It’s A Hard Gig…

I’ve said it countless times over the years. “Teaching is without doubt the most difficult profession there is.” And I truly believe that.

Whilst saying this I take nothing away from any other profession. They all have their challenges and their constraints. They have their “I simply do not want to get out of bed and go to work this morning” moments. Just like teaching.

What stands out with teaching is the amount of variables that are within the teaching profession. These are endless. The added complexity of what is to be done day in day out is extremely large and it is these variables and complexities that catch a lot of  teachers out, no matter how many years experience. No university degree and or course can prepare you for the barrage of what lies ahead. Maybe a ‘crisis management’ course perhaps…  

It is also the nature of what occurs daily and more so unexpectedly that catches people out. Just when things are all smooth and differences are being made, something, quite often a few things, rear their head and cause even the best laid plans to descend in to chaos.

Having completed a Bastow course last year that focused on principalship, those of us in attendance were given a task which I have outlined below which resonates with what I have mentioned above. A task designed to highlight that as educational leaders (or anyone really who works in a school) we can face a myriad of things that we do not expect, are not prepared for, are certainly not trained for, and things that none the less we need to deal with. Have a look at the task which I have linked and modified. It is based on a Principal role however paints a picture of what I am talking about… EduLead Scenario

There are many fallacies about teaching and what the job entails. Many. Teachers do not in fact work from 9am to 3:30pm and fluff about in between. We also do more than just simply ‘babysit’ other peoples kids and then get “rewarded” with holidays after 10 weeks at it. A small truth be told that after a 2 hour literacy block in the morning and when the bell goes for recess, that yes, you have to don the hi-vis vest, grab the bum bag full of band aids, tissues, and jellybeans for the diabetic students, and ‘actively supervise’ the yard for period of time to ensure that all students are ‘doing the right thing’… Afterwards of which you down a scalding coffee and a bite to eat (usually something packaged as there’s no time for creating Masterchef worthy snacks), collecting what you attempted to print earlier, if you can locate it, get your next learning intentions and success criteria written up and then… the bell goes and in come the students. If you’re super organised, you’ll squeeze in a trip to the toilet. ūüėČ 

What has prompted this post was a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Our country needs good teachers. I am not going to be one of them.” 

I credit, strongly, the person who wrote this article for the fact that they came to realise that teaching was not for them and they opted out. They identified that teaching is much more than what they expected, made the call, and left the profession. Teachers who are not effective at what they do, for whatever reason, have a highly negative impact on students and their learning. We know this from research and evidence that has come from it. To know and realise that a change needs to be made is one thing, acting upon it is another.

I am quite pleased to say that the vast majority of teachers I know and work alongside are hard working, passionate, driven and dedicated. They put in the extra hours of unpaid work each and everyday because they care, not because they have to. These efforts are evident in their classrooms, in their practice and in the way their students learn, grow and succeed. What gets me up and about even more is that these teachers constantly are striving to do better. Better to improve their practices, improve the outcomes for their students, and make the places in which they work more effective. 

Teaching is a bloody hard job. It can test every part of your being and make you question what you stand for. There have been, as per the article, and will be many more, teachers who come and go as the realisation that teaching is not for them. And that is ok.

I will also take this opportunity  to encourage anyone out there thinking of being a teacher to seriously consider it. It is highly enjoyable, collegiate, and unlike anything you may have experienced. As a teacher you are given the chance to have a very strong impact on not only the students you teach but the running of a school and from this seeing something really special take shape. Being able to encourage change within an organisation by bringing in fresh and new ideas, a new and enthusiastic approach to the profession and lead programs that you are passionate about is exciting and rewarding.

Our country does need good teachers, and it has good teachers, and it needs even more good teachers.

What I learnt about STEM first hand.

It’s been absolutely great this year being back in a primary classroom. Co-teaching a wonderful class of year 3/4 students has been an absolute highlight and being back in the trenches of team planning, PLC’s, assessment, curriculum and everything in between has certainly been engaging and enjoyable.

Recently as a 3/4 teaching team we decided to ramp up the digital technologies component of our planning and through this engage our students in a STEM Challenge linked explicitly to our science focus of the term which was focused upon the Victorian Curriculums Science Learning Area and in particular Science Understanding: Physical Sciences.

