Tag Archives: Leadership

Leaders of Learning: Part Two

20 May

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I enjoyed last time so much here is the second part. Please indulge me.

  • The more senior you get, the more people you serve – an old Sea Captain once said this!  They care for their team and look after them.  They make sure they are able to use their time wisely and question if their team are being asked to do things that don’t fit the core purpose of the team.
  • Steer the ship with confidence– they make decisions with confidence and conviction – as a result, the team has confidence in them.
  • Hands up– they have the confidence to admit when they get something wrong – and learn from it.
  • Sense the mood– they know their team and know when to push them and when to ease off a bit, when things are getting tough.
  • Collective responsibility– they make their team feel that everyone is working together and that they will be supported e.g. at the end of the day they will initiate a discussion about any problem students anyone has had, and how they can support them, with supporting those students.
  • Hard yards– they are not afraid of getting their hands dirty e.g. they will come with you at the end of the day to pick up that tricky customer and make sure they come to detention!
  • Clarity of role and responsibility– they ensure that everyone is working towards the same objective i.e. to be world class in that subject, and that everyone knows their role in it – including other leaders within the team.
  • Think ahead– they think ahead and plan ahead – and help the team to do the same, and so make them feel secure.  This involves looking ahead to where the crunch times are and supporting the team through this.
  • Celebrate the mini-victories– they ensure that the successes, even the small ones, are not overlooked – they are celebrated.
  • Everything beats the deadline– they ensure that the team understands that missing a deadline adds pressure to somebody else in the organisation.  So this is a non-negotiable.
  • Outward looking– they act as a filter to the outside, keeping the team briefed on relevant new national developments and best practice elsewhere – that could be incorporated into what then team already does.
  • Talent spotting– they make sure that they find opportunities to recruit the best people to the team e.g. engage with ITT and support/ develop potential future leaders.
  • Caring– they encourage a caring and compassionate culture – when people in the team are struggling (and we all do from time to time) they look after them.
  • Thank you– they use this phrase a great deal.
  • Happiness– they understand that a happy team, is more likely to work hard and be successful.
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Not Leading …

28 Mar

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Leadership is hard but it’s also important. Vitally important. And it begins with how leaders treat people. Unfortunately, if you’re a leader and you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir. Ineffective leaders are those who have all of the attributes from the above list. Have you worked for one? What would you do differently?

I have found how I lead in the school environment depends on the situation. I need to remember they have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and they lose those best intentions. I sometimes enter into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) I become insecure and not sure what to do first. As leaders, when we have so many choices of where to start we sometimes choose not to choose at all. I often use the GROW MODEL. Understanding the current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

In Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he shows us this.  Covey showed me leadership isn’t about getting what we want and feeding our egos. Leadership is about raising the self-efficacy of others and collectively working to improve our school community together. That happens in creative communities more than it happens in compliant communities, and we know which 7 habits belong to each one.

Just like there are habits of highly successful leaders, there are habits that can bring leaders to a place of ineffectiveness.

These are things which I have been reflecting on this week as we reach the crunch time of the term.

Be reactive – Leaders who always seem to not see things coming and lack the ability to work with their school community on a collective goal.

There’s no end in mind – Everyone in the school is working on their individual goals…if they have one…and the leader doesn’t think about the future as much as they keep getting stuck in issues in the present.

Ego first – In Jim Knight’s work we talk a lot about status. Leaders have it because of their position. However, great leaders have status but they lower theirs and raise the status of those around them, which is often referred to self-efficacy. Unfortunately there are leaders who let their ego rule and that’s what they lead with every time.

My way or the highway – Instead of focusing on being collaborative and working with these leaders are more concerned with controlling everything and getting their own way. They walk into a faculty meeting with one idea and walk out with the same one.

Seek to be understood – Ego first. My way or the highway. Get on the waka or get out.

Discord – These leaders always seem to disagree with someone and they try their best to build consensus by getting others to agree with them at the same time they vilify those who disagree with them.

Efficacy Killers – These leaders are consistently going after new initiatives, so their staff feel tired, lost and insecure. They micromanage and look for compliance on all issues.

I sometimes see myself here but not often. The Leadership Framework is now a key document for all teachers. We are all leaders in some way. How is this reflected in your appraisal documentation?

 

Courageous Leadership

9 Feb

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As leader it is really important to be courageous. I have been reading lately the work of Dr. Brené Brown, as detailed in her book Dare to Lead .

As Brené Brown says, “You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability.” This means having the courage to show up fully when you can’t control the outcome. It’s about being vulnerable in your relationships with others in every meeting, email, phone call and face-to-face conversation inside and outside the workplace.

Brown say to focus on clarity, as when you do you increase trust and decrease unproductive behavior. Being clear creates more connection and empathy. Clarity also creates a boundary that allows the other person to decide what to do with the feedback.

Know your triggers. When you’re triggered, do you try to control the situation, protect yourself or start people pleasing? Knowing this can help you move into a place of choice to step into vulnerability.

