Tag Archives: Professional Readings

Innovative and Enriched Learning Environments

13 Feb

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We are continuing our curriculum inquiry this year. I remind you of the question:

What do we want learning and teaching to look like at Manawa Tapu?

It is imperative that we create a school environment that is inviting, engaging, and conducive to learning for ALL students.  Over summer I did some reading on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and learnt that ALL students are gifted and talented in some (many) area(s) beyond the findings of any formalized assessment measure. Sadly, with all the demands of school enriched learning environment for ALL students can get lost in the noise of bureaucracy and a false sense of accountability. As we inquire further I thought about these ways to Create an Enriched Learning Environment for ALL Students and the following appeared.

  • Believe and Learn

Believe that ALL students are gifted and talented in something.  There are countless articles in circulation about gifted and talented education.  Learn as much as you can about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and other gifted and talented models and theories.  Gardner says that these differences “challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning. Indeed, as currently constituted, our educational system is heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well.” Gardner argues that “a contrasting set of assumptions is more likely to be educationally effective.”

  • Share Your Findings with ALL Stakeholders of the Community

Communicate your beliefs and thoughts about enrichment for ALL students with ALL stakeholders. This includes teachers, parents, staff, community advocates, and students of the community. Introduce this concept to your teacher leadership team, staff, and students to gain voice bring them on board.

  • The Plan

Develop a clear vision and design a realistic plan for enrichment opportunities using the Building Level Enrichment Team as the driving force for enrichment opportunities.  Use informal surveys and questionnaires to help design the enrichment program that best fits the needs of your students (depending on age/grade level – teachers and parents can also assist).

Questions to ask yourself and your team: What types of opportunities best serve your students’ needs?   What types of opportunities do your students want? Do your students want to learn how to sing Opera or do they want to build a robot? Who will serve as the facilitators of these enrichment opportunities?

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Rise of Superman: Part Two

28 Jan

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Routine is the cornerstone of productivity. But you’ll rarely enter a state of flow just by doing the same thing you did yesterday.

Instead, find an environment that challenges you on a daily basis and pushes you outside of your comfort zone (a bit). Think of the surfer who’s forced to adapt to every individual wave they catch. According to Kotler in Rise of the Superman, it’s this novelty, unpredictability, and complexity that will set off your state of flow. Kotler says there are a few environmental qualities we can look for to help trigger flow:

  • High consequences:Find environments and activities where your actions have real consequences to you. While an athlete might pick a harder course or opponent, for you, this could be as simple as speaking up during a meeting if you’re shy or publishing a post you’ve written on Medium if you’re afraid of comments and public feedback.
  • Rich environment: Find environments that require more of your attention and for you to react quickly to changes. Kotler gives the example of the Pixar offices, which feature a central hub for places frequented by all different employees regardless of their department.

“Steve Jobs artificially created the environmental conditions that massively upped the amount of novelty, unpredictability, and complexity in the environment because people across departments and disciplines started running into each other and having conversations,” said Kotler. “As a result, flow, innovation, and creativity went up.”

How could you use flow in your environment?

I am current experimenting with my routine. I will let you know the results.

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?

Our Collaborative Trial

6 Sep

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And if the students develop interdisciplinary pathways which leads to “independent confident individuals who learn how to learn” we would’ve made a start at crossing boundaries and making connections (Duerr 2008)

This week I have done some work towards our collaboration project in Term 4. I got to thinking if the interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning has been around for decades, why have we not embraced it? And what’s the goal? Mathison and Freeman (1997) said that the goal is to help students synthesise discrete information and connect knowledge to everyday needs, applying learning methods to real life situations. To help facilitate these sorts of discussions we have set up Professional Learning Groups (PLGs) which are interdisciplinary in the past but the beauty of our Term 4 project is that the work is authentic.

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf

I really enjoyed this clip which got me thinking.

