Tag Archives: Learners

Fullan at ULEARN

9 Nov


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.


Pedagogy and Student Achievement

29 May

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

More and more teachers are giving students projects to do, whether at school or at home. They often have complete freedom of how to present the final outcome. Common examples include a PowerPoint presentation, report, poster or physical model. A few, may go for a more creative option such as a video. However, digital technology, when used, is often limited to presenting passive information without any interactivity. The type that doesn’t encourage any engagement. We must remember the tool should not drive the presentation just like with teaching.

It must be said that some teachers do encourage students to take advantage of digital technologies. Examples include blogging or other forms of presenting content, e.g. social media, or wikis. Even then though, for those who engage with the content, it‘s still mostly passive (reading/watching). Sometimes it increases a bit to up/down-voting or commenting as the ultimate engagement. Tools like spellasaurus or Mathletics are fine but it is the pedagogy behind it which is key.

Years ago, in an effort to understand the students we served and the role of teachers in creating spaces where learning can happen, we created a list of what we believed these conditions were:

  • Knowing our learners
  • Creating a safe community of learners
  • Having something meaningful for students to learn about
  • As teachers we have to have a deep understanding of the content, the learner and instructional practices
  • The notion of teacher as learner and actually doing the risk taking, being open to make mistakes

We spent some time discussing as a staff what resonated with us most and what caused us the most dissonance. It was an incredible insight into the thinking of our staff in our collective and individual impact on the learners in our care.

I believe that supporting learning at the classroom level is no different than supporting innovation and learning at a staff level.

We need to be able to do what we are asking our teachers to do. We have to create spaces where creativity, innovation, risk-taking in learning, and experimentation are welcome.

Being Creative

19 Jan


Creativity  happens when people take risks with innovation, problem solving, and actions. If creativity is encouraged in schools, then the leader’s job is to create the conditions where it can happen.

The key question is though what are these conditions?

In an effort to understand the students we serve and the role of teachers in creating spaces where learning can happen, we created a list of what we believed these conditions were:

  • Knowing our learners (creating learning plans)
  • Creating a safe community of learners
  • Having something meaningful for students to learn about
  • As teachers we have to have a deep understanding of the content, the learner and instructional practices
  • The notion of teacher as learner and actually doing the risk taking, being open to make mistakes

Can you think of any further?

Positive Learning Environments

22 Sep


There is no doubt we have created a society where schools and their students are driven by credits. I took time this week to reflect on what a positive learning environment may look like . That is, an environment not driven by this.

  1. Diminish the emphasis on traditional testing as the key assessment tool, and focus on more “natural” and diverse assessment approaches such as essays and papers, reflective journals, oral presentations, classroom blog, and other demonstrations of their learning.
  2. Create the belief that effort makes a difference in learning. Go back to that idea of process and the outcome will follow. Help students understand that when someone works hard, they are more likely to succeed.
  3. Include narratives on report cards that focus on individual strengths and interests rather than numbers.
  4. Focus on thinking rather than remembering facts.
  5. Focus primarily on student strengths and student success. For each student, consider “the glass as half full” rather than “the glass as half empty”. Encourage students as much as possible. Understand that not all students will be strong in all areas, and that it is important to help each student find his or her strengths and interests and to build on them. Also, see “failure” as an opportunity for student growth. I have written about this a great deal. It is OK to fail.
  6. Be willing to “slow down the learning process”. If the learning takes you off in a tangent, away from the learning plan that is OK.

What do you think? Any tips? I feel part two might be in order.

Noisy Classrooms

17 Aug


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?


8 Jul

I think acknowledging that some students need time to work on their own to get into their own state of flow and not being rigid with timetables. Not making students wrong for not loving group work and creating thinking nooks inside and outside of the classroom to let them recharge (same for work spaces and conferences).

Just because students or adults don’t speak up in group discussions or staff meetings doesn’t mean they don’t have anything meaningful to say. How do we make sure these voices are heard and more importantly valued?


