Telling other adults what to do isn’t an effective motivation strategy. When was the last time being told what to do made you feel inspired and ready to make serious change? Probably never, because this is the worst way to get humans to change. You know what is highly effective? Demonstrating the behaviors, actions, and values you desire to see in others. However, this requires commitment and discipline from you, the leader. You have to be the person you want your team to be. Leading and mentoring is changing. Just ask Graham Henry.
Teaching is a tough job. It involves working with people, with their imperfections and unpredictability in a context of constant changes in political priorities. Decisions we make are rarely about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ but about what’s best for our students at a given time, in a complex and fluctuating set of circumstances. School leaders are constantly having to negotiate some of the most complex decisions – around the transition to academy status, ‘choices’ at leadership level which boil down to a choice between improved results or improved finances, choices around retakes, the cost-effectiveness of support teachers – none of this is black-and-white, and decisions involve an intricate negotiation of what we mean by ‘best’ for students and ‘best’ for staff.
We must always remember when we have great new ideas that our students are not some social experiment. The are a gift from God. They are special. Some are broken and some see school as their only safe haven.
In my time in the classroom, I’ve seen dozens of knee-jerk changes and swinging pendulums. Subject becoming optional, then essential. Coursework over exams. Exams over coursework. Completely rewritten exam specifications, importance on standards. Education is often a political football. I have noted sweeping changes that can’t be undone, without consultation with teachers. Who suffers? Our students. Lets remember they are at the centre. What do you think?
Without question, one of the most important things I do is reflect be it teaching, living or in triathlon training. It took me years to figure this out, but reflection during and after lessons, sessions, presentations, etc. is crucial if I want to continue to grow as a professional. It is something. Everything I do is under constant scrutiny because I want to be better. Reflection can challenge me to change which can be a challenge. Nobody really likes change.
The next step after reflection is making changes where they are needed. Just thinking about what you have done does not mean anything if you do not take action. If something is broke, fix it. If something is not working, do something completely new. Education is a constantly changing creature and our lessons need to evolve with the rest of education to ensure that we are doing what is best for our students. Reflection and change are crucial parts in the process of providing the best education for the students in front of us.
We are all busy. I’m tired of hearing it. We have friends, families, lives, etc. That doesn’t mean we shirk our responsibility to become better at our jobs. Reflection and change is how we can be better. This year I want to take some time this year and reflect on my profession and see where I can make some meaningful changes for me and for the students I teach.
My NAPP experience is drawing to a close and next week my presentation will be the subject of my blog. At the same time I am reflecting on the end of my third year as Deputy Principal and a year of our ERO review. The following some notes in the best traditions of Marty McFly advice I would give myself if I could go back to the future.
Have a plan to drive the overall strategy for your team and its role achieving the school’s vision. Set annual goals within this plan. Focus on the process not necessarily the final result. Focus on what you know you need to solve the problem. You can’t get help if you can’t deﬁne what you’re looking for. Frame the situation: What is it you either don’t know or need to know more of? Start by deﬁning the challenge you’re facing and what you need in order to solve it. Great leaders don’t have all the answers, but they usually have the ability to ask better questions. Staff will enjoy be included in solving the problems and setting goals.
Do Something. Sometimes a response requires doing something, even if you know it isn’t the perfect solution. By leaving the problem it can often grow.
Every year make room for new approaches. Assess the school, like a warrant of fitness, for what it needs to do, and making changes. We should not do it just because we are being reviewed by ERO.
Always try improving communication and relationships inside and outside the school. Internally everybody should feel included in making key decisions. I read somewhere this year tuning into everyone ensures that there is alignment of all.
Creating systems and frameworks to execute, track, and measuring the work so that you feel comfortable with. Review these systems. These will never be perfect. Be open, but remember you can’t possibly take every suggestion on board.
Inquire more deeply to truly unearth important ideas. When you improve the quality and quantity of questions you ask, you increase the potentially valuable information you receive.
Support staff members in becoming better leaders themselves by promoting continuous learning. I am a great believer in the philosophy of growing other leaders. A school is a place of learning and therefore we should all be learners.
Earlier on in the year I had the opportunity to be Acting Principal. I recognised the opportunity for a reflection but I wanted to give it time after the fact to see reflect further on what I learnt. What have I learnt then?