For what was a six week, group based challenge posed to the students it ran extremely well. In short, the students loved it, it reaffirmed the concepts taught at the beginning of the term, and gave them an applicative approach to demonstrating what they knew as well as space to find out new things. This being said, there were a few stand out items of note that I quickly came to realise. Things that I had perhaps assumed going in to the challenge itself and the students meeting the expectations that I had outlined.

Don’t Assume.

It’s easy going in to a challenge such as this ‘assuming’ that the students will be fine and met all expectations that are set for them. You’d assume that even though they’ve been classmates for 6 months that they’ll work well in a group and be super organised and everything will be fine. You may even be confident feeling that afterwards when presentations and speeches are given, that students will be a certainty to showcase what they have learnt throughout the process.

Don’t.

In thinking back I now feel I was somewhat blinded by the excitement that the students showed at the beginning of this challenge and therefore ‘assumed’ that this was going to be a “learning experience for the ages!”. As great as it was, it wasn’t, and there are a number of things I would, and will, certainly do differently next time. Such as…

Be Explicit. 

Model, tell, show, share, discuss, draw, and highlight what exactly you’re hoping to see come beginning, middle and end of the challenge / STEM process. Students need explicit instruction. Period. It’s all good and proper to believe they’ll know what to do and that when they’re in their group they are working on certain aspects of their challenge, and that they’ll draw on prior knowledge to assist throughout. However, like in most lessons taught, that is not the case.

Prior Knowledge Counts for A Lot.

Again, here I was ‘assuming’ that students would draw upon previous learnings and knowledge to complete and do an array of things. The following being just a few¬†examples;

  • students knew how to build and construct a house (or anything for that matter) using cardboard and other materials.
  • knew how to create a digital presentation.
  • knew how to present aforementioned presentation.
  • work collaboratively.
  • work independently.
  • would intrinsically draw upon previous learnings and prior knowledge.
  • seek assistance (from anyone) when required.
  • know how to sketch and draw 2D shapes with detail.

That’ll do. This comes back to the explicit teaching and assuming that students know what they ‘should’ know that will assist with the work.

Now in saying all of that… when students DO tap in to their already developed knowledge and understanding and apply this, WOW!

Prepare to Be Amazed.

STEM, and perhaps this challenge in particular, was/is a clear ‘case in point’ that students will absolutely¬†astonish and amaze you when you give them the freedom and space to do so. I have referred to the following quote countless times since I have heard¬†it as it rings so true.

“Watching kids in schools is like watch balloons deflate. School just sucks the creativity and curiosity right out of them”Gary Stager.¬†

I cannot argue with that. We’ve all seen the clips of Audrey and his Rube Goldberg machine and Caine’s Arcade (if you haven’t i’ve embedded them below),¬†both 2 clear examples of how when we as educators ‘let go’, kids will always try, trial, and do as best they can in whatever it is that they have set out to achieve!

 

Never Underestimate The Big C’s of Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication¬†and Creativity.

For me personally and in this instance, critical thinking was a big one. Not all students, most for that matter, have the necessary skill sets, capabilities and strategies to problem solve and, well, think critically to evaluate and analyse for the better. This was two fold in my situation in that prompting and being explicit through asking probing questions was not yielding the answers I was wanting to hear. Secondly, seeing students become ‘stumped’ when things did not go to plan and becoming ‘lost’ as to what to do next was a little mind boggling. Again, that ability to evaluate and analyse a situation seemed to be at times missing. That there however is not the students fault. They simply have not been taught the skills to do so.

 

I’ll be sure to share the learnings, happenings and growth during from our next STEM Challenge but for now, please check out exactly what it is our¬†students engaged in.

2017 iPad 1:1 App List.

http://www.troll.me/meme/home-simpson-panic/

I have written similar posts about this topic in previous posts dating back some 6 to 7 years ago. Just about every¬†school that looks to go down the 1:1 iPad path, almost always develops a set application ‘list’ that students and families are to¬†asked to have added to their child’s device. This post is no different from exactly that.

As a¬†teacher who has been involved in coordinating and leading multiple 1:1 programs, and primarily focused around the iPad device, it has been an interesting journey to see how schools and even my own have coordinated this approach of students needing particular applications ‘to support their learning’.

I think… that the need for schools to move down this path is to ensure consistency amongst the devices that are coming in with the students. That in itself is a contradiction to a 1:1 program, and a BYOD one at that, in which a full normalisation of the technology and its use is geared towards being ” more personalised”.

