Tag Archives: Ako

Leadership Reflection for September

27 Sep

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This week I have been away with my Year 12 students considering leadership. Too often people associate leadership with a status to be earned, or a title that bestows power. Certainly, under some circumstances, those definitions are accurate. But I like to think of leadership differently. I think a great deal about St Paul’s thoughts on servant leadership.

There is a belief that I hold dear—we all can be leaders, and each of us has our own unique brand of leadership to contribute to the world. The question is if, when, and how we actually ever step into that leadership.

Finding our leadership is about finding our best selves, and then figuring out how and where to contribute our best selves to the world. Stepping into our leadership is about having the courage to do just that. Sometimes having courage to not step up when the time is not right.

This week I have been thinking about this quote around leadership:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord, there are different workings by the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

I am self-aware that my leadership philosophy is continually growing and developing. I am truly a life-long learner. I believe a leader must be vulnerable and admit to not have all the answers. This is something that I have learnt over the past twenty years.

Leadership development calls forth the diverse gifts of people in our faith communities, and affirms their talents and abilities. So much depends on leadership in our ministry and as leaders we need to be called, trained and encouraged. As I am called to be leader I call others to walk with me acknowledging who they are. The idea that we see the whole person, the three ‘identities’ he tangata, he tangata, he tangata – acknowledging our past, present and future.

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Middle Leader Development

21 Feb

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Last week I attended an online webinar led by an Australian principal.  She began: “The effectiveness of the leader will be tied to the respect that the leader can command and that will be generated by the character of the leader and the virtues she can display consistently and truthfully.” She spoke about how the work of teachers and leaders in a school is a moral task, the importance of developing practices shared by the group through meetings and interpersonal actions, and not just having good ideas but also enacting those ideas.

This got me thinking about a number of issues:

Cultures of thinking – How do we move the Cultures of Thinking approach from faculty to whole school? Various approaches were discussed in the webinar including: show and tell (read, trial, share), suggest don’t mandate, ask for feedback, use noticeboards (in class, around the school, and electronic). There was also discussion of specific routines, like See…Think…Wonder.

The evolving role of the Head of Faculty – The presenter produced a mindmap which that covered this topic. It got me thinking. How do HoFs find time for all these things? What is suffering because of the role/workload increasing? How does the SLT help or hinder our role? To what extent are all stakeholders aware of each other’s demands and how time-consuming these demands are? New roles are appearing and roles are expanding. Expectations in fulfilling the role are both personal and school-based. Who can support us? How?

Documentation and sharing – The benefits of documentation are: deeper thinking, starting conversations, sharing between faculty’s and building on each other’s efforts, sharing/reflecting on the process/progression/learning and where that might lead to next, valuing more than the finished product, encouraging team collaboration to inform and improve. ‘Share-worthy’ material does not have to be perfect and packaged, it can be a work-in-progress rather than ready to use.

Reflection and improvement, and growth mindset are needed to keep it moving forward, to not just avoid failure, but avoid plateauing or sticking to the status quo. It should be seen as a comment/feedback space, not show and tell. We need to learn from mistakes and share what didn’t work so others can learn from it, and celebrate our mistakes. I have been thinking could we introduce the concept of a rotating presenter, where a different team member documents a snapshot of a team’s learning or mahi to share? Should each faculty have a dedicated documentation space that both staff and students can see?

Getting the best out of people – Relationships are important. Focus on the positives. Specific praise/ positive feedback, flexibility, celebrate small steps, respect/interest outside the classroom, depersonalize risk by using conditional statements.

Cross-faculty collaboration – Having librarians and academic support staff involved in the planning of coursework, resources, skills, helping decode questions, cross-faculty collaboration provides equitable skills/resource assistance to all students and everyone benefits, awareness of the importance of information skills/academic support is available throughout the learning spectrum, team-teaching across faculty’s where the opportunity presents, look at each faculty’s schedules for the opportunities.

I know lots to think about here. What are your thoughts?

Creating a student centered environment

8 Jan

Contemporary business people working in team in the office

Creating a truly student educational environment requires quite a few thoughts even before the learning-teaching interaction begins. We must make a choice of the frame of reference to be used. Sometimes this choice is an unintentional one – especially if we have not reflected upon our own learning philosophy.

To promote effective learning, we should think about the learning environment (both emotional and physical) to ensure there are no obstacles for learning. Students prior knowledge plays a major part in their learning, and if we start teaching where the curriculum tells we to start, we may be passing by their actual horizon of understanding.

