Tag Archives: Communication

Some Questions

21 Nov

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These are some important things as leaders we need to ask:

Question #1: What are you reading?

When SLT asks this question, whether to kids or staff, he or she is reinforcing the message that we are all readers. Books are a school’s oxygen, and the more we read and share words, the healthier our school communities are. If reading is not yet a top priority in the school, this question can spark an important conversation and can lead to tangible next steps, like a staff book club or school-wide reading time.

Question #2: I’ve been thinking about _____. What do you think?

Leaders cannot do it alone, nor should they pretend that they can. They need to ask for help and input. Another way to say this is, “I’d appreciate your advice.” Being someone who asks for advice — rather than being the all-knowing leader — shows that a principal is a learner and that he or she values the perspectives and opinions of coworkers. The more varied the roles and positions of the people whose advice is being sought, the better. Consider these two examples:

When the SLT asks a cafeteria staff member, “I’ve been thinking about how to improve the flow of kids as they enter the kitchen to get their food. What do you think?”

The SLT  asks a teacher, “I’ve been thinking about how to make sure that we’re getting kids moving without sacrificing learning time. What do you think?”

Question #3: If you were me, what would you change?

This is a variation of the above, but it’s more open-ended. The intention is allowing students and staff to speak freely about that which is most important to them. This is a great lunch-duty question. Sit down with kids in small groups and challenge them with this: “If you were the principal, what would you change in our school?” At first, you will likely hear responses about longer weekends and less homework, but the more you ask, the more you will hear things like, “Why don’t we have a girls’ volleyball team?” and “If I were principal, I would make sure that teachers didn’t yell at kids.” You’ll learn a lot from this question, so only ask it if and when you are truly ready to listen.

While most SLT don’t promote talking in the hallway, it’s also true that the best ones treasure open dialogue and communication. When they ask the right questions and heed the old saying about why we have two ears and one mouth, principals are elevating the conversation — and reminding everyone in their school whose voices matter the most.

Don’t get me wrong the hallway is not the place for open conversation but it is a place to get the conversation started.

Communication

16 Apr

Coolhandluke

There is a famous line in Cool Hand Luke (1967), where Captain tells Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Communication problems in schools have a negative impact on student achievement, positive relationships, family engagement, a collegial environment, school culture, teaching and learning. There are multiple ways to communicate.

Social media has increased the number of times a person can communicate within the school but with a wider community. If you are not providing families and stakeholders with a chance to communicate, then you are not encouraging a school community. Families want to have instant access to the school staff and to have a voice in school decisions. It may be time to ask, “Are we encouraging two-way communication or are we stuck in in 1967?”

What would you add to the list of way that are working to communicate with your teams and community?

As Leader What Can I do

27 Feb

Leading Your School

I have been thinking of some ways I can interact and support staff as a member of the SLT.

Be a Support– Staff want and need to know I have their backs when they try new things, when faced with discipline issues, when they make mistakes, and during tough times. Support looks differently to many people, but the more visible, consistent, and clear I am, the more supported they will feel.

Clear Communication– This includes not only verbal communication, but my ability to actively listen. One of my mentors reminds me to listen to what they have to say, answer their questions, and show understanding. They will understand if I disagree and will appreciate me simply listening. My mantra needs to be  “listen to understand not to respond.”

Things We Regret Saying

14 Nov

Intelligence-Stvenson

When I was a new teacher I occasionally said things to students that I later regretted. In the last few years, I have witnessed or heard teachers say additional regretful things to students. I must admit I still do it. Don’t we all.
1. “You have potential but don’t use it.”
Students feel insulted when they hear this, and while some accept it as a challenge to do better, more lose their motivation to care. Instead, say in a caring way, “How can I help you reach your full potential?”
2. “I’m disappointed in you.”
Of course we occasionally are disappointed in things that our students do. In addition, the result of openly expressing that disappointment depends as much on the way we say it as the words we use. But students have told me that they hate hearing a teacher say this. The problem with this saying is that it looks to the past. The alternative might be more like, “What do you think you can do to make a more helpful decision the next time you are in a similar situation?”
3. “What did you say?”
This is the challenge that some teachers might throw down when walking away from a student after a private discussion about behavior and hearing that student whisper something. “What did you say?” is just bait for escalation. Do you really want to know what was whispered? It’s better to ignore that unheard comeback and move on. You don’t always need to have the last word.
4. “It’s against the rules.”
What? Yes I have said this!!!!!! Think of the progress that would not have been made if we all kept to the rules.  Often there are many behaviours from which people can choose in order to solve a problem. Some may be within the rules. Try saying this instead: “Let me see if there’s a way to meet your need within the rules.”
5. “Your brother/sister was better than you.”
Never compare siblings or anyone else in a positive or negative way about anything. Comparisons can only lead to trouble regardless of which side of the coin the student is.