Try a google search for ‘school 1:1 iPad program app list’, or something along those lines, and you’ll quickly see that all educational settings have put time and effort in to developing an application list to compliment their 1:1 iPad program.

I will say that I believe there is nothing at all wrong with this picture. I myself, and hence this post, have created such lists numerous times and spent hours upon hours doing so as it can be a tedious task.

Having been part of the Victorian Department of Educations iPads for Learning Trial in 2010/2011, what was perhaps one of the first ever educational application lists of it’s time, was very extensive and lengthy! There were 53 applications in all and through looking at this list I am thinking that of those 53, i would only ever use 6 in today’s classroom. I have attached the original list below.

DEECD Selected iPad Applications 2010

 

 

In looking through what I have found that other settings have created, and in having created other lists in the past as I have mentioned, I have certainly seen a transformation within these lists. Firstly, the amount of applications listed. The numbers continue to fall as to what students are ‘expected’ to have installed on their devices. This I hope is due to schools realising the increased importance of student choice and voice in this space and not because there has been an increased confusion over what to list.

Secondly, and more importantly, the type of applications have certainly changed from being singled minded, one function type applications to those which are powerful in their ability to foster creativity and complete multiple tasks for multiple purposes.

It is a good thing. A great thing in fact.

Now I do love my iPad. I also love the impact that technology can have on students and their learning. I more so love the HOW factor in which the technology can leverage and refine how learning and teaching takes place. The type of applications students have access too certainly cater for this.

I have attached my schools first 1:1 iPad application lists below and would be keen to hear your thoughts. What has worked well for you, what has not? And what am I missing. The new Apple Clips app for example being one! In all of my iPad experience, I am almost certain this application list is not perfect. I am not sure there is one. Of that I am certain.

I will end by saying that the real power in any 1:1 program using any device and OS, is where students lead the use and selection of what works best for them, and appeals to their learning the most.

APS 2017 BYOD iPad App List

Find Your Haystack – A Brief #TTPlay 2017 Recap.

Eleni Kyritsis and Steve Brophy kicking off TTPlay 2017.

Never having met or seen Ewan McIntosh in person I was quite excited to hear his opening Keynote address at the recent Teach Tech Play Conference in Melbourne this week. I have followed Ewan via multiple mediums over the past few years and have had the pleasure of working with his organization, NoTosh at my previous school.

One of the core messages, if not THE core message that came from Ewan’s keynote was about ‘finding you haystack’. Too often in education, and, occasionally in life for that matter, we lose sight of the bigger picture and get caught up in the smaller details, which quite often are what hinder and/or stagnate the progress we are wanting to make.

As educators and leaders we often believe we know what our haystack is, what the bigger picture is, however we almost always get caught up in the details. As Ewan mentioned, “there’s a lot of wasted effort on the planet with really talented people working¬†really hard on the wrong things.”¬†Cannot argue with that!

As an audience we were also challenged to find our one ‘thing’ from the two day event and do it well. This¬†reminded me of something I was once told in my first year of teaching and that has stuck with me until this day, and that being, “it is much more beneficial to self and others for you to do few things really well, rather than a lot of things half-arsed.” Cannot argue with that either!

The TTPlay Conference for me was about a few things in particular which were of a hidden agenda of sorts. Firstly, to reconnect with people I had not had a whole lot of¬†contact with, face to face anyway, due to various reasons. Conferences and events such as this are made outstanding by those that are in attendance. It is through the chats, conversations, being challenged, sharing and collaborating that what I really enjoy. It’s the indirect and informal conversations that are often the most powerful component.

It was also about getting back in to a presenting mindset. I have enjoyed presenting at conferences over the years and feel, occasionally, that I have something worth sharing!¬†The jury is still out… ūüôā¬†To be back in this space¬†was breath of fresh air and I enjoyed it immensely, although I still get as nervous as I first used too. I have¬†embedded both my presentations below as an FYI.

A striking resemblance I made at TTPlay was to compare this conference with one I had previously attended in the past, the annual ICTEV (ICT in Education Victoria) conference. The ICTEV and VITTA (Victorian Information Technology Teachers Association) have since merged to form the wonderful DLTV (Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria). Too many acronyms. The similarities of these two events came not in the quality of presenters and people in attendance, that was a given, but came from the relaxed, friendly, and laid back atmosphere. Something you do not always get at all events such as this.

