” button when people are speaking or to be multi-tasking.   This links me back to the social discipline window which I am now using a great deal.

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Consequently, it is not uncommon for leaders to feel impatient with speakers and to view listening only as too passive a form of influence in their busy schedule.

However, Appreciative Listening is not passive. It is a highly active, totally focused form of attention.  It is not active listening, repackaged. Unlike in active listening where you’re expected to repeat or confirm that you’ve understood what’s been said, appreciative listening asks you to show that you understand the person.

What is Appreciative Listening?

It is listening with the sole purpose of identifying qualities, strengths and values of the speaker that you respect.

Your commitment to do this only needs to be 3 to 5 minutes of focused time.

The payoff is high in terms of increased understanding, improved rapport and in building a more positive work relationship.

The consequences will be that everything begins to work better simply because you have a better understanding of what really matters to the other person.

Appreciative Listening Opens Door to Changed Relationships

Appreciative Listening offers two profound benefits:

  1. It increases the common ground in all your work relationships– even the ones which feel least susceptible to any positive change.
  2. It changes you the listener.

How do you rate as a listener? What role does it play in your work as a leader?

More Blended Learning

22 Mar

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At Manawa Tapu (my School) we are aiming to enhance our learning and teaching by fully utilising technology that is available.  However it is important to note that we can’t just throw out everything we know that works for our students.  Blended learning is about combining what we already do so well with technology.  The clip below illustrates this nicely. This was a key point from my blog last time.

Simon Sinek takes a great deal about the Why? This “Why” is so relevant with LwDT. The SAMR model is worth revisiting.

 

How is your journey in this area going? What are the challenges you are facing?

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