Tag Archives: Problem Solving

Problem Solving with Staff

15 Mar


Reminder One:Teachers are well-intentioned, hard-working people who care about students.

This seems obvious to everyone who works in schools. “Of course teachers are good people.” However as SLT we sometimes find that their everyday thoughts and actions don’t always reflect this belief.

There are many more of these kinds of issues that provoke this kind of complaining among staff:

  • increase reports and completed paperwork
  • new projects eg the Digital Curriculum
  • changing school directions

In schools where leaders are working hard to be collaborative, respectful and responsive to needs, we can sometimes fall into what I call the “rabitt hole” where there is an expectation of an endless supply of time to listen to complaints that are directed at a situation they didn’t create.

The emotions it evokes are usually from the anger to indignation – from annoyance to seething resentment and outrage. There are often some fear emotions that are evoked as well. For me this is exhausting.

This rabbit hole contains the belief that a good leader must listen to people’s complaints, even when there is a limited scope for making substantive changes.  The challenge implicit in this belief and behaviour is that the act of listening, often leads to an implicit expectation on the part of the complainers that something will be done. To listen and not to act, can therefore erode your relationship with people over the long term.   To listen over and over again, can lead to a host of frustrations that don’t have an outlet. Recently in this space I have been doing some reading and trying a few new things in my leadership journey.

1) Be strong about what is your purpose.

We know that there is rich information in complaints. I have discovered Appreciative Listening.   So, instead of listening, and feeling it’s your job to defend or sell the change, start with listening to hear what is behind the complaints. Consider communicating your purpose by saying: I’m listening because right now because I don’t yet know the best way to implement this required external change. My hope is, that by understanding all aspects of this change and it’s anticipated effects, it will help us to be more creative and conscious about the choices we have in the implementation of this change.

Then ask the question: When you anticipate this change being implemented, what concerns does it raise for you? (You can ask, if you want to, what hopes or benefits do you see?   However, depending on the nature of the change, this might be a better question to ask at the end of the conversation.)

Your task then is to capture what you hear people say in order not to miss anythingDo so visibly in a notepad in front of you. Or, on a white board. Or, on a projected screen. Or, ask someone to help the group keep track so that you can in fact, stay focused on the speaker.

2) Find the underlying value or quality that is implicit in the complaint.

Ask help to identify what value or quality underlies each complaint, until people feel that they’re repeating themselves and there is nothing new to be learned.

3) Next step: Take these values and qualities and ask for help putting them into the major themes related to this change.

4) Ask the question: What are the possible ways we could manage the implementation of this change so that, as much as is possible, we integrate what is important to you?

This part of the conversation may take place in one meeting or over several meetings, depending on the complexity of what needs to be implemented. I have found success in encouraging brainstorming and collaboration. Ask specific questions like, how can we implement this new directive AND manage workloads effectively?  How can we implement this new directive, AND sustain high quality service to clients?

The best brainstorming ideas, of course, will address several of the criteria – i.e. they will protect time with clients, they will help with the balancing of workloads, etc.

I find this hard because it’s important to even allow the “not too practical” ideas, because they act as sparks.

When there are lots of ideas, find the ideas that can be put together in such a way that it leads to the optimum preservation of what is important to people.

What do you think?


Solutions Orientated

5 Sep


I like to think I am solutions orientated so on the back of my last piece here are some ideas around how we can be better at catching students up.

Make Catch-Ups Purposeful

Ensuring catch up sessions aren’t just an opportunity to recover what was taught in lessons. Because this may convey the message that if they don’t listen first time in class, they can listen to it again in our time after school.


Instead of catch up classes, can sessions after school actually go beyond the curriculum?   Can we link with specialist providers in our field to show how our subjects are used in industry?  Can we bring in experts to share their knowledge and push learning beyond its existing level?

Set Boundaries

There are students who genuinely need this additional support and I don’t know any teachers who would want to not provide this.  But do we ensure that those who need it get it rather than those who can’t be bothered getting a second chance

Phase them out

Could the way we design lessons, curriculums and schemes be reviewed?  Could we analyse our teaching and learning?  Asking the question why additional sessions are actually needed could lead to some real improvements to the department.  Why do we not have the time to deliver the course in lessons?  Why isn’t the content sticking? How could we use technology to complement this?

In conclusion though and why would you remove them if hardworking students are seeking to improve their grades further?  But then again, would removing them and addressing why we might need them solve the problem itself?

A Special Shout Out…

12 Apr


I wanted to mention the outstanding CORE Education GROUP that ran their roadshow in New Plymouth last week at Sacred Heart. Please follow their newsletter or link as PD run by them is well worth it.


Technology has become very important in our daily lives. Many of us couldn’t function on a daily basis without our cell phones, laptops, and iPads.  In any case I couldn’t. In addition, our children are overly exposed and stimulated by video games, cell phones, and television on a daily basis. My daughter who is four already writing photo essays using here iPod Touch. With the big boom of technology in today’s societythere is a need to integrate technology in the 21st Century classroom. The term blended learning is a common one.


School Leaders must understand Learning for the 21st Century Classroom emphasizes:

  • Digital  literacy – using communication, information processing, and  digital research tools  (email, presentation software, Internet)
  • Critical thinking/Problem solving-using spread sheets and design tools to solve complex problems)
  • Interpersonal Skills-using personal development and productivity tools to enhance one’s life (e-learners, time managers, and collaboration tools).

The 21st Century classroom combines old content with new skills to create more rigor and relevance for students. Learners are encouraged to take creative risks in this environment while teachers are provided with more opportunities to foster creativity in their instruction. When students look at core knowledge through real-world examples, they are being prepared to compete globally by developing interpersonal communication skills while learning content.

There is some debate amongst educational thought leaders about this learning model.  Some argue that technology does not aid in the retention of core knowledge for students, and the 21st Century Classroom Model focuses on teaching students how to “use” technology with less emphasis on core content.  The “old school” way of teaching affords students a better chance to learn and master the 3 R’s (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic). While there are those who oppose, the fact still remains that; children born in the 21st century are digital natives, and many American graduates are entering the 21st century workplace unprepared.

So do you integrate technology into your classroom?


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