Tag Archives: Feedback

My Inquiry Continues

28 Jul

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As a classroom teacher I am always looking at how I can become a better teacher. I constantly question how I could improve instruction so that tamariki I am teaching can learn at high levels. It is important for me to improve my craft so that I could help my students maximize their potential. Recently I became I began thinking about my teaching in a different way.

How do I influence teachers change instructional practice? As a leader, how do I help teachers learn and adopt new skills and instructional practices?

In his book Transforming School Culture, Anthony Muhammad reveals teachers have been socialized in the field where they will practice since they were five years old. He calls this “apprenticeship of observation.” Empowered with this information, I began to reflect on what practices would be so deeply ingrained in teachers? What experiences had teachers had as young learners that were impacting the learning of their students 20, 30, or even 40 years later?

It was during this period of reflection that my two goals merged as one. I was working diligently with teachers to help them transition their frame of mind around assessment practices while trying to improve my instructional practices as their leader and guide. It was time to apply best assessment practices with teachers, so that they could personally learn to value and deeply understand the purpose and process. I had years of “un-doing” the early training they had for their entire schooling career, but it was the most powerful way to help teachers learn to value best assessment practices.

It was important to start with a task that was of critical importance to teachers: their evaluation tool. In my desire to communicate to teachers the critical importance of helping students understand the clear criteria for which they would be assessed on any given task. This topic was deeply personal and it was evident that teachers were quickly engaged by having ownership in establishing the criteria. When things are personal conversations are often difficult.

I need to consider a process for this. This needs to be formulated working with teachers. You can enhance or destroy students’ desire to succeed in school more quickly and permanently through your use of assessment than with any other tools you have at your disposal. Through the practice of using best assessment practices with teachers, mindsets began to change about what best assessment practice really means in the development of our tamariki. More to come on this.

 

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Coaching and Feedback

6 May

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As a school leader I do a great deal of coaching I work with many high performing middle leaders who want to become even more effective. According to research on effective learning, to improve performance, people need three things:

  • A clear goal
  • A genuine desire to achieve that goal
  • Feedback that indicates what they are doing well and what they are not doing well

I have been reflecting recently on my feedback and coaching sessions have unfortunately,  not been helpful. Sometimes I have been distracted, often infrequent, vague, — and as a result, leaders tend to be less proactive about getting more of it. Low-quality feedback sessions or coaching session is not useful, positive feedback is undervalued, and negative feedback delivered unskillfully can set my team back.

Without clear goals and data measuring how close or far they are from reaching them, my middle leaders will continue to find it difficult to grow and improve. When delivered thoughtfully, however, feedback can provide leaders with the actionable data they need to become more effective.

If you want to get the feedback that is necessary to improve your leadership, there are a few steps you can take.

Build a safe environment. Sharing feedback is often risky. To increase the likelihood of your colleagues taking that risk with you, show them that their honesty is not bad. Being curious starts with having the right mindset, or believing that you have something useful to learn. It is demonstrated by asking your teammates open-ended questions that you really don’t know the answers to: “What could go wrong if we try this?” Acknowledging your weaknesses or mistakes along the way are great ways to be open and vulnerable.

Ask for feedback skillfully. Asking “What did you hear when I shared my strategy?”, “How often do I interrupt people in meetings?”, personal impact (“How did it feel to you when I sent that email?”

Request both positive and negative data.  Praise tells us someone is happy with us and thinks we are performing well. Praise sounds like: “Nice job!”; “You were great in that meeting.”; “Great presentation!” While it feels good constructive criticism is ok also because you have created that relational trust.  

When receiving feedback, give your full attention and listen carefully. Eliminate distractions, including your phone and laptop, and focus fully on the person giving the feedback.

Don’t debate or defend. If you find yourself disagreeing with some feedback, practice self-awareness and notice this reaction. It is ok to be wrong also.

This all I have for now. Do you run coaching sessions? How are you going with them?

Perspective

20 Mar

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It is often in March that I get down to the real business of the focus of the year. As I discerned over recent weeks I need to reflect upon where I have been and where I want to go. 2018 was a great year for me as an educator. I grew as a teacher and mentor. I also learned the importance of reflection and prayer as a tool for professional development and growing my PLN. I would say that my word for 2018, Passion, was a driving force behind all that I did. I know that my passion for education has grown and I know that I will still use passion as a special word for me.

Now as we begin 2019, my new word for this year will be Perspective; that is ensuring maintaining a work life Perspective to ensure I can be the best I can be in my leadership role. I need to keep what I do in perspective of where my students are. I need to ensure that my perspective remains on what is best for my students. I need to venture out and see new ideas on what other teachers are doing and how they are educating their students. I also need the perspective of seeing my actions and how I treat others through the eyes of my students. I need to remain fair and just to all my students.

