Tag Archives: Fullan

Improving Schools through TED talks

14 Apr

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I recently came across a talk by Michael Fullan on making change. I heard him at ULEARN 16 where he was phenomenal. I thought this talk would be useful to share but it also reminded me of a TED talk by Linda Hill, which when combined might give schools and their leadership teams some real incentive and instruction for change. They also combined to indicate that progress will not be made with either top-down or bottom-up approaches but from a developing a new school culture towards shared, networked collaboration at all levels. It got me thinking about a few issues.

The SLT must be seen by the teachers as an equal participant in learning. This I got from Fullan in his talk he gave about transforming the Canadian school system. He highlights that a principal behaving as an active learner was a surprise key indicator in his research into schools making significant and positive change.
Hill talks about innovating or dying. This so important for schools as we sit at a watershed moment in time in NZ education. Our courses cannot remain the same. Linda Hill says “Innovation is not about solo genius but collective genius.” She goes on to outline how the most successful organisations build organisational structures and cultures that are “iterative, inter-related and quite frankly messy.” She also highlights that investing in all the people to give them time to develop and collaborate around new challenges and ideas. It is also critical to build a culture where everyone feels they might have something to offer in improving the operation of or output from the organisation.

This is a huge issue for schools, where many teachers never bring problems to the leadership team because they do not think it’s there place to suggest change. Schools are often not flexible or iterative enough to adapt to changes as they arise. A fixed-time vision for learning in a school issued from top-down can kill excellent ideas that surface during the period in question. What I took from Linda’s talk was that schools need to develop a staff culture for collaborative problem solving, discovery driven learning (and that’s the teachers we’re talking about) but run integrated decision making where everyone is confident to express ideas

Fullan at ULEARN

9 Nov

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Prof Fullan defines character as six elements. As you read them think about how they can be made more explicit to your learners, so that they become a language shared between teachers and students.

  • Character education: building resilience, empathy, confidence and wellbeing.
  • Citizenship: referencing global knowledge, cultural respect, environmental awareness.
  • Communication: getting students to apply their oral work, listening, writing and reading in varied contexts.
  • Critical-thinking: designing and managing projects which address specific problems and arrive at solutions using appropriate and diverse tools.
  • Collaboration: working in teams so students can learn with/from others.
  • Creativity and imagination: to develop qualities like enterprise, leadership, innovation.

Prof Fullan states them to be “attributes parents and public value and that employers seek”. I don’t think any of us would disagree. He says: “In the old pedagogies, a teacher’s quality was assessed primarily in terms of ability to deliver content in their area of specialisation.” However, “new” pedagogy is about “the teacher’s repertoire of strategies and different styles of relationships with their learners”.

In my view, this “relationship with learners” begins with the shared language I’m emphasising. Surely, if students appreciate their learning experience is a character-building experience too, no extra work is required. Good relationships are founded on solid communication – but this shouldn’t be only from teacher to student. Students need a vocabulary to communicate with teachers and each other.

 

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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.

 

 

It takes a village…

5 Jul

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I’ve learned over the years to be wary of people who have all the answers to whatever the challenge is, that’s placed before them. There are, of course, things that I know to be true from past experience, both professional and personal. In my inquiry for NAPP I have been developing a collaborative environment, and real collaboration requires the willingness to ask questions of each other and admit to gaps in our individual knowledge base.

I reflect that it is important to ensure your team knows your vision but you need to get them together.  It is important questions are asked and debate is had.  It is more than relationships. It is relational trust that I am working on. I will reflect on this further in a later edition I am sure. With significant relational trust deeper thinking can take place.

Our team collective knowledge is enhanced when we ask good questions about things we don’t know and share the information we do hold, in a way that supports wise decision making and effective action steps. Through collaboration and the exchange of ideas with other teachers and school communities we are able to benefit from the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and share our own wisdom to benefit our students’ learning. The old adage says ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’  In the 21st Century it takes a global, connected, learning community.

 

Professional Reading:

I have just read All Systems Go (2010) is by Michael Fullan and it is a must for all interested in sustainable systemic change to improve schooling. Yes as you follow this blog you will find I am on a Fullan kick at present

In the foreword, Peter Senge writes:

“No institution has a more crucial role to play in the historic changes coming than school because no institution has greater potential to impact on how a society changes over the long term.”

Fullan debunks many existing stand-alone strategies in favour of building ‘collective capacity’ across the system: nurturing schools to want to change and then supporting them on the journey.

One thing that stood out for me was that empowering teachers is a great motivator for change; as Fullan demonstrates; effective strategies are the ones that build on the collective talents of schools, systems and communities to improve schooling.

 

Thought for the week after my Taranaki NAPP Hui…

What separates good from great principals? The latter demonstrate high levels of resilience, optimism & problem solving capacity’. This is important for me to think about as I progress this year.

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