Perhaps we can all think not only as teachers before we speak next.

Noisy Classrooms

17 Aug

noisy-classroom

I was visiting a school the other day and the teacher told of the wonderful learning environment he had. It saddened because I saw the opposite. It was a silent classroom with students in straight rows. I started to ponder the question of how do we cultivate the best classroom conditions for talk in schools?

Make the classroom environment relaxed and home like.

Have small enclosed areas sectioned off in the classroom for different types of playful engagement.

Drapes and soft furnishings to absorb background sounds.

Remove background sounds during play e.g cd players and bells

Have long periods for play

Give opportunities for collaborative learning in small groups.

Value pupils sharing of stories or news

Make use of real experiences like trips and outings

What do you think?? Have you some suggestions? Am I wrong for thinking this?

Decisions Decisions Decisions

3 Aug

Decisions1I was reflecting this week that in my role at school as a Deputy Principal I am required to make a lot of decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes I am provided all the necessary background information to make the proper decision, other times I am expected to make a decision with very little or limited background information. Sometimes the decision must be made immediately and there is no time to gather further background information, other times I have the opportunity to investigate and give the decision the proper time it deserves. I make a lot of decisions on a daily basis, and no matter what happens, there will always be those who agree with my decisions, and those who disagree with my decision. And guess what, I even make wrong decisions.

Here some thoughts that I have gathered and will reflect on this week.

  1. If everyone agrees with your decision, then it’s probably not the best decision.
  2. If everyone disagrees with your decisions, then it’s definitely not the best decision.
  3. If some agree and some disagree with your decision, then you’ve probably made the right decision.
  4. Try to listen and ask a lot of questions; the more information I have the better.
  5. Focus on making decisions that will effect the greatest good for students and community.
  6. Accepting the reality that each decision won’t be well received by everyone, nor will it be hated by everyone.

What do you think?

Parent Communication

2 Jun

A key belief of mine is that in order to best communicate with our community we need to meet them where they are.  At Sacred Heart we moved beyond the paper newsletter to include more frequent information. Our newsletter is now emailed to every home rather than delivered by student. Our Facebook Page and Website are just two ways we can communicate. The key is staying current and keeping things updated. While this is a great tool there is nothing worse than when it is used poorly. So when you use these tools ensure you have thought the process through.

Curriculum Leadership

16 Nov

Effective teaching is about providing learning facilitation and leadership for students, so that they can feel empowered to engage in learning and meaning-making and have solid ownership for their learning.

Collaborative meaning making is the best tool for engaging people in a dialogue. The shared vision of learning is the imaginary future; and real curriculum leadership, not just management is the way to get there. Unless students and teachers are buying into the district vision, it doesn’t really matter what the papers have written on them, or how beautifully crafted the mission and vision statements are.