Kiwi Leadership for Principals (2008) was a solid guide for me. It suggested “New Zealand principals respond positively to the challenges of a devolved system, working out ways to serve the best interests of their schools, teachers and students. It made me recognised that we are together a “Professional Learning Network.” (pp10)
So the following bullet points are my reflections:
• My wife is awesome
• Surround yourself with competent leaders.
• Your PA is your best friend
• Say thanks
• Malcom Gladwell was right. You need strengths. Mine was the ability to deal with special character issues and in my experience they come up daily.
• Stay connected to students
• Do not do everything.
• Leading change and problem solving are not easy
• My immediate response may not be my best.
• Relax and find time to switch off.
• Keep learning.
• Acknowledge I will make a few mistakes.
• Stay connected to staff
• There is always tomorrow.
• If you are given an opportunity to act as Principal take it. Realize though sometimes the “ride” can be rough.
• Keep reading.
• People do not want you to fail. .
I became aware that in a kiwi context the educational leader leads learning to:
• improve outcomes for all students, with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika;
• create the conditions for effective teaching and learning;
• develop and maintain schools as learning organisations;
• make connections and build networks within and beyond their schools; develop others as leaders. Develop leaders from your own tree.
One of the most important yet challenging and I think most satisfying aspect of being on the SLT is making connections which leads others to make connections or sees possibilities and opportunities that were once never a possibility but are now are realities.
I thoroughly appreciated and relished this experience and I am sure I will reflect again.
Kiwi Leadership Model
The way we educate students leave many of them feeling as though what they’ve “learned” is of no value; that the “lessons” they’ve received each day are of no use in the real world. We have created a system where we are assessment driven and students want to know if a task is worth credits. This leaves many teachers disheartened.
New strategies, tactics and procedures are developed to make the next school year better than the previous. Over my years in the classroom, I’ve been able to develop a few ways and means of getting the most out of my students and these overlap with staff. This year I have also been reflecting on staff and how I can work with them in a better way. Gleaned from my inquiries, readings and experiences I made a list as I resolve this am I leading or managing.
The following site was particularly useful. http://leadonpurposeblog.com/2013/06/29/are-you-leading-or-just-managing/
1. Relationships – In order to reach any group of people, you must know the audience to which you are speaking to. You have to speak their language, you must invoke their values and traditions in order to get them to go along with the information or concept(s) that you are presenting. You’ve got to meet people where they are. The learning plans we have developed for classes this year are an illustration of this.
2. Don’t Lecture – When people hear anything that sounds like a “lecture,” it is rarely a pleasant thought — it usually involves being punished. In the classroom, a lecture or talk should be more participatory in an effort to cut down the boredom of the students so they can gain the most in any lecture or talk you provide. Same with staff. This requires patience but it is well worth it.
3. Choices – People like a choice. Often, we don’t provide our people with a choice when it comes to the assignments they have to do… maybe we should. Giving a student the option of completing either assignment A or assignment B can create independence and ownership of the students work by the students themselves. My staff have been given choices in a number areas. This has proven successful.
4. Let them Choose – People are opinionated: create assignments that allow them the freedom to give their “expertise.” Create a case study surrounding the content of your lessons or meetings, using language arts as the means for execution and reinforcement: verbally and on paper. This links to student voice or meaningful professional learning.
5. Examination and Discussion – Of course, I don’t mean arguing for argument’s sake. Rather, healthy discussion creates a healthy environment. Being nice is not enough.
6. Use The Technology – Make it their friend not the enemy.
7. Have Fun – Play and have fun when gaining an understanding of whether or not your students learned what you’ve taught them. Use meetings as “bonding” activities to have fun. We have initial one of our staff briefings as Fun Friday. Not nuts and bolts. Its all taking time and learning in different ways.
Angus H. Macfarlane, Ted Glynn, Waiariki Grace, Wally Penetito and Sonja Bateman
A real meaty piece this week which kept me occupied over the holidays. The paper discusses important parallels between western/European sociocultural theorizing on human development and learning (on which the key competencies seemed to be based), and the values, beliefs and preferred practices that are embodied within an indigenous Maori cultural worldview (Te Ao Maori).