Tag Archives: Learning

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.

 

Learning

20 May

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There is no one size fits all mode to education. Each child’s progress is individual to them and different children develop at different rates. The physical growth of a child is obvious to an observer but at simultaneously children are developing intellectually, socially, emotionally, morally and spiritually. Every child is a complex individual and no child moves suddenly from one phase of development to another and children do not make progress in all areas at the same time. Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of learning and development are equally important and inter-connected.

In order that the learning and developmental needs of all children in an International School are met it is essential that all classroom instruction is differentiated by the classroom teacher. The process of differentiated instruction is by its very definition the mechanism by which the needs of each individual learner are met. Given that children learn in different ways and at different speeds it is essential that a lesson be planned to cater for the learning requirements of all. Every child has a right to access the curriculum and to learn and thus the teacher has a duty to ensure that all lessons are structured to enable all children to achieve success. The implication being that the curriculum must be accessible to children with special educational needs whilst at the same time academically rigorous for the most able children in a classroom.

Positive Learning Environments: Part Two

23 Sep

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I suppose the key to these is the key competencies of our national curriculum and ensuring we are getting it right in the classroom.

  1. Focus a good deal of your teaching on “learning how to learn” skill development. Read up on how to teach study skills, learning to learn skills, research skills, inquiry skills. Make sure that your students grow both in terms of content they learn and the “learning to learn” skills they need to develop in order to learn well in the future.
  2. Make “asking questions” central to your teaching and to your learning environment and school culture.
  3. Give students more choices and options – in the classroom.
  4. Use inquiry strategies, research skill building activities, interactive learning and projects as critical parts of teaching. Incorporate more interest based projects into your curriculum.
  5. Where possible, make learning experiences more “authentic”. Ask “how does this relate?” How can you provide students with a concrete understanding of their future options? Can you take field trips to different places of business? Colleges and universities? Bring in speakers?
  6. Create more ways to integrate learning across the curriculum and consider ways to redesign the curriculum. When redesigning or renewing the curriculum, examine whether curriculum materials or programs have a significant component built around developing curiosity, motivation, relevance and interest.

There is little doubt there are lots of challenges here but it up to us as teachers to challenge ourselves to create authentic learning environments.

Noisy Classrooms

17 Aug

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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?

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