Tag Archives: Relationships

Restorative Reflection

29 May

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In my work this week I have been trying to get my head around restorative and relational practices. I have been thinking what makes effective practice and how we can apply this in my own environment. The question I am posing then on mountain2surf is just what does creating a Restorative Culture within a school or other community look like?

Positive relationships form the basis for any healthy community. For a Restorative Culture to develop, it is essential that community- and relationship-building be intentional. Relationships of authentic trust between adults and youth, and within both staff and student cohorts, are the foundation of the connections that will be restored through the use of RJ practices. We must first form these relationships, then, in times of trouble, there is something to restore. So building good relationships is key.

Reflection is something I believe we do not do enough of. It is essential to a restorative culture. Prayer in Catholic school provides an ideal opportunity for this. When students “act out”, do we examine our own contribution to the situation? What feelings and beliefs do we bring to the circumstances? In our busy and challenging position as educators, have we really done all we can to meet an individual student’s needs or is there something else we could try? Out of our best intentions, have we given some students so much slack that, without realizing it, we have set the bar too low and inadvertently sent them a message that they are not capable? This type of deep self-reflection and willingness to examine one’s own feelings, biases, pre-conceived notions, and actions is not easy, but it is one of the essential keys to establishing a Restorative Culture in schools.

But where should this self reflection take place. Now for self-reflection to take place and to build positive relationships, a safe space must be provided. Safe space encompasses not just physical well-being but also emotional and intellectual safety. Are behavioral and academic expectations clear? Are standards upheld consistently? Is the aftermath of making a mistake free from shame? If I take personal responsibility for my actions will I be met with compassion and a willingness to listen, rather than a quickness to blame and punish? Does the community embrace and validate different experiences, beliefs, and perspectives and allow for them to be expressed?

 

Just some initial thoughts.

 

Technology

12 May

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The digital era – the computer, the network, the Internet, the Web, social technology, universal search, and so much more – changes radically all of the relationships that are critical to how we learn and how we teach: the relationship between teacher and learner; the relationship between the learner and information; the relationship we all have with the concept of learned authority; and the social relationships between ourselves and the rest of the human race. It is of course a hugely complex process of determination, with nuance layered on nuance, but it is undoubtedly true that broad global shifts in technology, such as that between print and digital, determine how learning can happen and therefore should (and inevitably will) determine what it means to teach.

Leading v Managing

8 Dec

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My wahine toa goal this year was to nurture relational trust in the HOF group. I wanted to communicate the idea that the middle leaders of the school had to lead not manage. Just so we’re clear about this, I have nothing but respect for great managers. They are the essential clue that hold organizations together. They keep things running smoothly, they execute strategies and tactics. Without sound management no organization can survive. A great deal of my job is to manage as Deputy Principal.

But… yes you knew there had to be a but… but, simply putting a great manager into a leadership position does not make them a leader. A manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager but very often a manager is not a leader and sometimes a great leader is not a good manager.

Managing and leading are two entirely different things. To be a leader you have to do so in my opinion in an environment of relational trust. I found this year when I led Staff rather than trying to manage them charmed things happen.

Staff who are managed are far more likely to display attitude issues than staff who are led. Staff who are managed do what they are told while the staff who are led have already done it.

I found staff who are managed seldom grow beyond their job description but staff who are led burst the seams of their job descriptions with regularity.

Thank you to my fellow DP who provided the clip below which illustrates how these middle leaders joined me on this waka.

Connectedness and Relationships

7 Dec

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My manaakitanga goal this year was to build an environment that shows a shared sense of contentedness and belonging. The key to this for me has been not to moan at work. Everyone vents about the job at times. We are a vent-oriented society. Listen to talk-back for half an hour. Complaining is okay so long as you do it to your significant other, relative, non-work friend, or cat in my case. I have tried to keep it outside the school if can.

There’s a line in the movie Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks, the captain of the unit assigned to find and rescue Private Ryan, tells his subordinates, “Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that as a Ranger.” That’s excellent advice. We should never as leaders display frustration about our community to staff. It will trickle around; that’s a guarantee. It just fosters an unhealthy victim-hood culture. If there’s something you can do, do it. If not, address it through the healthiest means possible. OK I am off to complain to the cat about our latest change. No just kidding but you get my point.

