Tag Archives: Schools

Value Teachers

4 Dec

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To attract the highest-quality teachers, we also need to hold teachers in high esteem.

Teaching is arguably the most challenging profession of all, yet unlike Finland – where teachers accrue similar respect to doctors – we don’t recognize that teaching deserves the same respect and trust as the medical profession. Finland also demands graduate teaching qualifications.Graduate students bring real-world experience, including deep disciplinary knowledge, analytical thinking and personal maturity.

To do this we would have to look across the Tasman for guidance. This would follow in the footsteps of the South Australia government, which intends to require all teachers to have completed a graduate-level teaching degree. The state will also require government schools to preference the employment of graduates with master’s or double-degree teaching qualifications.

To attract the best candidates, prospective teachers need to see a career progression. Using the current lead teacher and accomplished teacher categories but linked with an appropriate pay level progression would be a good start.

Teachers have a crucial role in improving student outcomes. We need not only to lift course and graduate standards, but also to ensure teachers are well supported so they can contribute fully as highly developed experts in a widely respected profession.

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Let’s Be Awesome

19 Mar

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The PTCs formally known as RTCs are a guide to help teachers be the best they can be. It is up to school leaders to apply them to the individual learning environment so they make sense. This must be done collaboratively though.

Our staff are the most important resource in a school. I am inspired and driven by the difference I can make in my students lives, but I know that this is never going to be possible without a motivated and committed staff.

I get really frustrated sometimes with words such as “unyielding” “open conversation” “evaluation” “feedback” “rigor”, “robust”, and “relentless”. Not because I disagree with them – they are critical to ensuring excellence – but because too often they are used to excuse systems, behaviours and actions which do nothing to promote collaboration or creativity. They can lead to a notion of accountability which becomes about fear and falling short. What’s more damaging to innovation and a love of learning than that?

For me, PTCs are more about clarity and focus than it is about measurement. It is about the transparency and alignment of expectations, clear communication, personalized support, and taking appropriate action should these not be realized.  And it is a two way process. As a leader within a school, I hold others to account.  However, more essential to me is that I hold myself accountable to my own values, that I am held accountable by the staff I work with but most importantly, that I am held to account by my students. I am guided in this be a robust (a could go one entry without using it) appraisal system and systems that guide me in the process that I do my job well.

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Catholic Schools

16 Jan


In the secular world teachers are often promoted as role models for their students. In the sphere of catholic education it is essential that a teacher go beyond being this and lives his/her life as a witness to Christ and to the living out of gospel values. It is the duty of an educator in a catholic school to instill in his/her students the values of respect, forgiveness, openness and joy and to cherish each student and to be sensitive to the diverse talents, abilities and needs of each one. In doing so we seek to create unity through diversity. This may sound complicated but it is exemplified every minute of every day by the way our staff in catholic schools interact with the students in their care. All the best to all teachers as you begin your year.

Assessment for Learning

11 Jan

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I have been reading over summer about the idea of Assessment FOR Learning which  is different from tests designed to give students a grade. Assessment in a Culture of Learning is ongoing. It may appear in the form of a Post-It note, role play, survey, presentation. Note these are all creative examples that primarily do not involve technology.

This quote stood out. “Formative assessment, done well, represents one of the most powerful instructional tools available to a teacher or a school for promoting student achievement. Teachers and schools can use formative assessment to identify student understanding, clarify what comes next in their learning, trigger and become part of an effective system of intervention for struggling students, inform and improve the instructional practice of individual teachers or teams, help students track their own progress toward attainment of standards, motivate students by building confidence in themselves as learners, fuel continuous improvement process across faculties, and, thus, drive a school’s transformation” (Stiggins & DuFour, 2009, p. 640).

Have you thought about how you will approach assessment in 2016?

Culture of Learning: Part One

10 Jan

As I walked my daughter to her holiday programme this morning I got to thinking about the learning journey we are on. I started to think of the culture of learning we insist upon in our schools.

Students enter  kindergarten full of questions, ideas, curiosity, and imagination. By the time students reach intermediate and beyond, many of them are bored and do not enjoy school. For many schooling teaches students to memorize and recall the correct answer, learn because ‘this will be on the test,’  or ‘you will get credits for this’ and avoid risk taking because failure means a lower mark.

More often than not students will choose the books they know how to read rather than those they cannot as they do not want to fail. Successful students are rewarded with accolades and unsuccessful students are told to try harder. Our schooling system is designed to move students from one level to the next. Once students earn enough credits, they are rewarded with various levels of NCEA.

Schooling focuses on teaching. Some schools in our nation are moving away from this and towards a culture of learning which focuses on the whole child and student understanding. A culture of problem solving. A culture of resilient young people who will continue to lead our nation to great things.

But what is a culture of learning?

Purchasing a laptop or tablet for every student will not transform traditional school. While technology has the ability to transform teaching and learning, teachers still need to focus on learning goals, authentic tasks, transfer of understanding, student voice, and student contribution. Learning with digital technology is a student-centered approach to creating a learning experience whereby the learner interacts with other students.