Some students arrive to the class ready to learn – others do not. Finding gentle ways to increase the readiness, and decreasing the fears, anxieties and misconceptions of students ensures a less bumpy ride towards the mutual goal: effective learning. Also, an aptitude for learning is highly individual among students in any given group. We as their teacher can either help students to become more interested in what they are learning – or simply communicate about passing the test as a measurement of education and learning itself not being important. Imagine how huge difference there is in between those two approaches.

Lots to think about for this time year.

My Ako Goal

11 Dec

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My Ako Goal this year was to lead student-centred, innovative and collaborative pedagogical practices. Things I had in mind at the start of the year were to reject the deficit thinking. Caring for the learner – building a relationship with our students. Having high expectations which must be voiced and demonstrated through the dispositions of Manawa Mission. Manage a classroom for learning not behavior and creating a culture for learning. I wanted to deepen my own content knowledge.

Did I do this in 2017? To a degree. It was my mahi. I developed a new strategy or rediscovered one. Student voice is always a powerful tool – it allows the teachers to check in with what is happening in the class with 3 simple questions: What are you learning? How can you show me your successful at learning? What happens next?

I tried to keep things fresh. As students have access to any information possible, there certainly is no need to “spoon-feed” the knowledge or teach “one-size fits all” content. I recognized through my learning plans as students have different personalities, goals, and needs, offering personalized instructions is not just possible but also desirable. When students are allowed to make their own choices, they own their learning, increase intrinsic motivation, and put in more effort — an ideal recipe for better learning outcomes.

I deepened my knowledge by reading some wonderful pieces of literature and attending some great courses. Perhaps I need to work on the fact the students must be aware the environment is student centred not teacher centred. My students were often passive.

My Next Steps

  1. Keep getting teachers to share their learning.
  2. Continue to have disruptive conversations.
  3. Work on creating a collaborative teaching environment.

Leading v Managing

8 Dec

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My wahine toa goal this year was to nurture relational trust in the HOF group. I wanted to communicate the idea that the middle leaders of the school had to lead not manage. Just so we’re clear about this, I have nothing but respect for great managers. They are the essential clue that hold organizations together. They keep things running smoothly, they execute strategies and tactics. Without sound management no organization can survive. A great deal of my job is to manage as Deputy Principal.

But… yes you knew there had to be a but… but, simply putting a great manager into a leadership position does not make them a leader. A manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager but very often a manager is not a leader and sometimes a great leader is not a good manager.

Managing and leading are two entirely different things. To be a leader you have to do so in my opinion in an environment of relational trust. I found this year when I led Staff rather than trying to manage them charmed things happen.

Staff who are managed are far more likely to display attitude issues than staff who are led. Staff who are managed do what they are told while the staff who are led have already done it.

I found staff who are managed seldom grow beyond their job description but staff who are led burst the seams of their job descriptions with regularity.

Thank you to my fellow DP who provided the clip below which illustrates how these middle leaders joined me on this waka.

Restorative Circles Part Two

17 Nov

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Here are some more thoughts on some PD I attended this month on RP. Restorative circles generally have three phases. You can explain these phases and what happens in each of them to students. Teaching restorative practices, skills and concepts using this curriculum will support each of these phases; it will increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.

First phase—before the circle: The main tasks in the first phase include:

Figuring out who was most affected and inviting them to participate in the dialogue · Making sure that everyone understands what to expect.Sportively listening to each person—especially those who are affected in harmful ways—to help them begin the process of telling their story.Managing the logistics of setting up a meeting. Sometimes the first phase happens very quickly, on-the-spot, as in impromptu circles that are called immediately when a conflict arises. Many circumstances involve taking more time, sometimes meeting individually with each person involved.

Second phase—the circle dialogue: This is the actual circle, where the restorative questions are used to help people come to understanding and make things right.

Use the restorative questions. Ask each person in turn. Facilitate and prompt as necessary.Avoid going into counseling mode. Also avoid solving the problem for the participants. Allow those who are affected to define the issues and develop their own plan for making things right. When preparing students for the circle dialogue, clarify that it is not like a courtroom drama. Nobody is on trial. Even if students’s stories about what happened differ and seem to contradict each I thank all of you, students and parents alike, who worked hard to establish understanding and agreements, and address the hurtful and damaging behaviors that took place.