Now in referring back to Ewan’s keynote, what was my ‘haystack’ and my ‘thing’ to takeaway from TTPlay. I can recall sitting there in the audience and thinking initially… “I’ve no idea”. I really could not think of a reasonable ‘thing’ that would be my own personal ‘haystack’. And then, towards the end of the second day it came.

My haystack lies with inspiring others to innovate”.

How can I at¬†my own setting inspire staff to, as Matt Miller put it during his great keynote address, become the mavericks, black sheep, and purple cows of their profession. That students need maverick teachers. Teachers who challenge and change practice for the greater good of their learners and their needs. Regardless of how I do this, and the outcome I achieve, watch this space and i’ll be sure to keep you posted as to how it goes!

In future, if you’re thinking of attending a great event and hearing from teachers talk about teaching and what they are doing to inspire their students, particularly in the digital space, TTPlay is a great event to attend.

Share Time: BYOD + 1:1 + iPad.

In my last post I shared a list of what I felt where the core fundamentals needed to occur when initially undertaking a BYOD program. Piggy backing on the… back… of that, i have shared below a few items I had recently created, adapted and shared with our wider school community.

These may be of interest and or hopefully of some assistance. My disclaimer being, they are not perfect, nor should they be solely replicated for p[otential use at your own settings. And I say that not due to copyright or privacy reasons, but for the intention of being that all documentation of all shapes and formats needs to be created specifically for the audience and setting it is intended for. What is one schools path, may not be that of someone elses. However, if you like, feel free to use what I have created below as you best see fit.

 

BYOD Parent Information Evening Presentation.

This presentation was designed to do a vast number of things in a short amount of time, hence its density in information. The presentation itself was well received and being a prezi with it;s zooming in and out i had no cases of motion sickness in the audience which was a positive!

 

BYOD 1:1 ipad Guide.

The guide is more so an extension of the presentation above in some ways. It is designed to help parents and the wider community develop a greater understanding of why we are moving towards 1:1 and BYOD. The guide also acts as the main document in answering questions people may have as well as being a “go-to” document to assist parents and caregivers in managing their child’s iPad devices.

I will add two more things here. Firstly, this is by no means completed! I plan on adding chapters relating to social media use and privacy, as well as a greater and more in depth ‘help’ section. Secondly, this was design using Apple’s iBooks Author program. As an attached PDF I have removed some of the interactives that were contained within.

APS BYOD 2017 Program v1.1-143eper

 

BYOD Action Plan. 

This is contained in part in the linked document above however this is something I found very useful in using to assist with the planning and documentation stage of getting the BYOD program up and running. I have linked below the Victorian DET website where the information I used came from. A great, but lengthy, and helpful site.

I have also included our Action Plan as an FYI.

Planning for 1:1 Learning. 

APS BYOD Action Plan 2017

 

Policies.

Everyones favourite! They may be a pain to write, and get ratified, but they are certainly needed. Advice here, consult with as many stakeholders as you can. Definitely include parents!

APS-Cybersafety Policy

APS-BYOD Policy

APS-Internet Policy

 

Digital Technologies Acceptable Use Agreement. 

As a side to your policies, every school should have a structured and detailed AUA. Let’s be honest, not everyone reads policies. What is below has been created via the Victorian Department of Educations own AUA template. I have amended it to suit my own school’s particulars and set up.

APS-DTAUA 2017

Here is the link also to the Vic DET’s AUA documents:¬†http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/programs/bullystoppers/Pages/lolconsent.aspx

 

So there we have it! I hope all of that assists in some way! Happy to chat further and remember, these are all works that are ongoing and will always be updated and amended as needed to be at some stage. ūüôā

Here we B.Y.GO again… ;)

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to assist the schools I have worked in to implement and embed a succinct and successful BYOD framework for effective technology adoption.

It is no secret to most of us that the BYOD model has certainly had huge implications in educational organisations across the globe with the simple aim of getting more technology in to schools more often. Technology, regardless of it’s type and structure, to complement, enhance, and foster student growth and deep learning opportunities.

The impact that technology adoption, in particular 1:1 adoption, has had, I believe, has had just as great an effect on teaching and pedagogy as it has had on student learning. When I think about that pedagogical shift, that for me is really exciting. It is a massive positive knowing that educators who are either embracing and/or simply ‘giving it a go’, albeit in some cases reluctantly, are changing their instructional practices for the betterment of themselves and their students, and that is a remarkable¬†thing.

