Tag Archives: Professional Readings

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.

 

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Thought for Friday

19 May

checklist

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.

eLearning Framework

26 Aug

https://i0.wp.com/wpteach.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/framework.jpg

Core Education, TKI and the VLN will help no end with your own individual and school plan. The popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, coupled with high-tech video games and 21st century entertainment for our students outside of school is necessitating a change in the way we as educators prepare and present information to our students.  Gone are the days where we can get away with 50 minutes of lecturing.  However, elearning is not PowerPoint. Googling is not eLearning. So here are some tips I found.

1. Get comfortable with one piece of technology at a time.

Your PLN is probably already inundating your Twitter feeds with more Web 2.0 tools than you know what to do with.  Pick the most relevant tools and get comfortable using them at home. If you don’t feel comfortable using technology, you will be even less comfortable teaching it to your students. 

2. Involve students in your planning.  

With eLearning in class, I introduce the technology to a few of my students and get their opinions on it.  I ensure they know the rules of being digital citizens. The students know what they like and what will hold their interest.  If they like it, I make that piece of technology a priority in my planning, but if they appear uninterested, I toss out that idea and revisit my Twitter feed looking for something new.  Ask your students what technology they use on a regular basis.  If all of your students use Facebook, make it a part of your class. 

3. Lean on colleagues.

Meet with colleagues in your building or call on your PLN for assistance when you start integrating technology into your lessons.  Most teachers are more than willing to share their successes and failures with interested colleagues. You will be able to learn from their mistakes and not have to deal with some of the growing pains your colleagues had to go through.

4. Don’t get discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t work out as planned.

More on this next week.

5. Technology integration may be extra work on the front end, but it’s worth it.

Trying something new as opposed to going with the tried and true lesson always produces a little extra work. However, the long-term benefits of engaging your students far outweigh the cost of spending a couple extra hours in front of the computer after school.   As I have learned, the extra effort goes a long way to engage the students in your lesson and leave them wanting more. 

E-learning: Professional Reading & Strategies

20 Aug

This week some notes from the vault on eLearning.

• How to model technology use in the classroom – Veteran teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron offers 20 tips for using and modelling the use of technology in the classroom. Teachers should involve students in setting up new technology, use digital tools — such as document cameras, videoconferencing and interactive whiteboards — throughout the school day and use tech-inspired vocabulary, even when talking about offline activities, she writes.

• Google for Educators: The Best Features for Busy Teachers – An article which explores user-friendly Google tools which will keep you and your class inspired, inventive, and organized. I can see that giving students time to explore these tools within your subject context could keep juniors on-task and interested in learning as the term and year comes to an end.
• Fostering Student Creativity and Responsibility With Blogging – When sixth graders enter middle school, they are masters of some aspects of digital technology and lost when it comes to others. Despite their familiarity with some digital technology, they often lack specific skills needed for interacting with particular digital tools and interfaces. Many of them also lack the perseverance necessary for troubleshooting tech issues. This blog post also has links to other readings and resources about using blogs in education.

• Summer PD: Web Tools Collectives Part 3 — Collecting, Organizing and Making Sense of Information – Access to the Internet brings an almost unlimited amount of content to our fingertips. Effectively collecting, organizing, and making sense of this information is critical to learning. Ubiquitous access to information provides many opportunities and challenges for “formal” education systems. After all, what good is memorizing the atomic number for Iridium when you can just text Cha Cha?

• Edutecher newsletter for July 2011 – This “Mega-Newsletter” is an oldie but a goodie. It shares some great new tools and resources.

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