12 Jul

As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” – Pope John Paul II

I love this quote from John Paul. This term in my inquiry and work I have learned that leadership is difficult. It can be complex, stressful and formidable. It often conspires to reward and frustrate simultaneously. More often than not, it is two steps forward and one back. It is just the nature of the schools or institutions. It is the end of the term so it is time to reflect.

I believe in servant leadership. It can that make you feel like you are part of something significant, even life-changing. Leadership that makes you want to be ‘part of something’.

I live for those moments that everybody gets it. The “we did it together” moment. Raising others up. No agendas. No undisclosed causes. Just for the betterment of students, learners, akonga.

Yet, truly authentic leadership at its highest level exacts a price and it takes a toll. It is all-encompassing. Never off the clock. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy the holiday break. It is a chance to recharge the batteries and refresh the soul.

For this reason, leadership requires a balance. This is especially true if we are to serve others at the highest level. The stories are too numerous to count – leaders who have done phenomenal things for their organizations – yet, have left a scattered path of failed families, failed marriages, and troubled children in the wake of their organizational triumphs. Those truly great leaders have balance. They have their support team.

As I enter the holidays and make our plans and goals for the term to come we need to put home at the top of our priority list. Home is where real leadership starts. And it will be the most difficult and most important leadership job we will ever tackle. And the most rewarding. Family. My family is ground zero…the foundation of my leadership. They deserve the best. Not what we have left-over from long days of serving others. I suppose what I am saying this week leadership will flourish and grow to the betterment of the organizations and people that we serve outside of our family. These holidays I am taking time for family. I hope you do also.

Professional Reading

“To lead the people, walk behind them.” – Lao Tzu

Thought for the week

Remember to keep a good balance between your revisions and rest these school holidays. Don’t burn yourself out, but don’t waste the time.


20 Apr


Being involved in the National Aspiring Principals Programme (NAPP) this year has got me thinking about my own leadership techniques and how it changed over the years. Some of the discussion and reflections I have already shared and will continue to share here.

I have been thinking about Peter Drucker’s quote “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” This links into the Kiwi Leadership Model http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Leadership-development/Professional-information/Kiwi-leadership-for-principals  and my belief of what it is to be a leader in Catholic schools.

After all this reading and reflection I am convinced that the most influential person in a school community is the principal, followed by an effective Senior Leadership Team. For all the talk of distributive (see Burnham’s article last week) shared leadership, there is an intangible aspect to the Senior Leadership Team that shapes the whole school culture.

No easy job. Senior Leaders have to deal with paperwork and compliance to policies and mandates whiste trying to lead the way for innovation. They are in a place where they have to lead and manage. A principal is a budget master, a PR coordinator, a liability manager, an instructional leader, a teacher evaluator, a coach, an advocate for students, a disciplinarian, a bridge to the community, a communicator to parents, among other things. They are tasked with being flexible while creating sustainable procedures. This is probably why it is so important to have a team approach.

Add to this, the position of leadership takes them out of a peer role and into a place that can be lonely. You can sense it sometimes among the best of principals – a heavy burden during the hardest times of the year. It is a testament to faithfulness and humility that so many of them pull it off. In my short time in the role I must acknowledge it is hard to stay positive.

Here are some of the things I try to do as a member of the senior leadership team:

  • I see staff as people not just as teachers. I want to understand identity and establish a connectedness. I try to give feedback without being critical.
  • I listen. I hope by doing this and establishing connectedness I get reflective questioning and honest feedback on how I am doing.
  • I put akonga at the centre. This means acting goofy in the name of school spirit or volunteering to be at a school assembly or having a silly elf video on the morning announcements. But it also means reminding teachers of good instruction and a more positive approach to discipline.
  • Building and understanding positive culture. We’ve had surprise morning teas and small gifts or notes sent to us that affirm us. These things go a long way.
  • They build systems that work. Although the relational side is huge, it is also nice to have a place that “runs smoothly.” I hope it makes my place a good place to work.

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