Tag Archives: Strategic Focus

Culture Again….

1 Nov


Culture is fundamentally about relationships. Technology is a critical component of all learning environments. However, learning without human rapport and interactive relationships is a poor ecosystem for human development. A landscape in which the foundation has not been prepared to adapt to change, to embrace what is best for students, to accept that risks, constant change and uncertainty are the order of the day, is one in which initiatives will ultimately fail.

A healthy culture is immediately discernible, though perhaps difficult to define: “A collaborative culture feels a bit like family: Although individuals may not always get along, they will support each other when push comes to shove. A collaborative culture is a strong culture in which most people are on the same page.” (Gruenert, Whitaker)

A collaborative culture also leads to higher levels of trust and respect among colleagues and translates to improved student learning. Empowered learning requires investment in technology. It requires talented teachers who are supported. But too often the infrastructure and the investment are as far as the planning goes.

The best schools and the deepest learning are characterized by one simple truth. The work is about individual learner needs, not systems. It’s about the ecosystem and a humane environment that permits teachers to work for the students, not the system. Being relational. As everything becomes digital, school culture matters more than ever.

Gruenert, Steve & Whitaker, Todd. School Culture Rewired. 2015.

Strategic Thoughts

6 Feb


As our new strategic plan and annual goals for the year kick in I have been thinking about some key values surrounding them. I see myself as connected and innovative educator. At any school, being connected requires the learner to develop a secure sense of their own identity to think and work towards where their potential might lie.

I have been thining about ako, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga.

I will use these concepts and their definitions to frame my current thinking for the year.

Ako is being a learner. A life long learner. Being willing to fail.

Whanaungatanga focuses on building relationships with each other, the community and our children. The relationship that develops as a result of manakitanga – the strength of the group – see people as people not just their role, working collaboratively and collectively. Therefore a teacher knows how to use managed online learning tools to find people and knows how to connect with them. A teacher should have a robust PLN. They think carefully about the dynamics of interactions. They use social media  to make connections and to build their own personal learning community.

Manaakitanga is about developing the ability to walk in others’ shoes which includes seeing issues from others’ perspectives and thinking carefully about the dynamics of interactions. It is about cultural awareness. Teaching is about being innovative and collaborative. A teacher knows how to use and take the tools from their kete to move their practice forward. This again complements the gospel values of the Catholic school.

Kaitiakitanga is the notion of stewardship by ensuring sensitivity and thoughtfulness of actions. I believe teaching is about leaving legacy with students, teachers and community alike.


Curriculum Leaders are Key

11 Oct


Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.  Curriculum leaders have played an important role as our school set their strategic plan. They have the ability to create curriculum individually and with a team of teachers.  I have witnessed teachers from our school share strategies with teachers across the country.  Curriculum mapping, alignment, and revision require strong curriculum leaders.  When teacher leaders are involved in designing and revising curriculum, you will have a strong product. High performing schools have multiple curriculum leaders. They are the SLTs of the future. I advocate they should be developed and grown. What do you think? What are you doing to support these people?

As a staff here are some key questions to reflection on:

  1.  What do you think of when you hear the term curriculum leader?
  2.  Are you a curriculum leader?  What makes you a curriculum leader?
  3.  Are there additional reasons why schools need curriculum leaders?

Five Points for Curriculum Reflection: Part Two

11 Aug


As I have mentioned in an earlier post curriculum development has been on my mind as I have been looking at developing eLearning tools for the Religious Education Curriculum here in New Zealand. Here some more points that I think are important.

  1. Alignment

Curriculum Developers can spend so much time developing curriculum documents that they forget to take time to analyse alignment and have conversations with multiple groups.  “Poorly aligned curriculum results in our underestimating the effect of instruction on learning.” (Anderson, 2002, p. 260).

  1. Clarity

It must be clear across the school what is being taught. In Toward a Coherent Curriculum: The 1985 ASCD Yearbook, Stellar wrote, “The curriculum in numerous schools lacks clarity and, more important, coherence.  Students move from teacher to teacher and subject to subject along a curriculum continuum that may or may not exhibit planned articulation”

(p. v).