My perspectives on many educational topics differ than those of other teachers in my building. Even though we differ, I cannot simply say that they are wrong and that I am right. I need to see perspectives on educational topics from the viewpoints of those that differ from mine. I am not so good at this. This is a work on.

I also need to allow students to show their Perspectives through creativity. I want students to share their Perspectives on topics that we discuss in class. I want students to have their Perspective recognized as important.

Perspective is also important to my career. I need to reflect on what is going to be next. This is a big deal for me. This will be an essential area of reflection for me. Perspective is going to be an area of growth for me.

What is your big focus?

Getting everyone on the waka in 2019

21 Feb

 

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The year has started and as senior leaders we have well thought out ideas regarding new projects for the year. But them come the resistors or slow adapters or high maintenance staff.

When we encounter resistance to a great idea, we often find ourselves mentally criticizing the people who oppose it. We conclude that those who are resisting are unwilling to change, lack a strong work ethic, or have misplaced priorities.

It might be more productive for school leaders to think about times when they’ve resisted others’ ideas—for instance, times when they told their child he could not have a begged-for toy (or tattoo!); or when they told their physician that a particular treatment was not for them; or when they told their spouse that it was not the right year to take a big vacation. When people think about why they’ve resisted others’ ideas, they usually realize that their reasons were good ones. For instance, parents say no to children to keep them safe, patients select treatments that will best fit their individual needs and approach to health, and spouses want to be good stewards of the family budget.

Similarly, when teachers resist the ideas or initiatives of new school leaders, their reasons make perfect sense to them. For instance, these teachers might have worked hard to develop their current practices and view these practices as best for students. They might believe that a proposed change would be too demanding on their time, or they might think that a new idea reverses the trajectory of school programs of the past few years. When school leaders understand resistance from this perspective, they avoid judging teachers negatively. Instead, they tune in to better understand what teachers are thinking. This process has the potential to create a productive dialogue, enabling teachers and leaders to approach problem solving and planning together to address school needs.

 

 

Future Learning: Have a Voice

3 Oct

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Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini

My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective

With the end the term comes Pathways discussions with students as we reflect on their successes. This something that so many contribute to as the students move to their next step. We as teachers know this better than anyone.

My wife tells me this is important as we are in a changing economy with different worker skills. She was emphasising the same things the front end of our NZ Curriculum and the Tomorrows Schools review are articulating.

  • Broad knowledge base. Understanding of key knowledge and ideas in many fields.
  • Flexibility – Can adapt to new situations
  • Prepared for continuous learning
  • Pro-active engagement. Learners are active and engaged in the learning process. They are curious, develop interests and passions, take learning initiatives, conduct research, check information, become pro-active learners.
  • Learners are adaptable, flexible
  • Problem Solving. Good at using what they know to figure out how to solve a variety of complex problems that are new to them.
  • Work well with others.
  • Literacy and good communication skills. Good readers of both fiction and non-fiction material. Good writers and communicate well with others.
  • Thoughtfulness, both qualitatively and quantitatively.  “Habits of Mind” Skills and Attitudes – Have “grit”, perseverance, curiosity. Learn from failure. Disciplined, “hard-working”, collaborative.
  • Leadership. Demonstrate the ability to take charge, be proactive, plan with others, take initiative, form a positive climate and culture.

How do we build an educational system around developing this deep learning knowledge base and promoting this deep learning level of skill development?  How do we prepare our students for the future of work and citizenship? Many are already on the path towards the type of education that will prepare the next generation for both the economy and civics of the future. We must all do this together. Everybody must have their say or at the very least feel heard.

Asking Good Questions

18 Jul

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As reflect on my classroom practice during the break I remind myself I must do better at asking question. I am reminded by Simon Sinek about talking last. This is no one of my strengths.

In class here are some techniques I am working on.

What are you thinking? When I want to elicit responses from my students, I give them time to clarify their thoughts through writing. This time to reflect prepares them for class discussion. As hands go up, I say each student’s name and ask, “What are you thinking?” After I listen to the response, I follow up with questions such as, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “What led you to that conclusion?”

Sometimes I will add my own thoughts, but often it’s enough just to hear theirs. I sometimes share too much and this can shut the conversation down.

My students know that I care about what they think because their insights lead us all to deeper understanding. Fostering real conversations ensures that our classrooms become places of academic inquiry and collaboration founded on a sense of fairness and mutual respect.

Feedback. I love using Microsoft forms as student voice. I have also adapted student voice panels to use a form of twitter or elevator pitch.

Do you remember when? I often circle back to students’ contributions to show them that their thoughts and efforts matter to me. I’ll remind Jess how I loved her frequent and enthusiastic understanding of Catholic Social Teaching this year, and I can always get a rise out of Charlotte if I question the role of women in the Catholic Church.!”