Being Dad

15 Aug

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Parenting is really hard. Once in a while I reflect on my own parenting. I spend so much time giving out advice here are some things I need to do myself.

  1. Engage
    Yes, the amount of time you are able to spend with your family is an important factor and “quality time” is crucial as well. But the key here is building activities where you are engaged together. Going to the movies or watching TV is fine, but following up with a discussion is what it is all about.
  2. Get away
    Find at least a week a year to travel somewhere where your children can learn about new lands and ideas and encounter diverse people. Holiday time, especially Christmas, is a great time to bond. Last year we did a triathlon together.
  3. Dinner 
    We talk a great deal about the day and various. Topics we have covered included Syria, Zika, the Olympics and who is the ugliest Disney witch.
  4. Respect your child
    As adults we have to manage our own stress. Perhaps the most important piece of advice I have for parents is and me:Don’t ever yell at your children.
  5. Read with your child
    Read with your kids and talk about what you’re reading about. As the kids get older, have a family book club so you can share your experiences and challenge their thinking. If you’re a student yourself, share your own learning with them.

It is easier for me. I have only one child perhaps you have some tips. The journey is fast but it will go much smoother if you engage, respect, and listen.

Restorative Circles

9 Aug

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Recently I spent another day in Wanganui reflecting on restorative practice. Restorative thinking is a significant shift from punishment-oriented thinking. People, including students, who are invited into restorative dialogue are sometimes confused by the concept of “making things right.” Their default response to the question “What can we do to make things right?” often has to do with punishment. It is said that “children live what they learn.” When what they have learned is that troublesome behaviour demands a punishment-oriented response that is how they will live. But restorative practices invite different ways of responding. These new ways must be learned through experience. The activities in this manual give students the necessary experiences to support a shift toward restorative ways of thinking and behaving.

In restorative circles we build trust by giving students safe ways to test how much they can trust each other. We begin in our first circles by using prompting questions that invite low-risk answers. Students can give answers that do not expose their inner lives; thus, they can feel fairly safe from social consequences such as teasing. Students should not be required to take risks that are unreasonable, including social risks in socially hostile environments. Students have sound instincts about how much self-disclosure is safe; their level of participation is a reliable indicator of the risk environment. Teachers and other circle leaders can observe students’ level of participation, along with how students react to each other’s answers, and steadily increase the depth of intimacy and authenticity invited by prompting questions, choosing prompts that invite more intimate exposure of personal thoughts and feelings.

My key learning from the day was restorative must be embedded in all we do rather than just an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff.

Communication

16 Apr

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There is a famous line in Cool Hand Luke (1967), where Captain tells Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Communication problems in schools have a negative impact on student achievement, positive relationships, family engagement, a collegial environment, school culture, teaching and learning. There are multiple ways to communicate.

Social media has increased the number of times a person can communicate within the school but with a wider community. If you are not providing families and stakeholders with a chance to communicate, then you are not encouraging a school community. Families want to have instant access to the school staff and to have a voice in school decisions. It may be time to ask, “Are we encouraging two-way communication or are we stuck in in 1967?”

What would you add to the list of way that are working to communicate with your teams and community?

This is Personal

29 Jan

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The other day before school started a peer said to me “Don’t take it personally but…. ”
Often leaders have said this to me. Teachers often say this to me.

It made me think about leadership. It made think about schools. The thing is what we do is personal. Very personal. I think leaders often forget that how they communicate their thoughts will have a huge impact on a person.

There is a famous quote  “people will forget what you said but never how you made them feel” is so true, but sometimes people also remember what you’ve said, because of the way in which it was said.

I have recently read a post by Les McKeown (President & CEO of Predictable Success) on things a great leader should never say and I quote the following from him:

Don’t take it personally

Really? You’re talking to, let me check…yes, a person, about them, their work, their livelihood, their ideas, their sense of competence, their choices, their discretionary effort, their life’s work, and you’re telling them not to take it personally?

