Tag Archives: Relationships

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.

Be the best you can be…

20 Feb

At present I am preparing our annual excellence assembly which recognises outstanding achievement by our students in the 2014 academic year.

It is a moving experience as I reflect on these students and consider their journey and achievements. It is a celebration of students, staff and whenau. For their stories are ones of personal courage, relentless commitment to demonstrate their talents and a refusal to take the easy option at any stage. These students have achieved, taken up the challenge and taking the path less travelled.

These students’ acknowledge the support and love of family, friends and staff. What always strikes me the most is the deep appreciation for their teachers. These students’ always tell me how staff made a difference. They each believe that teachers made the difference and admit they couldn’t have done what they did without their good teachers who challenged them, stretched them, supported them and were always there when they needed them. On most occasions they tell staff this and these are moments I enjoy.

I have written much about improving student achievement and providing a relevant and engaging learning experience for every student. Excellence Assembly reinforces the significance of good teachers in the learning process. Teachers we are lucky to have you because you make a difference.

Learning is Social

7 Dec

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Learning is social. It is about social factors that affect intelligence. The level of comfort we feel in another person’s presence can powerfully influence how intelligent we feel, and in some sense, how intelligent we actually are, at least in that moment. Now multiply that one-on-one interaction by tens or hundreds, and you start to get a sense of how important a sense of belonging to a learning community can be.

Early on in school, some children get the sense that, academically speaking, they don’t belong—that they’re not one of the “smart kids.” The same thing can happen when young people start middle school, or high school, or college: they take a look around and think, “I don’t belong here.” In our work lives, too, we may form an assumption that we’re not quick or sharp enough, not sufficiently creative or innovative, to belong at the top of our fields.

Recently I came across these three ideas…

Create your own community. In the late 1970s, Uri Treisman was a researcher at UC-Berkeley interested in why African-American students often struggled in the university’s math courses, even as Asian-Americans in the same classes flourished. With some probing, he discovered part of the answer: Asian students studied together in groups, while black students tended to work alone. Treisman’s insight became the basis of his Emerging Scholars program, in which students organized into study groups tackle challenging problems together. The lesson: even if you don’t feel a kinship with the school you’re a part of, you can find a smaller community within it that will foster the feelings of belonging and identification that allow learning to blossom.

Take care with transitions. When we’re starting at a new school or a new job, our sense of ourselves is especially fragile; we carefully inspect our new environment, looking for cues that this is a place we belong. Some researchers, in fact, have tied the slide in many students’ grades that happens in middle school to the transition from elementary school itself: during this fraught passage, some students decide school isn’t for them. Studies have shown that interventions delivered at such key moments—like a video shown to college freshmen in which upperclassmen explain that everyone feels unsure of themselves early on, but that these feelings go away—can increase feelings of belonging and improve performance.

Avoid impossible role models. Although we’re supposed to feel inspired by successful figures, comparing ourselves to these superstars can make us feel that we’ll never belong in their stratosphere. A recent study of middle-school girls exposed to eminent women in STEM fields, for example, found that the experience actually made them less interested in math, and led them to lower their judgment of their own ability and their odds of success. The achievements of these role models, investigators concluded, seemed “unattainable.” What’s the alternative? Find flawed role models—people who succeed but also fail. In one study, for example, students who were taught about the failures and setbacks of well-known scientists became more interested in science, remembered the material from their science lesson better, and did better at complex open-ended problem-solving tasks related to the lesson. Reminding ourselves that those we look up to struggle, too, can make us feel that we belong in their company.

 

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