 Third phase—after the circle: The main focus here is on accountability and support. Accountability means following up on the agreements and keeping track of their status. This may also include letting everyone who was in the circle know when they have been completed. Support means providing resources to help people complete their agreements. Sometimes completing agreements challenges the skills and resources of students. For example, writing an effective letter of apology may be a stretch for a student’s literacy skills. The person(s) who are monitoring plan completion will need to be sensitive to these challenges and help to arrange for tutoring or other support as needed

 

 

The New Age

31 Oct

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To me, 21st century learning in an elementary school has the same overall goals as a secondary school: it’s only the implementation that differs. We want students to be practicing the 4 C’s: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. They should be producing content, not just consuming it passively. Though technology isn’t synonymous with 21st century learning, it IS an integral part of it, and it’s often the set of tools that makes this new approach to teaching and learning possible. The purpose of technology used in a 21st century classroom should be (in my opinion) to connect students with their world and enable them learn from others and to share their own ideas. It should also be used to differentiate the curriculum so that students are learning on their own developmental levels and are able to pursue their unique interests and passions.

I think that’s one of the greatest things about technology and one of the most exciting aspects of the vision for 21st century schools: that children are no longer all forced to learn the same thing the same way just because the teacher doesn’t have a simple way to differentiate. I don’t think we’re quite at the point where technology makes it “simple” to differentiate instruction, but certainly simpler. And with the thousands of new apps and websites being launched each day, I believe the quality and a variety of tools available for teachers is going to continue increasing. Even the most tech-averse teacher will be saying in 10 years, Wow,  really makes it easier to help my students. How did I ever live without this? Many of us have already reached that point with tech tools in our personal lives our teaching lives are going to be transformed soon, too. For some teachers, that’s already a reality, and it’s amazing to see.

Differentiation

17 Sep

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As we think as a school about acceleration, tracking students with various abilities and needs of students in your lessons mean that we need to tailor how we teach each one.  It doesn’t mean that differentiation needs to add to workload or contribute to an over-complicated lesson.  Differentiation should also be for the students we are providing it for, not for a tick box ERO review or Faculty Review inspection.

Differentiation need not be observable

Differentiation is for your students.  It shouldn’t be about ticking off boxes. Differentiation is subtle, personal and ingrained in what we do.  It isn’t a short term fix but a longer process.

Differentiation is key to good teaching

It’s the conversations we have, the bespoke feedback we give, the way we differ questions between groups of students.  Differentiation is a response to what is going on in class. Key word is response not a reaction. It should be thoughtful by the teacher.

Differentiation is not about making tasks easier but clarifying thinking

Show students what they should be aiming for and help scaffold students up towards that outcome.

Note I still have a great deal of thinking to do on this.

Great Leaders and Parents

8 Sep

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It is Fathers Day’s and I am reflecting on how my has changed in the last 8 years as a Dad. The other week I posted a photo of my daughter completing her first Weetbix Triathlon. She suggested I post the above of me finished my first and only (so far) half iron-man.

I have been contemplating a leadership metaphor used by Simon Sinek on a Ted Talk.

The quote that sticks out to me is “great leaders are like parents wanting to give their children (employees) opportunities to try and fail in safe ways and to discipline when necessary”.

I’m struck by the use of the term “discipline” in the metaphor when applied to leadership in a school.

Discipline is commonly defined as getting someone to follow the rules and there is some implication of punishment if you don’t.

Perhaps if people don’t follow the team decision that provides for consistency then discipline is applied – usually a one on one conversation between leader and in this case teacher. But is it then about natural consequences of not following the decision.

 

 

Restorative Circles

9 Aug

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Recently I spent another day in Wanganui reflecting on restorative practice. Restorative thinking is a significant shift from punishment-oriented thinking. People, including students, who are invited into restorative dialogue are sometimes confused by the concept of “making things right.” Their default response to the question “What can we do to make things right?” often has to do with punishment. It is said that “children live what they learn.” When what they have learned is that troublesome behaviour demands a punishment-oriented response that is how they will live. But restorative practices invite different ways of responding. These new ways must be learned through experience. The activities in this manual give students the necessary experiences to support a shift toward restorative ways of thinking and behaving.

In restorative circles we build trust by giving students safe ways to test how much they can trust each other. We begin in our first circles by using prompting questions that invite low-risk answers. Students can give answers that do not expose their inner lives; thus, they can feel fairly safe from social consequences such as teasing. Students should not be required to take risks that are unreasonable, including social risks in socially hostile environments. Students have sound instincts about how much self-disclosure is safe; their level of participation is a reliable indicator of the risk environment. Teachers and other circle leaders can observe students’ level of participation, along with how students react to each other’s answers, and steadily increase the depth of intimacy and authenticity invited by prompting questions, choosing prompts that invite more intimate exposure of personal thoughts and feelings.

My key learning from the day was restorative must be embedded in all we do rather than just an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff.

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