How about you give every person who works for you a free pass for a week to make whatever comments they like to your face about what you say, do, or suggest, in whatever terms they wish, so long as they preface it with “Don’t take this personally…”.

If you don’t think the act of working with others is in any way ‘personal’, perhaps you might be better thinking of a career as, I don’t know, a beekeeper, perhaps? They really don’t take things personally.
Relational trust is so important and I can’t but agree with this statement. I think it is vital to always show respect and courtesy to all those we are working with.  What do you think?

 

Duty Calls

8 Dec

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I love doing lunch duty. I love doing gate duty. I love doing crossing duty. Don’t get me wrong, please don’t give me more, but I do love it. It’s just I think it is such a great time to engage and interact with students outside of the classroom environment. It’s a great way to demonstrate to all students that you’re a team player and a great role model. It’s a really good opportunity to catch up with students and ask them things like how school is going. One of the things I like the most is that it often shows the school off at its best. The hustle. The bustle. It’s the breathing life, heart and soul of the school.

As a teacher we are in the business of building relationships. Chatting with them and catching up with them in a way that you couldn’t do during class time. One of my enduring images of duty was when I saw some Year 13 students helping out some ‘new-to-the-school’ Year 7s learning the ropes in the main hall. It was special.

If you don’t love duty like I do; here are some tips I found that I do to make the time a bit more endearing.

  • Be happy. Even if you’re feeling like rubbish yourself, chances are that many of the students you speak with are having a tough time too. It’s difficult being a teenager or younger pupil. You might just make someone’s day.
  • Pick up a bin and take it to the students. Ask them if they’ve got any rubbish.
  • Be visible. Go to the students. If they’re not where your spot is, chances are they may well be nearby doing something that you should probably be keeping an eye on. Move to them.
  • Have fun. Tell a joke. Ask people what their day has been like. Ask pupils how their weekend was. I tell you the best part of my week is Friday on the crossing seeing all those happy face. What do you do when you’re on duty?

Curriculum Guru

10 Aug

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Curriculum Guru

Curriculum development is an ongoing process which requires collaboration, conflict-resolution and reflection. Too often, schools approach curriculum development as a product to be created. During my current role in 2015 I have developed a real passion for curriculum development.

Curriculum design and review is a continuous, cyclic process. It involves making decisions about how to give effect to the national curriculum in ways that best address the particular needs, interests, and circumstances of the school’s students and community. It requires a clear understanding of the intentions of The New Zealand Curriculum and of the values and expectations of the community. For some reading this is a good place to start.

Here are some thoughts:

Collaboration:

Classroom teachers decide what every student should know and be able to do, then they should be involved in the curriculum development process. Unpacking the standards, curriculum mapping, unit development, writing generalizations, developing essential questions and creating common formative assessments are each opportunities for collaboration.

Conflict Resolution:

Conflict is often avoided when teachers discuss curriculum development. When teachers debate which skills are essential and what content can be omitted, curriculum development becomes a matter of conflict resolution. When teacher teams embrace conflict and encourage conflicting opinions they are supporting student achievement. Open conversation is where professional develoment occurs.

Reflection:

When teacher teams reflect on the written, taught and assessed curricula, they will improve pedagogy and curriculum design. When teachers develop curriculum and fail to assess its effectiveness, it is difficult to know if the curriculum is meeting the needs of each student.

Some Questions For Curriculum Developers:

  1. Does our school have a ‘robust curriculum’?
  2. Is our curriculum aligned?
  3. Do teachers have a tool or method for communicating the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum’?
  4. When teachers develop common formative assessments, do they use the data generated?
  5. Are teachers meeting on a regular basis to reflect on the written, taught, and assessed curricula?

If curriculum drives the work of teacher teams, then schools must create time for teachers to collaborate, engage in conflict and provide time during the school day for reflection and revision. Curriculum development should be a priority in schools, rather than something that is handed to teachers as a top-down product. When teachers collaborate to develop the curriculum, they will have co-workers who support them when they come to a fork in the road in instruction.

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