Tag Archives: Professional Development

Getting on the waka

19 Feb

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The job of a school leader is complex, broad, and challenging. We often focus on the notion that students need to be at the centre. I am not disputing this, I do believe that leaders need to focus a lot of their energy on the teachers. Happy teachers make great teachers.

As SLT we need to know staff as individuals. They are not superheroes. They are human. They have good days and bad days. Sometimes, they have really bad days that turn into really bad weeks. We need to connect on a personal level, understand what is going on in their lives.

When building an effective team in a school we can’t get the right people on the bus if someone is in their seat. I know it seems harsh but as SLT you owe it to a teacher who is stuggling to support them and let them find their way the profession. Do the math. A poor teacher in a secondary setting will impact over 150 students a year. Over a 25 year career that equates to more than 3,700 students. Is that the legacy you want to leave as SLT?

All that is required is a frank conversation. Talk to them. Most struggling teachers are miserable. Negative people never know they are negative. The same can be said for miserable people. Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t just ship that person to the next principal. Think about the nearly 4000 kids you are saving.

Getting the right people on the bus is much easier than getting the wrong ones off the bus. Start with the positive. Any person of the street can write a good lesson plan and type a nice resume. Sustaining this in the classroom is hard and as senior leaders and middle  leaders we must support our people. Allow yourself to not just find the most intelligent person but the best person.

Having been in almost every educational setting from inner city to rural, I can tell you that relationships trumps rigor every day. I am not saying rigor is unimportant, just that kids truly don’t care what you know until they know that you care. All teachers have gone through a rough patch and it is important we support them.

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Rise of Superman

26 Jan

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Ever had a moment—perhaps while writing or working through a complex problem—where you’re so focused on a task that the world around you disappears and you’re perfectly focused? It feels like you’re on autopilot. Nothing can go wrong. Work comes naturally with no friction. No effort. Athletes call it “being in the zone.” Psychologists today have given it an official name: Flow.

Steven Kotler describes it in Rise of the Superman, flow is where “every action, each decision, leads effortlessly, fluidly, seamlessly to the next. It’s high-speed problem solving; it’s being swept away by the river of ultimate performance.” I have just finished this and thanks to my PLN for the suggestion.

We all could do with a little more flow. So what if we could dissect just what pushes us into this state and then just jump into flow easily?

To help us find flow in more of our lives, we need to bring all five pieces of the flow puzzle together: Self control. Environment. Skills. Task. Reward.

Self Control: Focus on Willpower to Trigger a State of Flow

We all love shortcuts—and the idea of getting into a flow state sounds especially appealing as it means you’re almost working without working. But it still takes willpower, discipline, and self-control to get there.

In fact, self control is a key element of Flow.

“In the flow-like state, we exercise control over the contents of our consciousness rather than allowing ourselves to be passively determined by external forces,” explained Csíkszentmihályi in his original book Flow.

Here is the original TED Talk.

To help us get into a state of flow more often, we need to be able to master this level of control of our consciousness. Which isn’t an easy task in today’s distracted world.

Using this research I thought I could apply the following to my leadership:

Find your standards.Your standards are the reference points you’ll use to determine whether any action you’re going to take is desireable towards getting into a state of flow—so, whether you’re going to check your email (again) or hit your 1000 word count for the day.

Set up means for monitoring.Flow depends on immediate feedback and so does self control. Whatever your task, find ways to constantly monitor your performance and adjust as you continue.

Be wary of your energy.Our mental strength waxes and wanes throughout the day (which is why it’s so important to define your own work schedule around your energy). Break the day down to manageable tasks.

Have you got a system that is working for you?

Professional Development for all

26 Aug

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When I lead PLD I often begin with the question describe your most memorable learning experience. How many of us, as educators, have been asked to ponder this? After a group discussion about memorable learning experiences I then ask staff to consider the implications for our own classrooms. What elements can be replicated in our classroom? What makes lifelong learning? Why do we remember one learning experience over others? And why are so many other learning opportunities forgotten?