Over the years I have learnt quite a few things about BYOD. What works, what does not, where the pitfalls potentially lie, how to assist (and hopefully relieve) the anxiety the parents and wider community, and also how to make a BYOD program successful.

I will add here that these are my experiences and dealings and what I have found to ring true. Others may have had different opinions, feelings and or experiences, and that is fine. 

What I am personally pleased with it that my beliefs towards integrating a successful BYO program have not changed all that much from roughly 9 years ago. What was needed to be in place then, still needs to be in place now. I have over the years read and seen quite a lot in this space and at the end of the day, you do not need ‘21 successful tips towards BYOD‘, or, ‘BYOD, 45,721 points for successful integration‘, or anything in between.

Here I have shared my key tips, points, notes, ‘things’, whatever you would like to call them, that have assisted and driven myself towards leading and implementing BYOD frameworks. As usual, comments welcome.

1 – Plan. Effectively!

Pretty straight forward, no? How many of us have been given a plan, or developed a plan, and not stuck to it, have had no faith in it, skipped over it entirely,¬†etc, etc… Plan for what you want to achieve. What is it after super successfully implementing your BYOD program that you are wanting to see? That’s your end game. Backwards map from there! What do you need to have in place for that to¬†come to fruition?

2 – Scout’s Motto: Be Prepared.

Identify what you need. Is it building teacher capacity? Is it improving your infrastructure? Are parents and other key stakeholders ready for BYOD? Make a list, check it twice. Thrice even! ūüėČ Make sure you know what you want, where you can get it from, who can help and assist, and act¬†accordingly.

3 – Documentation – Get It Sorted.

What documents do you need to have in place? What policies do you currently have. What do you not? What needs to be re-ratified? What do students, parents, the community need? What do staff need? How indepth will go you? Will it be surface based information or a full out assault with all documents being highly detailed and specific? In my experiences, the following items are MUST HAVES to be created and or put in place.

  • Policies
    • BYOD
    • Acceptable Internet Use
    • Cyber Bullying, Cyber Safety, Digital Citizenship, etc…¬†
  • Digital Technologies Acceptable Use Agreements, for all students, not just those involved in BYOD.
  • An Action Plan. Identify what is needed and where, and also why! This is usually developed at the¬†beginning.¬†
  • BYOD Guide / Booklet for Parents and the wider community.¬†
    • This may include the rationale and aims of the BYOD program, why this program
  • Formal Letters to keep all stakeholders in the loop. TRANSPARENCY is key! Ensure that all decisions that are made involve those affected (parents, students, IT personale, teachers, leaders, etc…).

4 – Keep Calm and Relax.

Like any change, large or small, rushing the process only ever is a cause for errors and mishaps and things to be forgotten and overlooked. Just relax. make sure that those who are driving and developing the program are comfortable with what is being done. It is far better to upset others because you are postponing things or redeveloping specific rather than rushing to get things done and make errors along the way. Trust me! ūüėČ

5 – You’re Not Alone. ¬†

Chances are, I can almost guarantee it, well, i can guarantee it, that there are other people and education settings out there that have been through this process before. If for whatever reasons you may be doubting or unsure of the path you are following, seek assistance. Go and speak to others, complete a number of school visits and speak to those in the know. And do not forget one of the most important groups to speak to… students!

6 РShare the Load. 

Yes, there is often a ‘lone soldier’ who is the front man of the BYOD program and the go to person for all¬†questions, concerns and queries, however, it truly takes a team of people to effectively get a BYOD program up and running.¬†The people involved need to communicate and meet regularly to identify based on the developed action plan, what needs to be done.

So that is that. In a nutshell. Over the coming weeks I will share our current documentation and other key resources that have supported me over time and if you and your setting are going down a BYOD path, hopefully items that will support you also!

The HUGE Four!

At times we need to sit back, think, reflect, and refocus our attention on what matters and what makes an impact in our settings. Working in schools causes us at times to lose sight of the bigger picture and we go through the motions doing what we do thinking we’re on top of it all when in fact we may not be. And that is no ones fault. Teaching is a chaotic profession, and as I have said multiple times in various spaces, here included, it is (arguably) one of the most difficult professions to master.