Video

Growing Leaders

23 Jul

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Last term I had some engaging conversations with my Heads of Department. Our school, like many around the country, is transforming the way we look at teaching and learning. Our conversation really got me thinking. Through our transformation process, I need to cultivate teacher leaders more than ever before.
Teacher leaders are the backbone of our work, and we as an SLT can’t do it alone. Let’s take a look at some innovative efforts that are changing schools around the country. I thought of ways they could develop their faculties. This coincided with some advice I was giving to another school so this developed real purpose.
A great leader brings out the best in their staff. There are several common denominators when it comes to strong leaders. Here are a few:
1. Has a sense of humor. This doesn’t mean a boss that constantly cracks jokes or acts like a clown. It simply means they are approachable, relatable and see the value in an upbeat, positive workplace. A friendly office environment starts at the top.
2. Allows freedom to fail. Once employees are given the proper training, a good boss will step out of the way. Employees flourish when they know they are trusted to do the right thing after given clearly defined expectations. A good boss steps in when they see an issue, but continually relies on employees to do what they have been hired to do.
3. Values strong communication. A good boss clearly articulates expectations, freely shares news that will benefit their team and offers feedback, both positive and constructive, to each employee they directly supervise. Most importantly, they establish communication as a two-way street, creating a safe atmosphere to voice opinions and concerns.
4. Asks for input. Everyone on the team is there because they have professional skills to contribute to the organization. A good boss knows they can’t be an expert at all things, and must rely on their team for corporate success.
5. Encourages growth. A good boss will provide opportunities for employee development and growth. They are tuned in to those who demonstrate initiative and are eager to expand their knowledge.
6. Acknowledges success. A good boss compliments and rewards their team and doesn’t miss an opportunity to “brag” about an employee’s job well done – at a staff meeting, board meeting, or in front of a client. Happy employees are a direct reflection of a good boss
Cultivating teachers for shared leadership roles can have a lasting impact on a school community and its climate. It allows school the SLT to tap into the expertise and experience of some of its most dynamic teachers and give them a way to share their skills with their colleagues. Teachers who serve as instructional coaches and mentors to their peers can have a far greater positive impact on changing instructional practice in a school.

 

 

Building the Perfect Leader

7 Jun

https://i1.wp.com/i2.cdn.turner.com/money/2009/11/19/news/companies/leadership_companies_colvin.fortune/leader_build.03.jpg

From my readings (including The Art of War!) and my NAPP inquiry this week the following is a list, by no means finite, of leadership qualities that teachers most desire in a principal. These are things as I need to keep in the forefront of my mind as the year progresses.

Build a sense of community

Perhaps the single most important quality a principal can have is the ability to create a sense of community. Effective principals understand that the adults and children in their schools need a healthy, safe and supportive environment in order to thrive. It is not only about being on the side-line of the footy field or at the gala it is walking beside staff and being seen in classrooms.  A community-building principal works to avoid teacher isolation, negativity and resistance; instead, he or she encourages an upbeat, respectful and supportive professional environment. Positive solutions and growth are the norm, not the exception.

Knows how to hire good teachers

One of the best things a principal can do for his or her school is to hire the right teachers. In addition to making sure a candidate has a strong educational background and excellent references, principals can use behavior-based interviewing techniques to get a realistic idea of how well a candidate will perform in the classroom. Behavior-based interviewing operates on the premise that past behavior best predicts future performance. Typical questions begin with, “Tell me about a time when …” or “Describe your experience with …” and can be highly effective in determining how a candidate will handle real-life situations.

Nurtures and growths professional development

Creating a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is a reoccurring theme. When teachers are presented with a clear path to advancement they are more apt to stay at their current school. By providing in-school leadership opportunities – as well as by making professional development accessible, affordable and rewarding – principals demonstrate their commitment to helping staff members grow professionally and excel in the classroom.

Advocates for the school to stakeholders

The stakeholders in any school community are families, staff, iwi, business partners and the public. Each of these categories requires different styles and approaches to engagement. For example, families may have language and cultural differences or an earlier negative experience with school officials. In order to encourage continued involvement and support, principals need to make a concerted effort to understand the priorities and preferences of the various categories of stakeholders.

Communicates Successfully

Good communication is one of the most crucial components of teacher satisfaction; the best principals will routinely examine their communication skills then apply a variety of styles through the school day. There are a few things principals can ask themselves in an on-going effort to progress in this area:

  • Who did I communicate with today, even if it was for just a brief moment?
  • Are my reasons for communicating helping lead my school through positive changes and improvements?
  • Do I communicate in a way that contributes to meaningful problem solving?
  • Does my communication style help to strengthen working relationships among my staff?
  • What areas of communication are the most difficult for me? How can I work to improve in these areas?

Great organizations require great leadership and this is especially true in education. Some of my best ideas are used by wife who is in the cooperate world. In today’s evolving educational landscape, it is more critical than ever for principals to demonstrate to their staff, students and community that they have what it takes to guide their schools to success.

 

Professional Reading:

This week Chapter 5 is a good focus. It is a synthesis so it’s a difficult read.

School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why

 

 

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