 

 

Mentoring: Leaders and Managers

4 Jul

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This week I asked one of my leaders of learning what being a leader is all about and I shared this Covey (1989) analogy:

Imagine a group of people cutting a path through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out. The managers are behind them, sharpening the machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up work schedules. The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, ‘this way’.

Don’t be confused, management is not leadership. The key difference is vision. A true leader has a vision, and that vision is compelling enough to entice people to follow

Vision is important as a school leader but vision is not enough. No one is a leader without someone to follow; and no one will follow a leader, particularly into the unknown, if they don’t trust him/her. Trust is the critical ingredient that goes hand in glove with vision. Without it leaders cannot expect people to work together to achieve the vision: and ultimately, without trust, the leader will lose credibility and fail (Sergiovanni, 2005; Reina & Reina, 2006).

When a leader turns their attention to trust they begin to reflect on their own behaviour and how it impacts their relationship with the people who choose to follow them. When you examine the practices all the qualities of good leadership espoused in the plethora of literature, models and styles, is encompassed by the notion of trust. For example, humility, transparency, honesty, confidence, respect, courage, empathy, and above all, a genuine focus and commitment to the people who have chosen to go for the vision, rather than the selfish ambition of a bad leader. Good leadership boils down to just two things: vision and trust.

Covey, S. (1989). Seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Reina, D., & Reina, M. (2006). Trust and betrayal in the workplace  (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Sergiovanni, T. (2005). Strengthening the Heartbeat. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

Coaching Principles

10 Mar

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When coaches and teachers interact equally as partners, good things happen.

                                                                                                                                  Jim Knight

This week our Leaders of Learning group focused on an interesting reading. In it Jim Knight outlined the partnership philosophy approach to coaching.  Through his research, practice, and reflection 7 principles are outlined. Equality, Choice, Voice, Dialogue, Reflection, Praxis, and Reciprocity. (Knight, 2007, pp. 37-54) 

Equality: Both the coach and the teacher contribute equally to the conversation.  The teacher and coach may not have equal knowledge on all topics, but both points of view are worth being heard and valued as a part of the discussion.  Respect and compassion must be infused throughout conversations.

Choice: In a coaching partnership teachers must have choice in the professional development.  Without choice it is hard to define the relationship as a partnership, thus without choice professional development is likely to fail. (Knight, 2007, p. 42) By providing quality choices the teacher can say yes and no.  When choices are taken away the teacher’s professional opinion has been neglected.  Everyone wants to be treated as a professional.

Voice: Make teachers feel seen and heard.  Their opinions and needs are heard and do matter.  Even if the coach does not necessarily agree with what the teacher’s opinions and what they have to share, the coach must put their opinions aside to listen.   Listening provides the coach with insight and provides the teacher with an engaged listener with an opportunity to share.

Dialogue: In a coaching partnership it is not about winning the conversation, but continuing conversations and bouncing ideas around in a professional way.  I like the analogy of a pinball machine to great dialogue in which it is difficult to keep track of whose ideas are who’s because the conversation is so constant.  Inquiry and innovation occurs through dialogue.

Reflection: Reflection is a practice to engage in as an IC and teacher during and after during and after implementing a new strategy or content.  Some teachers do not innately reflect on their practices, thus coaches can provided the reminders, prompts, and strategies to do so.

Praxis: When a teacher applies a new strategy or ideas and applies to their existing practice, this is praxis.  The teacher may explore, prod, stretch, and recreate a new approach into one’s own teaching practices (Knight, 2007, p. 49).  In my opinion Praxis “dove-tails” well with reflection.  As we become more reflective teachers and instructional coaches we tend to be more open-minded and connecting new strategies to practice is simplified.

Reciprocity:  The coaching relationship is one that provides both parties with learning opportunities.  Both parties have an opportunity to win.