Like all schools, we are working internally to an annual implementation plan that has been developed. This is to focus our efforts on the school making an impact in areas which need to be reviewed, started, or have been identified as high priority, all to ensure we are achieving the best possible outcomes for our students.

Over the past four weeks in my setting we’ve gone back to investigate what we know as the ‘Big 4’, which is largely based on the work of Prof. John Hattie and his Visible Learning work in particular.¬†In listing the Big 4 we have;

  • Learning Intentions
  • Success Criteria
  • Quality Tasks
  • Effective Feedback

Further to support the impact of the ‘Big 4’ and this way thinking that is embedded and heavily adopted in schools across the country, is the linked article from Australian Society for Evidence Based Teaching titled;¬†‘8 Strategies Robert Marzano & John Hattie Agree On‘. I am not sure what they both ‘disagree’ on but hey, i’ll take this as a supporting start!¬†

The first 4 of their agreed strategies link directly o the ‘Big 4’ and the impacts seen in schools when they are adhered to effective adopted. What I have embedded below are the four presentations that I led staff through. These were designed to remind, reeducate, and have staff rethinking WHY and HOW we are adopting these instructional strategies, as well as, when adopted successfully, the impact that they can have.

There is certainly no shortage of evidence based research that links directly to the above. Research that that supports this as purposeful work in any setting and work from my point of view that should always be revisited. Enjoy.

  1. Learning Intentions.

 

2. Success Criteria

 

3. Quality Tasks

 

4. Effective Feedback

A Reminder More So Than A Lesson Learned…

It’s be a week now, a solid week in fact, that I have begun 2017 in a new school surrounded by new colleagues and new students. It’s been a week in which I have learnt a ridiculous amount about the way in my new school operates. You’d be forgiven for thinking that schools all run in a similar fashion with similar processes and protocols in place, because, that is not the case. Not always anyway.

I spent last weekend thinking about my first week and reflecting on what impact I had made in my very short time there thus far. The relationships that I had started to forge, the impact that my role as curriculum leader had already had,¬†if any,¬†and what I needed to work towards¬†strategically, technically and just about everything in between. There was and is one thing however that I keep coming back to that has very strongly reminded me why I began working in schools in the first place, and why I am sure i’ll continue to work in schools until the time arrives, which is a very very long way¬†away, until I reach retirement age.

That reminder being: as an educator, for most kids, their teacher is their world. Their teacher is someone who they look up to with great admiration and care. Their teacher is someone who kids love to engage with, share stories with (no matter how personal, albeit innocent, in some cases!), interact with, learn from and learn with. That as teachers, we have a power, a pull to mould, guide and inspire kids to be whatever it is they want to be, no matter their age or the challenges that lie ahead.

All of this is once again, not knew to me. However, being back in a classroom teaching a group of amazing young people has reminded me of this, in a strong way. Seeing also the way in which teachers at my school interact with their students, as just about all teachers do in all settings, proves my¬†point that teachers in their profession are the ones have the greatest impact on a young person’s life, second only to their parents and or guardians.

For me, as a reminder, I find all of that, still, pretty bloody amazing!

Teaching with, alongside, and for one another.

saveourschoolsnz.com

Recently I had shared an article that I had posted via LinkedIn that I had came across in the same space titled Telling another teacher how to teach? It’s a sin, says leading academic“.¬†

I will refrain from going in to depth about what the main points of the article were yet only to say that Prof. John Hattie basically sums up the importance for teachers, and leaders for that matter, to build professional cultures of trust within the school organisation to ensure that all teachers are learning, growing, and doing the best that they can for their their students. As important as I feel that this message is, and as much as I believe in it, I also firmly believe it is pure common sense. It should not take the likes of Hattie to spread this message. It should just be, ‘the way’, things are.

Unfortunately, it is not.

Too often teachers either work and plan in isolation or are pigeon holed to working with colleagues who only form part of their teaching team/s. And, even then, the importance of building capacity and improving one’s ability to be an outstanding educator by using the collective knowledge of those around is minimal. And we can debate the ‘excuses’ as to why.

The graphic featuring Pasi Sahlberg at the beginning of this post says it all. The Finnish school system is well known to most of us for their outstanding school system and the results they achieve and if this statement from Pasi forms part of their educational mantra then it is easy to see why the Fins and their education system are held in such high regard. The work of Timperley and Fullan for example often talk about the importance of teachers needing to work together. To learn from one another. And make this a culturally common practice is widely discussed. And proven.

