Tag Archives: Learning

Mentoring and Successful Schools

10 Nov

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As school leaders, we recognise that appraisal an essential process that exists in schools. The evidence gathered in the process is central to the ability teacher registration. However, because the process is often seen as mechanical, and in some cases is not seen as a significant driver to assist school improvement, a real opportunity is missed for developing potential and bringing out the best in others.

As I work on my own appraisal and appraisal meetings I note the importance of self-accountability and growth. With growth comes an increased sense of one’s own potential. When one has both confidence and a true sense of what could be, then a space is created for the individual to try and test out new behaviours.

When mentoring is placed firmly at the heart of the appraisal process, teachers and other staff members experience a process in which belief in the development of human potential becomes central to the conversation. At the heart of these must be the PTCs.

When school leaders are skilled in using the principles of mentoring to assist their appraisal, meetings they help to create a clear path for creating a school culture where individuals to make things better.

Mentoring accepts it as a process for accelerating the achievement of school targets (that is annual goals and strategic plans) through:

– Creating alignment between organisational and personal goals

– Growing and developing others

– Enabling others to step outside of their comfort zones

– Supporting others to achieve their full potential

When opposite beliefs and attitudes exist about the purpose and value of performance management, school cultures are created in which individuals:

– Struggle to take responsibility for their own actions

– Become dependent on others for solutions and place limitations on their own ability to problem solve

– Lack the internal motivation and desire to succeed

– Weaken their ability to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

The truth is, when systems for appraisal exist that do not develop an individual’s sense of self-worth, a void can be created between the individual’s perception of self and what they feel capable of achieving. In such environments, individuals either consciously or subconsciously limit what they give both to themselves and their school.

Individuals come to see more fully their unique role and the contributions they can make towards bringing about improvements in their school. Rather than seeing it as something that is done to them, they begin to understand what it means to be accountable to themselves and others and they start to own the process.

 

 

 

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Doing it Better

21 Oct

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I have a lot on my plate at the moment. Last week I worked over 60 hours at school with many crucial meetings and by the time Friday came around I was tired. As a result, I made a couple of errors and let standards slip. Part of being a good leader though, is recognising when that occurs and doing something about it. And here I go doing something about it.

Yes, I know that leadership in schools in the 21st century is complex and challenging and most of the time I feel like I’m on top of things. On Friday night, it took me one km in the pool that night and a rigorous 8km run on Saturday morning to finally gain control of my emotions and to think it all through and plan a way forward.

You see, there are times when you are tested as a leader, often when you least expect it. The most important thing that I have learned as a leader is to work on your self-leadership skills. If you can’t lead yourself, then you will never, ever lead others successfully.

So what did I learn:

  • Breathe deeply and give yourself time to think. Consider that sometimes your biggest problem may be your biggest opportunity. Choose actions that will make you a better person. Actions that are aligned to your values and reflect what you love to do.
  • Use a Growth Mindset. A Growth Mindset ensures strategies to keep learning and growing. A Fixed Mindset will stall your growth and development and you will find yourself blaming others.
  • Remember that working your way through problems and frustrations will develop your resilience.
  • Remember that it’s not always about you. It’s about what you can do to help others grow and develop.
  • Always focus on learning. What am I learning and how can I improve.
  • There is always tomorrow. The staff at our school are reading one of four books over the summer holidays.

Term 3 Focus

2 Aug

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As the term begins for us here in New Zealand it is a good time to take stock. What are your goals for the next 100 days of school? Do your goals take priority over learning styles and student needs? Is your professional development (PD) plan a success if all of the teachers complete the face-to-face PD, but do not implement the instructional strategies?

As a teacher, the world may not be second-guessing your decisions or requesting that you explain your school improvement plan on national TV. Impacting the lives of hundreds of students in a school is much more complex than a checklist. This term I will be asking my middle leaders to reflect on the reason they became an educator. Knowing “your why” will help you support teaching and learning. While a teacher’s legacy is the successful transition of children into adults who contribute to society, it is important to focus on the students you have this year and not your legacy.