Courageous leaders who live their values instead of just talking about them are never silent about hard things. For example, courageous leaders do not partake in willful blindness. As a leader, you must be aware of what is going on around you. You must realize when to act and know that sometimes you need to act in difficult situations. It takes courage to recognize these opportunities for leadership and to set an example for your team. Making decisions that honor your values will be tough because doing the right thing is rarely easy.

I really liked this clip which emphasized what I am reflecting about.

https://hbr.org/video/5335748697001/what-great-managers-do

Our Curriculum Leaders

3 Nov

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Curriculum is fundamental to schools. It is complex. Necessarily directional and dependent on recognizable channels, it must be vibrant and changing for such is the character of knowledge and our relationship to it. For too long though it has remained unchanged.

The term ‘curriculum leadership’ is associated with middle leaders – the ‘geography coordinator’, the ‘head of science’. It is, quite rightly, linked to subjects.  Our task this year has been to change the conversation though coaching and tasks. These middle leaders are now recognised as “Leaders of Learning.”

Where SLT have tried to reach into pedagogy with generic strategies that fail to attend to subject distinctiveness, all manner of distortions has occurred. In tackling the ‘how’ (teaching and learning) and in attempting to judge its efficacy (progress, assessment, data, outcomes), if we ignore ‘what?

What can curriculum leadership mean? And why on earth does this matter so much? Haven’t we gotten along perfectly well without such senior staff changing things?

Leaders of Learning see small data more clearly. Things SLT might not see in their role. Pasi Sahlberg of Finland spoke at ULEARN 18 about small versus bigdata. “If you don’t lead with small data, you’ll be led by big data. Small data is processed by humans, and reveals causation, collective wisdom and understanding the present. As opposed to big data which looks at big trends, processed by computers, reveals correlations and predicts the future. Big data spews out impersonal trends, where small data gives a more personal view. You can strengthen small data by using professional wisdom as evidence.”

The absence of an adequate model of curriculum leadership seems to me to deepen fundamental and longstanding problems in schools with which we have all wrestled, from weak assessment systems to problems with generation and interpretation of data, from problematical judgements about teaching and learning, to attraction and retention of fine teachers, from teacher development to blaming everything on “management.”

My concern is not just about what a person in SLT called ‘curriculum deputy’ needs to know, but what everyone in a senior leadership team needs to know about curriculum to lead on everything else. Curriculum leadership is everybody’s mahi.

Whakawhanaunga

13 Sep

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Last week a note I wrote about expectations. As we raise the bar on our expectations that all learners can be successful, we must also raise the bar on rigor for all learners.

When trying to meet the demands of supporting all learners, it is impossible to increase rigor without also attending to whakawhanaunga (relationships). My daughter recently met Helen Clark ONZ. Nobody could fined a better role model as wahine toa.

Personally I have an interest in the tuakanateina relationship, an integral part of traditional Māori society, provides a model for buddy systems. An older or more expert tuakana (brother, sister or cousin) helps and guides a younger or less expert teina (originally a younger sibling or cousin of the same gender). In a learning environment that recognises the value of ako, the tuakana–teina roles may be reversed at any time. For example, the student who yesterday was the expert on te wā and explained the lunar calendar may need to learn from her classmate today about how manaakitanga is practised by the local hapū.Relationships matter greatly. The concept of the tuakanateina relationship, is one that interests me. An older or more expert tuakana (brother, sister or cousin) helps and guides a younger or less expert teina (originally a younger sibling or cousin of the same gender). In a learning environment that recognises the value of ako, the tuakana–teina roles may be reversed at any time. For example, the student who yesterday was the expert on te wā and explained the lunar calendar may need to learn from her classmate today about how manaakitanga is practised by the local people.’

Marzano (2011) notes: “Positive relationships between teachers and students are among the most commonly cited variables associated with effective instruction” (p.82). Simply having positive relationships with tamariki and colleagues will not increase achievement. Quality teacher to student relationships impact student achievement in 4 significant ways:

When teachers build trust and rapport with tamariki, tamariki are more likely to take the necessary risks required to learn at deep levels. As mistake making is an inherent part of the learning journey, tamariki need to feel safe along the way.

When tamariki feel safe, they are more likely to offer teachers the necessary insights and feedback that can support the teacher’s ability to respond appropriately.

When teachers strive to understand each learner’s desires, needs, and assets, they have the necessary ability to connect the learning in targeted and specific way that ensures the learner can be successful.

When teachers know their tamariki well, they can better interpret the meaning behind a student’s unconscious nonverbal responses to the learning at hand. Raised eye-brows, tapped pencils, and deep sighs represent different emotional responses based on the learner exhibiting the behavior.

Unless a teacher knows the tamariki well, it is challenging to make learning relevant or rigorous.

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?

Mentoring: Leaders and Managers

4 Jul

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This week I asked one of my leaders of learning what being a leader is all about and I shared this Covey (1989) analogy:

Imagine a group of people cutting a path through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out. The managers are behind them, sharpening the machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up work schedules. The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, ‘this way’.

