Tag Archives: Culture

Catholic Schools

16 Jan


In the secular world teachers are often promoted as role models for their students. In the sphere of catholic education it is essential that a teacher go beyond being this and lives his/her life as a witness to Christ and to the living out of gospel values. It is the duty of an educator in a catholic school to instill in his/her students the values of respect, forgiveness, openness and joy and to cherish each student and to be sensitive to the diverse talents, abilities and needs of each one. In doing so we seek to create unity through diversity. This may sound complicated but it is exemplified every minute of every day by the way our staff in catholic schools interact with the students in their care. All the best to all teachers as you begin your year.

Curriculum Leaders are Key

11 Oct

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Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.  Curriculum leaders have played an important role as our school set their strategic plan. They have the ability to create curriculum individually and with a team of teachers.  I have witnessed teachers from our school share strategies with teachers across the country.  Curriculum mapping, alignment, and revision require strong curriculum leaders.  When teacher leaders are involved in designing and revising curriculum, you will have a strong product. High performing schools have multiple curriculum leaders. They are the SLTs of the future. I advocate they should be developed and grown. What do you think? What are you doing to support these people?

As a staff here are some key questions to reflection on:

  1.  What do you think of when you hear the term curriculum leader?
  2.  Are you a curriculum leader?  What makes you a curriculum leader?
  3.  Are there additional reasons why schools need curriculum leaders?

Lift the Team Morale

15 Aug

Morale

Leaders own the job of creating engagement. Although individual engagement is critical, team morale is the key. You might have a difficult team, but when they share common values, drivers, and motives, and care about each other much like friends, they will raise their performance for each other. Thus any leader should focus a great deal on helping his/her team members bond. If they fail to cohere, intragroup competition will trump any collective success, leading to intergroup failure. This may seem like common sense, but too many managers are so focused on managing processes and attending to the formal aspects of task performance that they forget to build an engaging culture. In addition, when leaders are interested mostly in their own career, and success is not defined in terms of their team’s performance, they will tend to neglect and eventually alienate their teams.

In short, good leaders can turn B players into an A team, by following the right strategy, gathering precise performance data, giving accurate feedback, and building and maintaining high morale. Since few leaders manage to achieve this even when they have a team of A players, there is much hope for those who do.

What do you think?

Schools and Culture Again

13 Feb

What is one thing that you think everyone should do for positive school culture? (If everyone did this, the school’s climate would be improved.)

This question does the following:

Has each member of the school community assume a leadership perspective. Even simulating a leadership role in people’s mind, allows them to think of the greater good and not just their own situation.

Links the aspirational to the concrete. Grand aspirations might motivate people, but they should be connected to concrete actions that are relatively easy to do. This can translate “change in climate” to specific words and actions people can commit to.

Helps people see the power of collective action. Small acts done sporadically and by just a few have little positive impact. When everyone does even one small thing together, change has already happened. For example, a 10-page letter to Congress has less impact than a 1000 postcards.

Becomes a great resource for determining the best first steps for change. Great changes can come from small first steps, especially if those steps are generally viewed as representing the will of the community.

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Culture and Metaphors

8 Feb

I have been reflecting on the importance of metaphors in the culture of schools. Metaphors are value-laden, embody a view about the world and society, and create the myths that we live by. Perceptions and assumptions about reality are revealed in the vocabulary used to describe that reality.

There are metaphors, which have been used for many years to shape thinking about schools and school systems, such as an army, a monastery, a prison, a family and a factory. In recent years there has been a considerable emphasis on the school as a business, with business terminology being used to describe the functions and outcomes of the school. A recent article by Stephen Holmes advocated schools adopting corporate management structures and techniques. [1] Such a move by schools would require a new way of thinking about a school, and would require change of culture which would reflect the new metaphor of the school as a business. For the principal placing a high value on providing information to parents, working within frameworks of accountability, developing approaches to marketing which have educational integrity and becoming comfortable with a more expansive view of the role of school in society, nationally and internationally.

Collaboration

1 Dec

I have been reading this week a great deal about collaboration and leadership in a learning environment. I suggest the following by Jane David useful.

What research says about collaborative inquiry

As teachers I don’t think we do this well but I don’t know why as personally I love going into the classrooms of my school to be invigorated by what great ideas our staff have. I hope in the revamped appraisal system and Registered Teachers Criteria in Schools will encourage this more.
Literature suggests ‘collaboration’ to happen staff must understand the culture of the SLT. It must be  clear that to have an effective PLN in school, there couldn’t be any independent contractors who were working in isolation doing their own thing. This is important.

To establish and sustain a collaborative culture, you have to confront behaviours that aren’t collaborative. Gossip and not holding each other accountable is not helpful. When a topic is being discussed, there needs to be compromise before the discussion is over.  This discussion should be robust and everybody shall feel safe.

Everybody in an institution knows who is working together and those that are on their own path. The question is what is the SLT do about?

As leader it shouldn’t be a secret or mystery when it comes to their beliefs and thoughts on education. We can’t be backward in coming forward about what we really believe. More importantly you have to follow it up. In the about section of this blog I outline my own beliefs.

Don’t try and change someone’s attitude; focus on changing their behavior through expectations.

We are a learning community and ākonga is at the centre of the learning community.

Building a Popular Culture at School

24 May

 

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As I progress through my NAPP year I am continually thinking about school culture. For school leaders, defining a school’s culture – the core values, practices and organizational structures – is a necessity. In fact, a school’s ability to improve performance depends on it. But fostering a performance-based culture is not something that can be completed and checked off a single to-do list; it is an ongoing. It is a process like so many thing I am reflecting on currently.

How do schools accomplish this? It’s all about objectives. High-performing schools intentionally create culture by introducing clear cultural expectations, and holding staff and students accountable to these core values. When clear expectations for behavior are established and reinforced – while allowing room for reflection and adjustments to these standards – a growth-minded, results-driven environment can be achieved

When setting expectations, clear communication is key. This is an issue that comes up constantly in my blogs recently. High-performing school leaders are effective in messaging that school is a place with specific standards that enable both staff and students to thrive. I often share the following example with school leaders and find that it resonates – unlike an elevator or a place of worship, where there are unspoken norms for behavior, new schools and existing schools that aim to rebuild their culture need expectations to be stated explicitly.

These values are upheld through established cultural elements that are consistent and visible from classroom to classroom. Such elements often include instituting a identifying one positive behaviors or mega-cognitive skill per month to highlight across the school, drafting guidelines on issuing rewards and consequences for student behavior and establishing school routines and rituals.

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