Tag Archives: SLT

Barriers to Innovation

23 Jun

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It’s amazing to me how many fantastic, game-changing tools are blocked on some school networks. I’m not saying we should remove all filters – they do help to prevent us from accidentally stumbling onto things we don’t want to see and can’t unsee. But in 2017, our filters do almost nothing to prevent students from intentionally accessing inappropriate material. Blocking content is ineffectual for four reasons: (1) Most students have smartphones with a direct connection to the internet. (2) Most students have unfiltered internet at home. (3) Any student who walks home through the city centre has unfiltered access to the internet. (4) Students know about VPN services which bypasses our filters.

Over-strict filters just thwart our best teachers’ efforts to make learning more meaningful. Our failed attempts to keep a few miscreant students from doing the wrong thing just hampers the majority of students who want to use the internet for the right thing.

Inturn our attempts at innovation are being imped that we are making hard for those teachers who have outrageous ideas. The are being boxed in by logistics. As a SLT we must create the space.

Often, as teachers gain the authority to influence and effect change in a school, their openness to change diminishes. Teachers enter the teaching profession wide-eyed and keen to try lots of different things and experiment with new pedagogies. They don’t have much power though because they are seen as “green” by older, wiser, more seasoned teachers who hold the decision-making power. I’ve seen young teachers silenced, gossiped about and even bullied because more experienced teachers took offence at these young, upstarts thinking they know a better way to do things. Eventually these new teachers learn to tone it down and conform to ‘the way things are done around here’. The most effective school leaders I have seen, identify innovators (irrespective of their seniority or experience) and invest them with the ability to influence.

In our inquiry we must create space and cut down barriers if we are to keep students at the centre.

Being SLT in Term One

11 Apr

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“Good relations between teachers and their colleagues and between teachers and their students can mitigate the negative effects of challenging classrooms…”

 In March 2015 the OECD released a report from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Schools for 21st Century Learners (2015) by Andreas Schleicher. It identified some good news, and some not-so-good news:

The good news: The most successful education systems are those in countries whose society values the teaching profession.

The not-so-good news: Fewer than one in three teachers believe that teaching is a valued profession in society.

On my ongoing development there are some key areas that I have been working on in my leadership in SLT in 2017.

  1. Distributed leadership, provides opportunities to participate in decision making at school.
  2. Positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and their colleagues and teachers and their students
  3. Meaningful appraisal and feedback that recognises and celebrates teachers’ strengths while simultaneously challenging teachers to address weaknesses in their pedagogical practices.
  4. Provide a culture of collaboration among teachers through:
    • jointly teaching the same class
    • observing and providing feedback on other teachers
    • engaging in different classes and age groups
    • professional learning

“The strongest association with teachers’ job satisfaction appears to be participating in collaborative professional learning activities five times a year or more.”

  1. Quality professional development. A focus on the three components of self-efficacy – classroom management, instruction and student engagement. Learner agency has been a common term for me this year. 

Authentic Leadership Message

10 Feb

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I thought it might be timely this week as my staff and students settled into classes to reflect on my own leadership. When most people think of leading they tend to think of leading people “below” themselves even though servant leadership is not new. That is a very dangerous way to think because it’s hard to think of people “below” you without also thinking you’re somehow “above” the people you lead.

It’s not even your title or position that makes you a leader. Your thinking and your actions make you a leader. Even more than that, it’s your people that make you a leader because no matter what you think or do, if no one is following then you’re not leading.

The secret to being an Authentic Servant Leader is to never think for a moment that because someone is below you on an organizational chart that they are somehow below you in life.

I was reflecting with my daughter this week that people are where they are in their lives for a lot of reasons. Some had more luck than others, some made more luck than others. Some maybe were born with more advantages, some perhaps married into additional advantages. Our lot in life changes, sometimes because of what we did, sometimes because of what we didn’t do and sometimes it changes for no apparent reason.

The point is we are really pretty much all the same and the moment we start thinking we are born for greatness is the very moment we begin to lose the empathy and compassion required to actually be an Authentic Servant Leader.

I suppose it comes back to my own beliefs and faith. We are all gifts from God. When we understand that simple fact then and only then do we have the opportunity to be an authentic leader.

 

Some Questions

21 Nov

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These are some important things as leaders we need to ask:

Question #1: What are you reading?

When SLT asks this question, whether to kids or staff, he or she is reinforcing the message that we are all readers. Books are a school’s oxygen, and the more we read and share words, the healthier our school communities are. If reading is not yet a top priority in the school, this question can spark an important conversation and can lead to tangible next steps, like a staff book club or school-wide reading time.