Don’t be confused, management is not leadership. The key difference is vision. A true leader has a vision, and that vision is compelling enough to entice people to follow

Vision is important as a school leader but vision is not enough. No one is a leader without someone to follow; and no one will follow a leader, particularly into the unknown, if they don’t trust him/her. Trust is the critical ingredient that goes hand in glove with vision. Without it leaders cannot expect people to work together to achieve the vision: and ultimately, without trust, the leader will lose credibility and fail (Sergiovanni, 2005; Reina & Reina, 2006).

When a leader turns their attention to trust they begin to reflect on their own behaviour and how it impacts their relationship with the people who choose to follow them. When you examine the practices all the qualities of good leadership espoused in the plethora of literature, models and styles, is encompassed by the notion of trust. For example, humility, transparency, honesty, confidence, respect, courage, empathy, and above all, a genuine focus and commitment to the people who have chosen to go for the vision, rather than the selfish ambition of a bad leader. Good leadership boils down to just two things: vision and trust.

Covey, S. (1989). Seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Reina, D., & Reina, M. (2006). Trust and betrayal in the workplace  (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Sergiovanni, T. (2005). Strengthening the Heartbeat. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

Curriculum Leaders not Managers

27 May

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Curriculum leadership is complicated because leading curriculum development meetings involves working with fallible, imperfect human beings.  A second reason curriculum leadership is difficult is due to the school schedule and a lack of extended time for teachers to discuss and revise existing curriculum documents.

Five Reasons Why Schools Need Curriculum Leaders:

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides clarity. What should every student know and be able to do?
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides opportunities to develop and empower future leaders. Curriculum leadership is not a solo act.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for continuous improvement. Schools should be learning organizations.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity to establish goals. Goals provide teachers and students with something to aim for.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for improved alignment.

Glatthorn (1987) wrote, “One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized” (p. 4).

What comes to mind when you hear the term curriculum leader?  Do you have a vision of  staff standing at the back of your classroom observing teaching and learning?  Do you see the instructional leader as the building principal conducting three-minute walk-through observations?  How many curriculum leaders can one school hold?

Curriculum leadership should not be determined by a person’s title or years of experience.  Wiles (2009) wrote, “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.”

Glatthorn, A.A. (1987). Curriculum renewal. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Glatthorn, A.A., & Jailall, J.M. (2009). The principal as curriculum leader: Shaping what is taught and tested (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Wiles, J. (2009). Leading curriculum development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Literature and Reflection

15 Feb

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Throughout the year, I have been fortunate to read multiple articles, books, and blogs. As I start the year here were some of my favourites from the summer

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

5 Ways To Promote Student Agency
By Ross Cooper

The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others
By Kristi Hedges

7 Things That Happen When Students Own Their Learning
By John Spencer

Leadership Lessons From LEGO
By Ken Perlman

I think these will help me as a leader. Not content with this I have already lined up my next batch. After reading these I have reflected on my on practice again. In any position I think the following reflection questions are key as we start the academic year.

  1. When do I intentionally plan for “White Space” in my schedule?
    Do I have time scheduled to commit to reading, writing, reflecting, and investing in myself?
  2. Where do I archive the notes from articles, blogs, and books that I read?
  3. What are 3-5 books or articles that I plan to read in 2018?

Authentic Leadership

23 Nov

 

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There is no doubt SLT who develop lasting, trusting relationships with their staff build on a foundation created by doing their job and doing it well. We need a foundation of credibility before he can earn the relational capital that creates trust. Establishing your ethos on campus comes in a variety of ways (and happens differently in each unique situation). I’ll be the first to say that each path toward trust is unique, but it’s never bad to start by managing the referrals that come your way fairly and efficiently, committing to being a learner in your leadership role, and moving toward each new year looking for ways to serve students and teachers in new ways.

It is about being mindful. Being mindful used to simply mean being consciously aware of something, but it has come to represent a state of mental being that is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment with calmness and a sense of serene acceptance. I do believe there is a larger need for all of us to be more mindful, but in the traditional sense of breathing more and taking the time to reside in the moment. I am personally less inclined towards loving-kindness meditation as I feel mindfulness as a movement is a concession to the belief that we can’t change the pace of our lives. I support the mindful revolution in schools, but not at the cost of tackling the issues that require it. To be truly mindful in schools, I think we need to find our element and be “in the zone” as Ken Robinson suggests. By finding time for our passion, Robinson contends, we will be more present, more centred, more in the here and now. This is how we should construct our schools. It’s another choice.

Trust is important also.  Trust must be earned, your work as a SLT is far from over when you reach that point. Having the respect of the teachers is not the same as having a relationship with them. Cultivating those trusting relationships is vital if you are interested in creating change (and who is not interested in creating positive change):

All leaders know the power of buy in, but it is not always the quickest road to a solution. However, getting buy in on the front end of change can make a profound difference on the success of any attempt at change in a large organization like a school.

We provide this for teachers routinely, but we rarely ask for it in return. Hearing critical feedback makes us better at providing the same for teachers, and knowing the concerns of those we serve allows us to keep a close watch on that which affects those activities.

Asking question is important. Asking these questions is not magic, but it is a great start for developing relationships through conversations with staff.

As a leader, you have to walk the walk. Credibility has a short shelf life. Even though faculty meetings and PD days are important arenas in which we must excel, we cannot only show up then.

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