Another wonderful paper that places a focus on peer to peer collaboration is the Grattan Institute’s “Turning Around Schools: It Can Be Done(Jensen, 2014)¬†mentions that one of five common steps needed to turn around a poorly performing school is;

Effective teaching with teachers learning from each other. Turnaround schools implement teaching practices that dramatically improve learning. Professional collaboration, such as teacher observation or team teaching, helps teachers to develop new or improved approaches and reinforces change through peer feedback. Working together gives people greater ownership of the dramatic changes occurring in the school.”

If we know from the academic research and literature that has been written and undertaken that teachers teaching teachers works, why is it NOT a core focus the world over. Or is it, and it is not just done purposefully and with intent.

If I am to think about myself professionally here and the impact that I have had on others and others have had on myself I would be looking at a 70/30 split. In a perfect world it would be evenly split however, again, it is not the case. When I think about the professional interactions I have had throughout my career and the opportunities I have had for others to comment on my teaching performance and capabilities, the opportunities to gain purposefully and meaningful feedback have been few and far between. Because of this, it lends me towards thinking that the ideology of all of the above is certainly 2 fold.

On one hand we have have those who give the feedback and offer the assistance and notice the change and improvements needing to happen. These people are also the ones who act on these observations with a “Hey, I noticed in your class today that… Have you tried???”.¬†A comment such as this takes courage to be brought up and passed on. Not all people have the ability to do so. However, if there is a culture of trust, honesty, and sheer willingness for school wide improvement and improvement in oneself, then these comments are much easier to say. Remember, you do not have to be a leader to comment on a colleagues performance. In getting slightly sidetracked, a comment such as “I thought how you did X in your class today was great”!¬†makes a huge difference and inroad to building and sustaining that culture trust, honesty and¬†sheer willingness for school wide improvement.

Now in the other hand we have those on the receiving end of these comments. In all of my years working within schools I have learnt that there is really no other profession that is as interpersonal as what teaching can be. By human nature we are all quick to judge, critise, critique, and, albeit not often, positively reinforce our peers for the work they do. What we all need to realise is that if feedback comes our way it is because someone has noticed something – good, bad or otherwise. And the feedback we receive can either be taken on board, or quickly forgotten about. That’s the beauty of feedback. There is never a need to take any comment personally. It is not an attack on you as an educator or on you as a person. Take it on board from the point of view¬†that someone cares and is looking towards helping you improvement your craft.

As Hattie states in the TES article – “I should be learning something about what impact I had, who I had an impact on,‚ÄĚ. If each and everyday we have a greater impact on on our students and settings due to the continual improvement we make individually and collectively, we will without a doubt see our students and education systems flourish.

Goodbye and Hello

I am sitting here at my desk hearing the goodbyes and well wishes from afar. The laughter and banter is thick in the air. The camaraderie amongst staff here at Northern Bay College – Hendy Campus is strong, tight, and collaborative in almost every way, and for those reasons and many more I will miss being part of the NBC Family and in particular The Hendy Campus crew.

The decision to move schools and take up a new Assistant Principal position at Ashby Primary School was extremely difficult and it is something that still does not sit well, however I know in the long run for me personally and for my family, it was the correct move.

My first year as an Assistant Principal and having spent that here at Hendy has seen countless ups, downs and a few turn arounds. The things that I have learnt are astronomical and as I have mentioned to staff and our College principal class team I am a much better person and leader for having spent time at Northern Bay. My new learnings have come in many ways from all manner of people including fellow principals, staff, parents, and of course students.

The opportunity to start fresh with a renewed, purposeful focus is certainly something that I am eagerly anticipating. A continued, and in some instances heavier focus, on innovative practices in curriculum, pedagogy and environment, will lead me to engaging in ‘work’ that drives me as a leader and educator. The work that I have been part of co-leading here at Hendy will hold me in a better position to drive change and innovative practices at my new school, something I am looking forward to getting in to.

So in departing I say thank you yet again to all at Northern Bay College who have helped, assisted, guided, supported, and led me through countless wins, loses, dips and rises. Northern Bay is a unique place and because of that the people within in it are only made stronger through the collaborative practices and processes that they engage in. I sincerely look forward to returning to see first hand the impact that is being made by the outstanding teachers at Hendy Campus in the years to come.