Here are five focus points for you:

1.  Focus on The Students You Have This Year

2.  Recognize The Importance Of Continuous Improvement

3.  Focus On Goals, But Not At The Expense Of Student Growth

4.  Provide A Culture Where Multiple Perspectives Are Valued

5.  Reflect On The Reasons You Became An Educator

Restorative Reflection

29 May

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In my work this week I have been trying to get my head around restorative and relational practices. I have been thinking what makes effective practice and how we can apply this in my own environment. The question I am posing then on mountain2surf is just what does creating a Restorative Culture within a school or other community look like?

Positive relationships form the basis for any healthy community. For a Restorative Culture to develop, it is essential that community- and relationship-building be intentional. Relationships of authentic trust between adults and youth, and within both staff and student cohorts, are the foundation of the connections that will be restored through the use of RJ practices. We must first form these relationships, then, in times of trouble, there is something to restore. So building good relationships is key.

Reflection is something I believe we do not do enough of. It is essential to a restorative culture. Prayer in Catholic school provides an ideal opportunity for this. When students “act out”, do we examine our own contribution to the situation? What feelings and beliefs do we bring to the circumstances? In our busy and challenging position as educators, have we really done all we can to meet an individual student’s needs or is there something else we could try? Out of our best intentions, have we given some students so much slack that, without realizing it, we have set the bar too low and inadvertently sent them a message that they are not capable? This type of deep self-reflection and willingness to examine one’s own feelings, biases, pre-conceived notions, and actions is not easy, but it is one of the essential keys to establishing a Restorative Culture in schools.

But where should this self reflection take place. Now for self-reflection to take place and to build positive relationships, a safe space must be provided. Safe space encompasses not just physical well-being but also emotional and intellectual safety. Are behavioral and academic expectations clear? Are standards upheld consistently? Is the aftermath of making a mistake free from shame? If I take personal responsibility for my actions will I be met with compassion and a willingness to listen, rather than a quickness to blame and punish? Does the community embrace and validate different experiences, beliefs, and perspectives and allow for them to be expressed?

 

Just some initial thoughts.

 

Leadership

4 May

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Most of us want our leaders to do better–to make smart, ethical, innovative choices that maximize everyone’s success, not just their own. That’s one reason why accountability and transparency matter. But it seems we want much the same for ourselves to push ourselves to greater heights bit by bit, to learn from our setbacks, and to move forward more capably than before.

Being SLT in Term One

11 Apr

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“Good relations between teachers and their colleagues and between teachers and their students can mitigate the negative effects of challenging classrooms…”

 In March 2015 the OECD released a report from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Schools for 21st Century Learners (2015) by Andreas Schleicher. It identified some good news, and some not-so-good news:

The good news: The most successful education systems are those in countries whose society values the teaching profession.

The not-so-good news: Fewer than one in three teachers believe that teaching is a valued profession in society.

On my ongoing development there are some key areas that I have been working on in my leadership in SLT in 2017.

  1. Distributed leadership, provides opportunities to participate in decision making at school.
  2. Positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and their colleagues and teachers and their students
  3. Meaningful appraisal and feedback that recognises and celebrates teachers’ strengths while simultaneously challenging teachers to address weaknesses in their pedagogical practices.
  4. Provide a culture of collaboration among teachers through:
    • jointly teaching the same class
    • observing and providing feedback on other teachers
    • engaging in different classes and age groups
    • professional learning

“The strongest association with teachers’ job satisfaction appears to be participating in collaborative professional learning activities five times a year or more.”

  1. Quality professional development. A focus on the three components of self-efficacy – classroom management, instruction and student engagement. Learner agency has been a common term for me this year. 

Confucius say….

26 Nov

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“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Learning from experience plays a critical part in combining information and skills in context to create knowledge, and the meaning and form that such experiences can take are as varied as the countless subjects and disciplines themselves that comprise the broad sweep of human activity.