Question #2: I’ve been thinking about _____. What do you think?

Leaders cannot do it alone, nor should they pretend that they can. They need to ask for help and input. Another way to say this is, “I’d appreciate your advice.” Being someone who asks for advice — rather than being the all-knowing leader — shows that a principal is a learner and that he or she values the perspectives and opinions of coworkers. The more varied the roles and positions of the people whose advice is being sought, the better. Consider these two examples:

When the SLT asks a cafeteria staff member, “I’ve been thinking about how to improve the flow of kids as they enter the kitchen to get their food. What do you think?”

The SLT  asks a teacher, “I’ve been thinking about how to make sure that we’re getting kids moving without sacrificing learning time. What do you think?”

Question #3: If you were me, what would you change?

This is a variation of the above, but it’s more open-ended. The intention is allowing students and staff to speak freely about that which is most important to them. This is a great lunch-duty question. Sit down with kids in small groups and challenge them with this: “If you were the principal, what would you change in our school?” At first, you will likely hear responses about longer weekends and less homework, but the more you ask, the more you will hear things like, “Why don’t we have a girls’ volleyball team?” and “If I were principal, I would make sure that teachers didn’t yell at kids.” You’ll learn a lot from this question, so only ask it if and when you are truly ready to listen.

While most SLT don’t promote talking in the hallway, it’s also true that the best ones treasure open dialogue and communication. When they ask the right questions and heed the old saying about why we have two ears and one mouth, principals are elevating the conversation — and reminding everyone in their school whose voices matter the most.

Don’t get me wrong the hallway is not the place for open conversation but it is a place to get the conversation started.

Secondment Reflection

1 Jul

In my secondment it has been a privilege to explore and solve problems with teams. The chance to see how a high performing team operates, and what characterises them, was another key learning development for me this year. I got the opportunity to see how this team was shaped by strategic thinking and planning, long-term plans, conviction that your plan will do the job and get the best results, constant checking of the data, digging for the detail and the stories behind it, a focus on excellence rather than initiatives, a daily togetherness and opportunity to talk about operational matters, weekly meetings which were purposeful, focused and always about how to get the best for our students. Yes the best teams have students at the centre. And how about this, could we have grass roots teachers having input on strategic goals for the year.

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Growing Leaders

23 Jul

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Last term I had some engaging conversations with my Heads of Department. Our school, like many around the country, is transforming the way we look at teaching and learning. Our conversation really got me thinking. Through our transformation process, I need to cultivate teacher leaders more than ever before.
Teacher leaders are the backbone of our work, and we as an SLT can’t do it alone. Let’s take a look at some innovative efforts that are changing schools around the country. I thought of ways they could develop their faculties. This coincided with some advice I was giving to another school so this developed real purpose.
A great leader brings out the best in their staff. There are several common denominators when it comes to strong leaders. Here are a few:
1. Has a sense of humor. This doesn’t mean a boss that constantly cracks jokes or acts like a clown. It simply means they are approachable, relatable and see the value in an upbeat, positive workplace. A friendly office environment starts at the top.
2. Allows freedom to fail. Once employees are given the proper training, a good boss will step out of the way. Employees flourish when they know they are trusted to do the right thing after given clearly defined expectations. A good boss steps in when they see an issue, but continually relies on employees to do what they have been hired to do.
3. Values strong communication. A good boss clearly articulates expectations, freely shares news that will benefit their team and offers feedback, both positive and constructive, to each employee they directly supervise. Most importantly, they establish communication as a two-way street, creating a safe atmosphere to voice opinions and concerns.
4. Asks for input. Everyone on the team is there because they have professional skills to contribute to the organization. A good boss knows they can’t be an expert at all things, and must rely on their team for corporate success.
5. Encourages growth. A good boss will provide opportunities for employee development and growth. They are tuned in to those who demonstrate initiative and are eager to expand their knowledge.
6. Acknowledges success. A good boss compliments and rewards their team and doesn’t miss an opportunity to “brag” about an employee’s job well done – at a staff meeting, board meeting, or in front of a client. Happy employees are a direct reflection of a good boss
Cultivating teachers for shared leadership roles can have a lasting impact on a school community and its climate. It allows school the SLT to tap into the expertise and experience of some of its most dynamic teachers and give them a way to share their skills with their colleagues. Teachers who serve as instructional coaches and mentors to their peers can have a far greater positive impact on changing instructional practice in a school.

 

 

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