Tag Archives: Reflections

Reflections on a Friday at an Airport

29 Nov

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It is Friday. I have just finished running a PLD in Auckland. I am at the airport and I am reflective. It got me thinking “How strong are your relationships in school?”

Relationships between staff and students are important in promoting strong outcomes. However, the relationships between staff are also vital in developing effective teaching and learning. In order to become more resilient, it is important to emphasize the positive. For us, as teachers, it is important to remember that:

  • we operate as part of our student’s lives;
  • we can tackle whatever challenges are created on a day-by-day basis;
  • we reflect on how we have benefited our student’s lives;
  • we are able to respond to change and handle difficult situations.

I have reflected recently about the importance of reflecting on our success and not simply focusing on the negatives or disappointments. It is important to speak positively. Studies have shown that being positive and reflecting on the successes can:

  • act as protective factors against depression (Tindle et al., 2009);
  • lead to less disruption of normal life, distress and fatigue (Carver, Lehman, Antoni, 2003).

It has been found that when faced with challenges, resilient people act purposefully and creatively, to find multiple strategies for any problem. In order to become more resilient and ultimately achieve the best outcomes for our students, it is important to remember why we became teachers. The passion and commitment that teachers show daily, can be lost under the weight of the demands of teaching. Teaching is not an easy profession, but by nurturing resilience we can support and sustain our practice. What are you current challenges?

Managing Change

20 Jun

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I have been dealing with a great deal of change management in the last couple of weeks. This has tested my skill set. I know at one meeting it also tested my patience. This book really helped me through. Here are some of my musings then:

Reflect and evaluate.  By thinking through the meaning and implication of the feedback, you can learn from it and consider what parts to work on, what parts to disregard, and what parts require deeper understanding. To do this, it helps to think about your development areas, the value you place on this individual’s perspective, and possibly, what you have heard from others as well. This is also the time to come back to what you may disagree with. Given that your objective was to learn others’ perspectives on you, ask yourself if it’s worth the potential damage to go back and “correct” the information. Typically, it’s not.

Plan and act. All the steps before this set you up to plan and put it into practice. Pick one or two capabilities you want to improve, get really clear about what “improved” looks like, and then consider the steps necessary for you to learn and adopt that new behaviour. Planning and acting are not only important for your learning and development, they’re also a signal to those who shared the feedback — you are serious about improving and you value their perspectives.

Sustain progress and share updates. You need to repeat new behaviours for them to become new habits. If you go back to your feedback providers and tell them what you are doing differently, you’ll give them a catalyst to change their perspectives, validation that you heard and appreciated what they had to say, and the opportunity to see you as a person who is committed to your professional development.

Great leaders are great learners. Their never-ending pursuit of information pushes them to constantly improve and sets them apart from the rest. Getting and learning from feedback isn’t always easy, but it is necessary, if we want to become better. It’s rare that our colleagues will offer us the kind of feedback we need to develop, and rare that we respond in a way that rewards their efforts and helps us improve. It’s worth building the skills to do this well if we want to reach our full potential.

Not Leading …

28 Mar

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Leadership is hard but it’s also important. Vitally important. And it begins with how leaders treat people. Unfortunately, if you’re a leader and you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir. Ineffective leaders are those who have all of the attributes from the above list. Have you worked for one? What would you do differently?

I have found how I lead in the school environment depends on the situation. I need to remember they have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and they lose those best intentions. I sometimes enter into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) I become insecure and not sure what to do first. As leaders, when we have so many choices of where to start we sometimes choose not to choose at all. I often use the GROW MODEL. Understanding the current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

In Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he shows us this.  Covey showed me leadership isn’t about getting what we want and feeding our egos. Leadership is about raising the self-efficacy of others and collectively working to improve our school community together. That happens in creative communities more than it happens in compliant communities, and we know which 7 habits belong to each one.

Just like there are habits of highly successful leaders, there are habits that can bring leaders to a place of ineffectiveness.

These are things which I have been reflecting on this week as we reach the crunch time of the term.

Be reactive – Leaders who always seem to not see things coming and lack the ability to work with their school community on a collective goal.

There’s no end in mind – Everyone in the school is working on their individual goals…if they have one…and the leader doesn’t think about the future as much as they keep getting stuck in issues in the present.

Ego first – In Jim Knight’s work we talk a lot about status. Leaders have it because of their position. However, great leaders have status but they lower theirs and raise the status of those around them, which is often referred to self-efficacy. Unfortunately there are leaders who let their ego rule and that’s what they lead with every time.