Confucius, rightly, acclaims reflection as the cardinal route to wisdom. We begin to learn by imitating those who know what we also want to know. We learn even more by trying our new knowledge out in the real world in some sense. But we only truly begin to embed that knowledge within us, we only truly begin to ‘know’, when we set out to cast a critical eye over our practice and we question why we do what we do, how we do it, what works, what does not work, and how can we do better.

In teaching, as in other professions, reflection can take many forms, each as valid as the other, but each bringing a different range and kind of insight to our professional practice. Here some ways I am thinking about:

Critical self-reflection – taking the time to go back over our own teaching, either from memory, or from notes taken, or increasingly today from a video of our teaching; we do this with the aim of challenging ourselves on what went well or not, and why;

Collaborative reflection – working with one or more colleagues who join with you in reflecting on your teaching, perhaps having observed your lesson live, or having watched a recorded video of your teaching after the event; of course, this can, and perhaps should, be reciprocal – collegiate reflection can be very powerful indeed.

Coaching and mentoring – working with either a more experienced colleague or an external expert who watches you teach (again either by classroom observation or through the use of video) and is able to offer advice – this can be done live or in retrospect, or both.

I am really excited about reflection like this and even more excited by the reaction of the middle manager group. Lets see what occurs in 2017.

A Disruptive Time

4 Nov

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Tim Harford uses a TED talk to elaborate on Messy Disruptions and how active use of them can add power to our thinking and lead to results beyond what we might expect.

Our instincts as teachers and leaders in education always craves the normal and comfortable – this week during a very busy time I would often think of a “normal week” – by this I thought of a normal timetable with no interruptions from special events (such as sports), disruptions from upheaval (teachers illness, students behaviour, angry parents etc). It took me years to recognise that the interruptions were the normal and that our school as a “living breathing being” was simply being human.

Harford’s point about dealing with complexity by deliberately adding disruption is powerful. His example where four friends are less likely to solve complex issues/problems than three friends with an awkward stranger (or in our case a grumpy parent/teacher) really makes you stop and think about how we need to shift our thinking and not be trapped by comfort and security.

Great Leaders and Parents

8 Sep

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It is Fathers Day’s and I am reflecting on how my has changed in the last 8 years as a Dad. The other week I posted a photo of my daughter completing her first Weetbix Triathlon. She suggested I post the above of me finished my first and only (so far) half iron-man.

I have been contemplating a leadership metaphor used by Simon Sinek on a Ted Talk.

The quote that sticks out to me is “great leaders are like parents wanting to give their children (employees) opportunities to try and fail in safe ways and to discipline when necessary”.

I’m struck by the use of the term “discipline” in the metaphor when applied to leadership in a school.

Discipline is commonly defined as getting someone to follow the rules and there is some implication of punishment if you don’t.

Perhaps if people don’t follow the team decision that provides for consistency then discipline is applied – usually a one on one conversation between leader and in this case teacher. But is it then about natural consequences of not following the decision.

 

 

Creativity

20 Aug

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Creativity has become the economic engine of the 21st century and it is no longer a luxury for a few, but a necessity for all. Ken Robinson (2007) states that creativity is as important as literacy, Richard Florida (2002) writes about the rise of the creative class, and Dan Pink explains that,

“We’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again – to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers.” (2005: 50)

If education is to prepare young people for a very different global environment, we simply must invest in students’ creative capacities. New combinations of creative abilities are increasingly in demand in a complex post-millennial world and what we know today is not as important as what we need to learn for tomorrow. Habits held too tightly become burdensome. As Leadbeater states, “What holds people back…is their ability to unlearn” (2000: 9). Learning is usually an incremental process, but when the environment suddenly changes the key is to dispense with past learning because old practices and routines will no longer work. This means challenging ingrained assumptions and people’s sense of identity.

 

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