Sometimes, I’ll repeat memorable lines from student presentations: “Hannah, that reminds me of when you said..”  Students follow my lead in recounting favourite moments from the year, which builds community and strengthens relationships.

 

Be the best you can be

9 Jul

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I want to be the very best school leader I can be. Why, because for me being a principal (or a teacher for that matter) is more than a job, it’s a vocation. I don’t go to work to produce something, to sell something, or to manage something. I go to work to make a difference. And that difference is measured in people’s lives.

What I do, the decisions I make, the school culture I create, the way I lead will make a difference in countless people’s lives. It can make a difference to the earning capacity of a young person; it can make a difference to a person’s sense of self-worth, to their well-being, the lives of their families. The sense of responsibility is huge.

I often compare myself with other leaders, listen to what they do, learn from their wisdom and experience. However, one thing I really need as a leader is feedback. Without feedback I cannot truly understand the real impact I am having and how I can improve.

To promote growth feedback is vital. But to be of real value a recipient really needs to want it, be willing to listen to it and ultimately, have the desire to be the very best they can be for the responsibly they carry as an educator is enormous.

The same can be said about teaching. I don’t understand why all teachers aren’t driven by the enormous responsibility they have to very best they can be. Our children, and their children deserve outstanding teaching and outstanding schools.

Do you value and welcome feedback? What motivates you as an educator? Is teaching and school leadership more than just a job? If you are a leader, where do you get your feedback from?

IKE

16 Jun

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It was validating to learn that one of Dwight Eisenhower’s key character traits was his perceived humility. Michael Korda, in his biography IKE: An American Hero points out:

It was part of Dwight Eisenhower’s genius that he never wanted to appear ‘to know more than the other fellow,’ or embarrass anyone if it could be avoided.

Sometimes I do talk too much about myself. In the restorative contract I have reflected a great deal about listening to others. A work on…

Mentoring is Crucial

7 Jun

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Spending time with staff pays off—not just for them, but for me and the entire school. The question of how much time can be explored in a Fast Company post, “Why Managers Should Spend Exactly 6 Hours A Week With Each Employee.”

By spending time mentoring it makes staff feel valued, calm and helps make the school more efficient and innovative.

 

What good is all of this great mentoring and coaching if it’s never applied? Advocating for employees implies action. Advocating is time not spent with employees, but for them. Effective leaders hear and discuss employees’ new ideas with them, and afterward, work to put them into action. When employees receive new training or knowledge and are eager to apply it to their jobs, advocates make that happen. Advocates inspire their employees to keep learning and contributing, as they feel like their contributions are valued and applied. Without this final investment of time, employees feel undervalued and underutilized.

A small investment of time and following up with action creates a positive, supportive school culture. Our goals this year has been to grow middle leaders. T train leaders to invest time in their team with mentoring, coaching and advocating create a healthy working environment beneficial to the employees and the success of the students.

Flipped Learning

12 Feb

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As educators we should ask ourselves “what would we lose if we put all of our lecture notes online, or made them available for students online?” Would we lose interaction? Collaboration? Contribution? If education is more than the transfer of information, what is it? I have been doing a great deal of thinking at present about the change we need to make in teaching.

This week I have been doing some work on Microsoft Teams. This is a great tool and it had lead me to think about the work of Eric Mazur who I was fortunate to listen to last year. Eric Mazur claims we’d lose very little dialogue, very little interaction if we shared our notes with students. I agree with this looking at my evidence this week. I saw an interactivity in learning.

I really enjoyed Mazur’s approach to this in his writings. Mazur’s clever use of the physics problem of what happens to the hole in the middle of a metal plate when it is heated demonstrated very powerfully the way we can increase learning power when we turn on the innate learning curiosity of our learners. The exercise moved from a focus on the fact, to the reasoning – he ignited the fire of the audience curiosity! His point was powerfully made with regards to how we need work with students in our classrooms. Mazur’s use of this approach has been researched to demonstrate the impact of this on student retention – the significance here being the difference between simply transferring information (focus on facts) to the engagement in creating knowledge (emergence of reasoning).

The Flipped Learning environment offers such richness for a learning point of view.  There is more student accountability and agency for gathering information so we can better help them assimilate it.

There is a change the idea of delivering and transferring information for the learner. It puts the learner in charge. There is a transmission of knowledge vs construction of knowledge. We need to allow time for the brain to process the information – not simply ‘remember’ it. Moreover, but involving students in sharing among themselves, the learning is no longer an isolated experience. Education, deep down, is a social experience – not an isolated one (reference here to Vygotsky’s theories here)

 

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