My way or the highway – Instead of focusing on being collaborative and working with these leaders are more concerned with controlling everything and getting their own way. They walk into a faculty meeting with one idea and walk out with the same one.

Seek to be understood – Ego first. My way or the highway. Get on the waka or get out.

Discord – These leaders always seem to disagree with someone and they try their best to build consensus by getting others to agree with them at the same time they vilify those who disagree with them.

Efficacy Killers – These leaders are consistently going after new initiatives, so their staff feel tired, lost and insecure. They micromanage and look for compliance on all issues.

I sometimes see myself here but not often. The Leadership Framework is now a key document for all teachers. We are all leaders in some way. How is this reflected in your appraisal documentation?

 

Vision and Relationships

21 Oct

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Ki te kahore he whakakitenga ka ngaro te iwi

Without foresight or vision the people will be lost

This week it was important to “join the dots” and bring staff back to the vision. While these are exciting time it is important not to lose the vision.

As we embark on our collaborative experiment with curriculum our focus in our team this week was lesson one and two as we get to know our students. Here are some observations.

Get to know students from day one. Educators must understand how students prefer to learn. Interest surveys work very well in providing this information. Educators need to find multiple ways to measure knowledge because education is not one size fits all. We will only learn how to reach our students by getting to know them on a personal level.

Set high expectations for all students. I let my students know that they can do ANYTHING if they set their minds to it. At the same time, I let them know that their education is an “us” priority as opposed to a “them”, meaning we have to take ownership for our students or lack thereof. We must bring their parents in early and ensure that we communicate with them along the way.

Celebrate success. Teachers must begin to embrace the idea that any growth is growth that should be celebrated. We need to unplug from the idea that students are numbers when clearly every child is unique and different. A gift from God. We must celebrate those differences and adapt our pedagogy to respond to their diversity. Growth is growth, and it is our job to celebrate our students’ accomplishments.

Listen. We have to take students’ feelings into consideration when we make decisions that impact them. By listening to them, we show them that we respect and value their opinion. Even when we plan lessons, we should give them a voice and a choice as to what their learning should look like. When we respect our students, our students will respect us, and they will open their minds for us.

Relationships matter because good teacher-student relationships breed success. By getting to know students, setting high expectations. Vision matters because without going back to the why we can get a little lost.

Facebook and School

12 Mar

Business Communication Duplicate model

Facebook has been a great communication / marketing tool for our school community. According to Facebook “insight” stats – our record is 3700 unique people that viewed content on our Facebook page in one week – usually this averages around 2000 unique people every week.   Most are students –however there are a lot of parents and Year 13 students from last year who still like to feel involved with the school.   We also “like” other community groups.

Status updates are used to promote events / achievements along with uploading photo albums (photos are checked beforehand for any inappropriate pictures, gestures – you need to look carefully as there may be a student doing something silly in the background, and using your discretion if there is a photo that isn’t very flattering
especially with body image conscious teenagers).  A lot of students share our photos on their own profiles and “tag” each other in the photos, as well as being able to post comments on photos and updates.

In terms of a quick way of getting news out – its great – when we had a water shortage and had to close the school we put out a FB update to advise our community.

Students and parents alike asked questions about how to contact bus companies.
Because each person uses their own name – there is very little if any inappropriate posting or bad language.   I have had to remove two derogatory posts in five years of our FB page.

I see the following as being key points:
Making sure its kept up to date regularly and status updates are “as they happen”.    Students really appreciate photos going up quickly –
i.e. most events where I have access to the camera I will post the pictures the same day.   The problem lies with staff members who give you photos weeks later – by then its too late and “old news” and students don’t bother looking at them.    It’s a buzz getting news, videos and photos online before students do!

Keeping an eye on things – I have notifications set to go to my email and I can easily check them on my cellphone.   If there are issues you can react quickly and remove inappropriate posts.

Interaction – if a student posts a really supportive/positive comment– I’ll “like” their comment or occasionally comment as well.   It reinforces positive comments and the way we expect students to behave.  It is a reflection of our dispositions.

A quote I use often dealing with social media is from Eric Qualman (who has written a book on social media and society). “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is HOW WELL we do it.”

How well does your school “do” social media?

Remember at the start of the year..