Often the best experience has nothing to do with school. Why is that the most memorable learning experience has nothing to do with a teacher or a classroom, a textbook, or an assessment? And, why should we pay attention to what the answer to that question means for our classrooms? What is it about informal learning that leaves such a lasting impression? How can we integrate informal learning into our curriculum while still meeting benchmarks?

By taking staff/students out of the physical confines of the classroom with just a few tweaks to your curriculum through integrated learning and can inspire your students through informal learning.

Reading paintings, objects, and photographs can engage staff/students with new content or deepen understanding across disciplines. Paintings, objects, and photographs tell stories and getting to those stories takes a lot of critical thinking. It encourages students to build connections, examine perspectives, and build empathy. Museums are making it easier than ever to access collections online and even sort and curate your own collections for use in the classroom later.

When I use paintings, objects, and photographs I start with observation. Ask learner to point out what they notice. It’s pretty challenging to only focus on observation. They want to jump immediately to inference. We move to inference only after deep observation and then on to questioning and reflection.

I love visiting Puke Ariki our local museum with my daughter. Museums excel at interactivity. Make your classroom interactive. I am not talking about using collaboration or technology tools. Find areas in your classroom for students to open a drawer and learn, lift a flap to find out more, or slide and see. It doesn’t have to be high tech to be effective.

Few people know that museums will let teachers forego the typical school tour and use their space as a classroom outside of school. Museums are not stuffy. They are dynamic learning environments. You know best what your students need and how you want a museum visit to connect to your content so why not use museum collections to your advantage and teach in the museum space? It takes a bit of planning and a visit ahead of time, but it is well worth the effort.

By the way what was your most memorable learning experience?

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.

 

 

 

Spiritual PLD

23 Apr

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Professional development also needs to be designed for the purpose of the school. For Catholic schools, there is an even greater challenge. Schools need to meet the professional growth of teachers and their spiritual growth. How do Catholic schools meet this need? What methods can schools use to expand the spiritual strength that teachers need?

The spiritual growth of Catholic school teachers is essential for the success of schools. Catholic school teachers are entrusted with not only the academic knowledge that students learn, but also the faith formation of their students. Teachers are called by the Holy Spirit to develop the knowledge of their students in subjects both secular and sacred. Catholic school teachers take on this additional role with pride and passion, but it is critical that schools aid their teachers in developing their faith and strengthen their desire to teach the faith to students

Quick Thought

17 Apr

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The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among the people who do it. We grow by private trial and error, to be sure — but our willingness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a community that encourages such risks.                                 

The Courage to Teach; Palmer, 1998, p. 144

Experience is a truly remarkable thing. It’s a gift we give ourselves each day. It’s a hard teacher, and often plans lessons we don’t want to learn. But it makes us look at things differently with each turn. Experience makes us evaluate where we have been, and what we are headed into next. It makes us collaborate with others on the journey too. In order to experience, you need to take chances and live. It’s risky, it’s terrifying, it’s pretty awesome. If we don’t experience we don’t grow.

Learning is not an ‘add on,’ to be done when we have some free time or at training sessions. Some of the most significant innovations have been in infrastructures and day-to-day practices, allowing teams and intact work groups to integrate working and learning.

— “The Academy As Learning Community: Contradiction in Terms or Realizable Future?” Senge, in Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Department Chairs, Lucas, A. F. & Associates, 2000, pp. 280-281

Appraisal 2017

31 Jan

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Do you find often “appraisal goals” are scribbled out in 15 minute meetings with your appraiser, then “revisited” at the end of the year as a kind of autopsy. What would happen if we flipped this model on its head? What if instead we created a teacher-centered, always-on, and social approach to teacher improvement? One that connected them with dynamic resources and human communities that modeled new thinking and possibility, and that crucially built on their strengths? Here some thoughts to guide you as you make your PLG  inspired in 2017.

  1. In Term One establish a compelling big idea –then stick to it

This can be thought of as a mission or theme, but it’s really more of a tone and purpose. These heading are the same as the students hence reinforcing the idea of a learning community. Each of the goals are linked to the dispositions of the school in our case Ako, Manaakitanga and Wahine Toa. Time is made in Term one for authentic and robust conversations to eek out these goals. This is done collaboratively. Then–and this is the critical part–refer back to that constantly as you make decisions that might impact the inquiry. This is like a lighthouse. You can revise as necessary, but be careful not to drift too far away.