One member of staff put a successful coaching session this way. I feel valued. I feel as though I have reflected.  I suppose staff “feel validated as teachers, as professionals, and more important, they feel validated as people.” (Knight, 2007, p. 51)

Literature and Reflection

15 Feb

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Throughout the year, I have been fortunate to read multiple articles, books, and blogs. As I start the year here were some of my favourites from the summer

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

5 Ways To Promote Student Agency
By Ross Cooper

The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others
By Kristi Hedges

7 Things That Happen When Students Own Their Learning
By John Spencer

Leadership Lessons From LEGO
By Ken Perlman

I think these will help me as a leader. Not content with this I have already lined up my next batch. After reading these I have reflected on my on practice again. In any position I think the following reflection questions are key as we start the academic year.

  1. When do I intentionally plan for “White Space” in my schedule?
    Do I have time scheduled to commit to reading, writing, reflecting, and investing in myself?
  2. Where do I archive the notes from articles, blogs, and books that I read?
  3. What are 3-5 books or articles that I plan to read in 2018?

Revising Mentoring

22 Oct

Contemporary business people working in team in the office

The purpose of this week’s blog is for me to reflect on my mentoring (or read coaching if you wish) with my people this year. So, here goes.

Good mentors extinguish the problem of teacher isolation and individualism. Many problems identified specifically with ineffective teaching practices are attributed to teacher isolation. This degree of socialisation is potent and the fall-back position is always the long apprenticeship of observation undertaken as school students. Being a middle leader is hard. They needed to be supported.

Good mentors ensure high levels of teacher collaboration. Relational trust among teachers is positively related to student performance in schools, and trust is constructed through face-to-face collaborative work. In successful school’s teachers are engaged in frequent, precise talk about teaching practice by observing each other teach; plan, design, research, evaluate, and prepare teaching materials together. Such collaborative structures help to decrease teacher isolation, share successful teaching practices, increase staff morale, open the door to experimentation, and increase collective efficacy.

Good mentors encourage constructive conflict. They need to push the envelope of course where appropriate. The further up a hierarchy you go, the more people attempt to avoid the zealous debates that are indispensable to great teamwork. However, conflict is normal, inherent, and essential to community practice. Conflicts help draw out and solve problems, and opposing views can be opportunities for growth and learning. Educators often find themselves in conflict because collaboration challenges norms of isolation and autonomy, and the most common response to conflict in schools is avoidance.

Good mentors model that it is OK to make mistakes. Amy Edmondson’s brilliant work reveals the importance of psychological safety for learning through leaders providing what she terms ‘the fallibility model’.

Good mentor bring in outside help.

Good mentors challenge people to question what they take for granted. Robert Kegan argues that the confusing, changing demands of modern life may be developmentally inappropriate for most adults and while it used to be adequate for people to do as they were told, today people are needed who “understand themselves and their world at a qualitatively higher level of mental complexity.” Kegan talks about moving from a socialised mind to a self-authoring mind, not just learning more but seeing things in new ways. People tend not to develop unless they are challenged in some way to question what they take for granted and people tend to slip back into old comfortable ways of thinking. Kegan uses the metaphor of a bridge, where it is incumbent upon those over the bridge to head back onto the bridge and hold out a hand to help others take the steps to get on the bridge themselves.

So I have been doing some reading. In this conference paper, Carter & Francis: ask whether mentoring just enriches the status quo and stifles professional growth?

“High amounts of professional support, including mentoring support, may only serve to entrench the status quo and stifle professional growth. The literature suggests that this is one of the central problems associated with mentoring for beginning teachers and is a recurring aspect of several case studies investigating teachers’ induction experiences. Ballantyne et al. went as far as to suggest that mentoring sometimes constrained the learning of beginning teachers rather than facilitated reflective practice…The effectiveness of multiple mentoring relationships and voluntary mentoring relationships have also been explored in the literature suggesting that the emphasis should be less on the identification of individual mentors and more on the provision of professional environments in which mentoring relationships can emerge.”