1 Feb

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I am reminded that at the beginning of the year it is important to celebrate milestones and success. I was inspired the other day when one of my PLN shared her learnings from 20 years teaching. It is important to celebrate and recognise we do things well. As I start the year I remind myself of the following as I begin:

  • If you want to squeeze everything out of life and discover your true potential, you have to be prepared to make some mistakes along the way. Mistakes are ok.
  • When you are going, well people will put you down. This seems to be part of kiwi culture. However, there are those there that are cheerleaders, who celebrate every little win you have even when you cannot see it. Look out for them.
  • There is absolutely nothing that beats a winning day. Enjoy it.
  • There is always more in you than you realize.
  • I have found two things that are so important: resilience (getting up when others wouldn’t) and curiosity – an overwhelming need to know if you can do it.
  • When times are good you will be able to reward yourself with nice things but they will never truly reflect the hard work and sacrifices that has gone in that no one saw.
  • There is nothing that will replace hard work. Nobody can do that for you. There are no short cuts.
  • Most days you will not get everything done and that is ok.
  • My tribe is important. Look after them. They are there.
  • Always remember it is the little things that count.
  • Reach out to your teams and remember we are all alone together! This is best expressed by my own whakatoki this year He waka eke noa. A canoe which we are all in with no exception.
  • The more I learn the more I change but deep down I hold those same values as I did back as a little boy.

Have you had time to reflect before you get into the busy work for the year?

White Space

17 Nov

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Recently, I have been reading with members of my PLN (Professional Learning Network) about the concept of white space. White space can be described as the focused time you create for yourself to slow down and reflect. I have become a proponent of this type of mindfulness. My peers have described that they create white space by running, swimming, praying, sitting and listening to music, exploring their passion in the kitchen, enjoying art, unplugging and sightseeing, and spending time with family and friends. Does white space have to be you sitting in a soundless, sterile room getting in touch with your thoughts? ‘m not sure. White space can be anything that connects you to yourself and connects you to others. Biking, running, reading, playing in the snow, all of those can be white space moments for you. I blog. it is my “winter” or white space. I’m doing this for my own benefit as well as to share and explore the white space concept with others. Recently, I read an article about how Norwegians embrace winter and I attributed some of that enjoyment to embracing white space time. I am taking on this challenge to help me reflect, learn about myself, learn from others, and embrace “my winter” in new ways. Next year I am going to encourage my teams to participate in this further.

Relational Trust is Key

28 Feb

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A complex art if there ever was one, building relationships and creating relational trust is the foundational skill. Without trust, no amount of content knowledge, pedagogical know-how, or formative assessment is likely to move students to want to learn from you.

In a recent TED Radio Hour  called “How Does Trust Happen in Music?” orchestra conductor Charles Hazlewood recalls that during his early days as a professional, his conducting sometimes resembled a “rabid windmill.” The more forceful his body language, the less his orchestra members complied. The more disappointed he became, the more his direction became a blur. Trust erodes when you don’t embody it yourself, he learned.

He later directed a racially diverse group of South African singers, some of whom had previously been bitter enemies. And he founded another ensemble made up of musicians with severe disabilities, many of whom had never had the opportunity to play instruments together. From these disparate groups, he learned that the creation of music relies on trust and builds more trust. Yes, the conductor needs to have a “cast-iron understanding of the outer architecture of the music,” but he or she also has to trust the players to reveal the music’s inner truth. He came to believe that conducting music is like holding a bird. Hold too tightly, you crush it; hold too loosely, it flies away.

This will be part of my own manaakitanga goal this year. How are your own annual goals developing in your appraisal document?

Under Pressure

19 Oct

There can be no doubt that this is a high pressure time of year for students and staff alike. As a leader in school it is up to keep things calm. One of my favourite sayings is “Let’s just get them home safely”

I have reflected often in this blog about the way I keep things calm. Today I do so again as we are in the midst of it all. Following are 5 things smart leaders do that transform pressure from a liability to an asset:

  • Who am I : Leaders must know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and where they will and won’t compromise. Good back to your philosophy or educational vision. You wrote it when things were clear and let it guide you.
  • Team: A leader’s job is to acquire and develop talent. Use the team that is around you. I think of Sir Alex Ferguson and those great leaders he developed at Manchester United. The better the talent, and the better you utilize talent, the less pressure you’ll feel
  • Keep It Simple: Complexity creates pressure. The best leaders look to simplify everything they can.
  • Focus: Focused leaders rarely feel external pressure. When I concentrate on the strategic plan and annual goals based on data it all becomes clear.
  • Did I train today: If the answer is no then that is probably why I am so tight. Leaders who don’t create time for quality thought and planning end-up taking unnecessary short cuts and risks. They let pressure force them into making bad decisions that a little whitespace could have prevented.
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