  1. Set the ground rules

You could probably call this a policy, but it’s the non-policy policy—just some basic rules and a common language to make sure everyone is starting and finishing at the same point.

The inquiry does not have to be come up with an answer but it does have to link to school goals.

  1. Diversify professional development sources

This is the anti-program program. Less about experts and more about staff capacity. To achieve a self-sustaining, always-on program, this is also where our Café style PLG kicks in. The grounds rules again must be clear. Everyone must contribute. It is not enough to turn up and be ready for a chat.

  1. Create a pilot or template that works for teachers

Pilot it in one department or grade level at first to work out the bugs, the factors you didn’t consider, and to better understand how it might work yourself. You may find this new open approach to PD confuses folks, and that’s okay. Simply go back to steps one and two.

  1. Connect teachers

Connect teachers from different schools to not only improve the diversity of resources, but naturally expand professional learning networks in the process. These connections will catalyze the effort as you move on. Relationships and curiosity will take a teacher further than a policy or minimal requirement. The point of this whole thing is staff capacity, not corrective training.

  1. Focus on student learning

The whole point of the PLG focus on strategies, tools, and thinking that ends up in pedagogical change, curriculum, assessment, classrooms, teacher-student interactions is ultimately “student achievement.” If it is not then what is the point?

  1. Let us celebrate teacher strengths & interests

Teachers need to see themselves as a crafts-person that is skilled and passionate. Strengths could be collaboration with colleagues, assessment design, classroom management, curriculum development, or other traditional educational pillars. This again can be done in the PLG Café or by cross-pollination.

So from the beginning, everyone should be aware that PLD and PLG is all a work in progress—just like the profession itself. Perhaps the greatest potential here is in the chance to personalize professional development for teachers.

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Student Input

6 Sep

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Real change change occurs in schools when students have input and their is relational trust to do so.

I’m fortunate as a school leader that my teachers share their ideas and thoughts with me. My students are so frank and host. I really respect them for that. .

I am  running a number of classroom circle events this semester with my students – I am using this clip. By the way. Circles are change the way I teach. Worth investigating.

 

 

 

Grit

22 Aug

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Our  deepest conversations with colleagues revolve around helping students to be successful. It worries me some students don’t try because they do not wish to fail. The complexity level of many students is stunning and therefore it takes a much deeper level of professional collaboration and parental partnership then ever before in our role as educators. The words anxiety, depression, autism, and opposition are part of our vernacular on a daily basis. A great deal of our work deals with student well-being

Into this conversation arrives the theory of grit, perhaps espoused best by Angela Lee Duckworth. I am loving this read. Find it . Read it.

LwDT and 365

21 Aug

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Microsoft Office has been a staple in classrooms and offices for over a decade. As the web has become increasingly collaborative, many online word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications joined Office. Microsoft began introducing web-based office tools in 2008, and since then they have been constantly revising and improving the applications. Today, we have the benefit of these years of progresses in the Office 365 collection of tools. Our school has immersed itself in these tools.

The Office 365 web version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote also allow you to quickly create and edit documents on any machine with access to the Internet in the widely recognized Office file formats.  It has taken me sometime but now I book all my movements through my calendar.  I am learning to understand the uses of classroom, survey and planner currently.

Having Office 365, you’re able to access your emails, calendar and documents from any device as long as you have an internet connection. So, if you travel far or stay close school, you can use a laptop, desktop, tablet or phone to access your work files and information. In my role this is fabulous.

The flexibility and mobility of 365 is great, but your brain deserves a break and research shows that the benefits of holiday, meditation and downtime replenishes your attention, motivation, creativity and productivity. Saying that, I also know that for a lot of us, if you can just stay on top of emails it’ll save you from drowning in messages and tasks that require attention on a Monday morning.

Here are some of the reflections on the collaborative benefits of 365 from a recent Cyclone course I attended.

Mytwosentences

Thoughts and Observations from Edward Roads

Danielle Anne Lynch

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