  1. Curriculum Development Is Requires Open Conversation

If you are asked to review curriculum or develop curriculum, then you should be careful to avoid bias.  What is good for your own child may not be good for every child.  Politics are unavoidable when it comes to curriculum development, but educators can improve the curriculum development process by seeking multiple perspectives. However this being said robust conversation about content and pedagogy is essential in a dynamic PLN.

  1. Be a Leader and Lead

Just lead. If you are leading the group lead them. It is not a title.  “A good leader has the ability to instil within his people confidence in himself.  A great leader has the ability to instil within his people confidence in themselves” (Maxwell, 1995, p. 55). 

  1. Student at the Centre

Despite all our ideas, discussions and reading of theory students must be at the centre. As curriculum is built one must ask? How will the student benefit? Is this course for them or me?

Do you have any suggestions? Perhaps there is a Part 3.


Anderson, L.W. (2002). Curricular Alignment: A Re-Examination. Theory into Practice, 41, 225-260.

Maxwell, J.C. (1995). Developing the leaders around you. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Maxwell, J.C. (2008). Leadership gold: Lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of leading. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Steller, A.W. (1985). Forward. In Beane, J.A. (Ed.), Toward a coherent curriculum. The 1985 ASCD Yearbook. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  

New Year

27 Jan

I have written and spoken over the past twelve months about the challenges we face. As we begin a new school year those challenges have not diminished, in fact they have increased. And they will continue to do so unless the education community faces up to some truths.

Schools have long enjoyed a competitive position that they can no longer demand or expect to maintain. In a rapidly developing assortment for learning in a connected world, schools are now just one of many modes for learning. Our students love diversity. They love choice. This is reflected no better than in NCEA in New Zealand with the standards and subject they opt in and out of.

How are today’s schools going to position themselves to become the architect of new ways of learning and teaching? What has to change, what has to be done differently? Indeed what is the work of a teacher in today’s world?

I don’t know the answers to these but I do know the answers lie in every school’s capacity to continuously reinvent themselves through innovation and research. Schools have to strive for excellence even if it means being different and embrace change, not avoid it.

We can be very confident that we know what doesn’t work, and we have ample data on why this is so. Those one-off standalone initiatives focusing on teacher control, external monitoring, new curriculum, programmatic solutions suck the oxygen out of schools and stifle the drive and passion teachers have for improving every student’s learning.

Relevance has to be the rule not the exception.


22 Sep


My second love is rugby (after Benita and Charlotte of course). The game is a science. The All Blacks coach was quoted recently saying that the team needed to improve ‘just about everything’ and that their ‘skills and game structure’ was virtually non-existent.  What I saw were individuals taking responsibility for their own improvement.  Sure they had input from the coach and others but they did the work themselves.  In a week they were able to reflect on their performance, take on the feedback and implement a new strategy. Isn’t this what good learning and teaching is about?

Listening to Hansen reminded me of Michael Fullan -“The glue that binds the effective drivers together is the underlying attitude, philosophy and theory of action.”

Our All Blacks are a great example of a learning community in action.  We owe it to our students to be playing and have standard like the ABs.

Professional Reading

10 May


Quality relationships have long been the defining feature of good schools. When we talk about a teacher’s contribution to student learning outcomes, it is understood in the context of the teacher’s ability to relate to each student. This year we have focused in our annual plan on relationships. These quality relationships lead to trust which leads to deeper thinking conversations.

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to change a student’s life – to move them from being disengaged to challenged? It’s an idea Canadian Professor Ben Levin examines in his 2008 article ’20 minutes to change a life?’

Based on studies and discussions, Levin concluded that in many cases a 20-30 minute per day conversation can have a positive impact. Be it with a struggling student over a period of time or a middle manager that needs support.

It’s a concept worth considering when discussing ways to improve school culture


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