In conclusion, I really like this article from Harvard Business Review: Get Ahead With a Mentor Who Scares You.

In 2018 I am planning to step up my efforts in this area. As I plan this will require going away to a quiet space. Watch this blog.

 

Thought for Friday

19 May

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Research into Professional Learning supports the view that schools can no longer afford the luxury of separating professional development activities from the ongoing realities of teachers’ work (Johnson, 1999, p.13.) Teachers need to adopt a learning approach that is ‘relevant’ for our time. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. As leaders and teachers we must clarify our learning needs.

A Powerful Lesson

3 Sep

Thanks to http://www.justintarte.com/ for this great piece I found this week.

One day, three blind men happened to meet each other and gossiped a long time about many things. Suddenly one of them recalled, “I heard that an elephant is a strange animal. Too bad we’re blind and can’t see it.”

“Ah, yes, truly too bad we don’t have the good fortune to see the strange ani­mal,” another one sighed.

The third one, quite annoyed, joined in and said, “See? Forget it! Just to feel it would be great.”

“Well, that’s true. If only there were some way of touching the elephant, we’d be able to know,” they all agreed.

It so happened that a merchant with a herd of elephants was passing, and overheard their conversation. “You fellows, do you really want to feel an elephant? Then follow me; I will show you,” he said.

The three men were surprised and happy. Taking one anothers hand, they quickly formed a line and followed while the merchant led the way. Each one began to contemplate how he would feel the animal, and tried to figure how he would form an image.

After reaching their destination, the merchant asked them to sit on the ground to wait. In a few minutes he led the first blind man to feel the elephant. With outstretched hand, he touched first the left foreleg and then the right. After that he felt the two legs from the top to the bottom, and with a beaming face, turned to say, “So, the strange animal is just like that.” Then he slowly returned to the group. Thereupon the second blind man was led to the rear of the elephant. He touched the tail which wagged a few times, and he exclaimed with satisfac­tion, “Ha! Truly a strange animal! Truly odd! I know now. I know.” He hur­riedly stepped aside.

The third blind man’s turn came, and he touched the elephant’s trunk which moved back and forth turning and twisting and he thought, “That’s it! I’ve learned.”

The three blind men thanked the merchant and went their way. Each one was secretly excited over the experience and had a lot to say, yet all walked rap­idly without saying a word.

“Let’s sit down and have a discussion about this strange animal,” the second blind man said, breaking the silence.

“A very good idea. Very good.” the other two agreed for they also had this in mind. Without waiting for anyone to be properly seated, the second one blurted out, “This strange animal is like our straw fans swinging back and forth to give us a breeze. However, it’s not so big or well made. The main portion is rather wispy.”

“No, no!” the first blind man shouted in disagreement. “This strange animal resembles two big trees without any branches.”

“You’re both wrong.” the third man replied. “This strange animal is similar to a snake; it’s long and round, and very strong.”

How they argued! Each one insisted that he alone was correct. Of course, there was no conclusion for not one had thoroughly examined the whole elephant. How can anyone describe the whole until he has learned the total of the parts…?

Expectations

I have been reflecting about having high expectations of our students. This article spoke to me.

  • It is important to have high expectations for our students. Expectations are different from standards. The standard is the bar and the expectation is our belief about whether students will ever reach the bar.
  • Expectations are based on our beliefs and values. We can only have high expectations of our students if we believe it is possible to help our students and if we believe that it is important to do so.
  • We also need to examine our expectations of ourselves. If we believe that we can reach a student we do everything that we can to ensure that the student is successful. However, if we tell ourselves that there is no way to help a student, we stop trying. If we are not confident in our ability to help students, we lower our expectations to goals that we feel we can comfortably achieve.
  • It can be disheartening when students arrive in our classes without the basic skills that they need to succeed but instead of focusing on what the students can’t do, develop ways that you can teach them the skills they need as well as get through the curriculum.
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