A well-designed flipped classroom experience  organizes content, support materials, and activities.  Communication and collaboration are necessary functions of this approach. Because formative assessment is embedded throughout learning events, the learner assumes responsibility for his or her learning.

A characteristic of a culture of learning is where students are using a computer as a tool to learn or if a flipped classroom is part of their classroom experience.

What do you think?

Connector

6 Oct

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One of the major points I got out of my recent secondment was being a connector. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2002) described the importance of ‘Connectors.’ Gladwell says that Connectors have the gift of bringing the world together.  Connectors are important on year level teams, in faculty meetings, during crucial conversations, during times of change, and on a daily basis.  Teacher leaders who are connectors bring out the best in their co-workers.  They help connect the school with families and community leaders.  They can be very important in securing grant money for a school.  Who are the ‘Connectors’ in your school? What roles do they play?

Schools

2 Sep

School

What should schools teach, and how? And how do we know if we’re doing it well? These are important questions–ones that must be answered with social needs, teacher gifts, and technology access in mind. Now, we take the opposite approach. Here’s what all students should know, now let’s figure out how we can use what we have to teach it. If we don’t see the issue in its full context, we’re settling for glimpses.

How schools are designed and what students learn–and why–must be reviewed, scrutinized, and refined as closely and with as much enthusiasm as we do the gas mileage of our cars, the downloads speeds of our phones and tablets, or the operating systems of our watches. Most modern academic standards take a body-of-knowledge approach to education. This, to me, seems to be a dated approach to learning that continues to hamper our attempts to innovate.

Why can’t education, as a system, refashion itself as aggressively as the digital technology that is causing it so much angst? The fluidity of a given curriculum should at least match the fluidity of relevant modern knowledge demands. Maybe a first step in pursuit of an innovative and modern approach to teaching and learning might be to rethink the idea of curriculum as the core of learning models?

Focus on The Positive

24 May

As many of you have gathered present I am on secondment and have had the privilege to visit and work with many schools while on this. In doing so I have made a list of ways schools can be made stronger by starting with strengths rather than weakness.

Reflect on our assessment practices

In our assessments, do we build on what students CAN do or do we focus more on what they cannot do?  Do our assessment practices build confidence or strip it away?

It Takes a Village

Do we embrace this relationship or do we shut it out?  If we shift our focus from being classroom teachers or subject teachers to school teachers, can we better tap into the strengths of other adults in our building? Students need at least 2-3 strong, positive relationships with adults in the building.  These strong relationships often come with the knowledge of a student’s strengths… embrace these.

First contact about the strengths.

I reflect how often in my roles have I made tough phone calls to parents only to realize this is the first time I have made contact? I am now very conscious to make that first contact a positive one.  It doesn’t have to be about something the student has done but more about sharing that we value him/her and we know who they are.

Celebrate the Strengths and Share it.

Celebrate when anyone and everyone has success. Share those stories with the community.

What are strengths of staff and the school community?

Are we embracing the strengths of the adults in our school community?  Do we tap into the strengths of parents and families in the school community? The answer to the problem often sits in your own backyard. Hey lets get out there and do it. At least for the sake of the students who should be at the centre.

Schools and Culture Again

13 Feb

What is one thing that you think everyone should do for positive school culture? (If everyone did this, the school’s climate would be improved.)

This question does the following:

Has each member of the school community assume a leadership perspective. Even simulating a leadership role in people’s mind, allows them to think of the greater good and not just their own situation.

Links the aspirational to the concrete. Grand aspirations might motivate people, but they should be connected to concrete actions that are relatively easy to do. This can translate “change in climate” to specific words and actions people can commit to.

Helps people see the power of collective action. Small acts done sporadically and by just a few have little positive impact. When everyone does even one small thing together, change has already happened. For example, a 10-page letter to Congress has less impact than a 1000 postcards.

Becomes a great resource for determining the best first steps for change. Great changes can come from small first steps, especially if those steps are generally viewed as representing the will of the community.

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My Jobs Part Two

12 Feb

The task of Director of Religious Studies in a Catholic school now is clearly a leadership position in the Church’s faith community. I believe the role goes further than just curriculum leadership. It is a vocation of ministry where your faith is outwardly expressed. This role as one as witness, leadership and service and it seems imperative that the person taking on the role has strong gospel values. With all this in mind it is as the manager of curriculum that takes up the greatest amount of time. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be covered with so many year levels and modules within those levels. If the Director of Religious Studies does not have a fine eye for detail and finesse things will go astray. A teacher needs to find the trigger inside each student that will release his or her best work. Some students need to be pushed while others need space. Some need every detail explained, others work best on instinct. Teachers are much same. Being a Director of Religious Studies you need to have the management skills to recognize which is which. While I have stated it is important to manage curriculum well. It must be recognized schools with perfect programmes but those departments with motivated are those with effective teachers.

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