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!
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,”. 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.
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.
“If you want to lead then you have go to read. “ – Someone, 2015.
I remember hearing someone say this when I was involved in my Principal Preparation Course at the Bastow Institute in 2015. Something at the time that made a lot of sense, especially in relation to the amount of professional reading we were doing as part of that course.
I’ve never been a big ‘professional reader’ and it is safe to say that I’ve dedicated far more time to the Dan Browns and J.K. Rowling’s of the world than the Hattie’s, Fullan’s and Pinks. Although in recent years there has been a considerable shift in that space.
Now recently during one of my leadership meetings we undertook the reading of the attached article below from the Term 3 Edition of School News. The Article, which was a special report, titled ‘Clinical Teaching’ placed a focus on Prof. john Hattie and Dean Field Rickards and their research and work focusing clinical teaching.
In defining clinical teaching; “teachers being able to make evidence based decisions to ensure adjustments and needs of individual learners are made and met.”
As a leader within a school and after reading an article such as this you begin to make immediate comparisons to your own setting. You celebrate and feel empowered and proud of the work that’s being done and how it links specifically to what is mentioned. On the other hand you also question some practices and think hard about why perhaps certain areas of the curriculum, pedagogy or environment are not at a standard that you (I) believe are where they need to be.
A lot of what Hattie talks about in the article, and it is largely what he is known for, is about teachers having a positive impact and knowing that they are having a positive impact. I’ve embedded a short video below that link to Hattie’s work in this space.
I am a firm believer that within the teaching profession there are so many variables that both dictate and constrain what we do. These are things that determine if as educators we are successful, making an impact, or are deemed to be ‘effective’. My issue with this is as I have mentioned in the past is what does it mean to be effective or successful? Is this my wonderful student achievement data, the fact that I create a safe and welcoming environment day in day out, or that my core focus relates to my students and their wellbeing?
I have not come across too many educators that do not develop deeper understandings of their student’s individual needs. The ability to determine what drives, motivates and also inhibits that particular individual to learn and engage with what is in front of them. The work moving forward I feel for most us is being able to build that capacity in self to transfer that knowledge back in to what is planned and for whom.
One particular comment that was made in the article by Dean. Rickards is that “we need to move away from this culture of one teacher one craft, we want teachers working in teams.” I could not agree more.
The emphasis placed on professional learning teams/communities and the Victorian Department of Educations – Communities of Practice model are now driving a lot more of this collaborative practice. And it can only benefit those within the profession. For those wanting to read another great piece by Richard DuFour based on some of this thinking can be found here: What is a Professional learning Community?
Towards the end of the article it states “Clinical Teaching emphasizes the importance of data, theory, and research in informing interventionist teacher practice.” This drove my thinking about these areas and the work and depth to how they are emphasized and focused upon, and of course, where to next.
I was buoyed in some ways about what the article stated and the work that my setting and staff are engaged in. We have worked hard to become ‘clinical teachers’ and will continue to do so by identifying what works and what doesn’t and it is through doing this work that we will see better results for all of our students on all levels.
It is always a great opportunity to sit back and soak in the thoughts and Prof. Michael Fullan, as was the case yesterday at the Department for Educatiosn’s ‘Deep Learning Lab 2016′ day.
With the day being hosted and facilitated by Dr. Simon Breakspear and having Joanne Quinn, Joanne McEachen and Prof. Bill Lucas in attendance, I was always confident that the day was going to be very worthwhile.
The focus of this day was for all school ‘leads’ who were driving and implementing the New Pedagogies for deep Learning Framework into their settings to get together in a collaborative space and share their expertise about how we can ‘deepen learning’.
In true ‘Corrie’ blog post fashion, I’ll recount the highlights of the day and share what I personally took away from it, and how this will drive my work as part of the #NPDL program moving forward.
After a very informative Welcome to Country by Ron Jones, Dr. David Howes (Formerly the VCAA Curriculum Executive Director), the Assistant Dep. Sec., Early Childhood and School Education Group, shared his insights in to contemporary practices in curriculum planning and assessment.
I have heard Dr. Howes speak countless times over the years and like the direct nature of what he has to say and share. In his opening there were quite a few references to the recent OECD Data that has been made available and the impact that this data in particular links to the educational system/s in Australia.
Dr. Howes asked the audience what was different now and why should we as leaders have any real optimism that now is any different to years ago? In answering this Dr. Howes shared his 3 key insights.
For the first time, and using NPDL as a clear example, we are now seeing real alignment across educational systems internationally who are now collaborating and sharing expertise. the focus is now starting to shift from content and outcomes to capabilities.
That as of 2017 we will have a mandated Vic. Curriculum that contains capabilities which are to be assessed. No other state has this and this is very exciting for Victoria.
We also now have Government Targets that are committed to assisting students to become more creative and critical thinkers, and again, via the Vic. Curric. Capabilities.
The challenge lending itself from this is how will schools and settings now assess these capabilities? What will this look like? Dr. Howes urged schools and their leaders to build the capacity in their staff to assess the capabilities and to then enact that new learnt knowledge. Fair call. The point was also made in understanding that the capabilities are to be built into all areas of the curriculum and are not to be a stand alone based subjects.
Up next on the big stage was Dr. Simon Breakspear who lead us in discussion around how we can/could better harness our expertise through greater collaborative practices.
As much as it pained me in having to agree with Simon, his comments in his opening statement about term 4 being ridiculously busy, the fact that we could most likely not afford to be there, that we had most likely already had a call from our schools about an issue that morning, and that the emails were already piling up – rang very true! In saying all of this, Simon’s follow up comment regarding Victorian Teachers and NPDL schools being true pioneers for driving deep learning practices made me feel somewhat more comfortable in being one of the attendees for the day.
Simon shared his 4 core items that would continue to lead and drive the NPDL work within schools and this was the case for those schools who were either flying along in their journey or those who may have hit somewhat of a wall. These being:
Celebrate the impact.
For those involved in the NPDL it is the perfect time to be reviewing current happenings and getting set for 2017 and beyond. As Simon put it, there is a seasonality of change that impacts the nature of our work. Depending on the time of year indirectly affects work that is done and to what level of depth.
A highlight of Simon’s session was the ‘collective collisions’ which pitted attendees into groups of 3 to discus NPDL happenings and to investigate and outline some of the work needing to be done moving forward. To do this we used the clinic protocol, which was a great way to ensure that we stayed true to the time given and allowed those in the group time to speak and be heard but also to simply sit and listen. The feedback that I was able to receive from those in my group certainly gave me a greater insight of the work I am needing to do and for that I am thankful.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, it is always wonderful to hear Michael Fullan share his insights regarding educational change and the educational leadership component that sits alongside it. A lot of what was discussed revolved around Michael’s latest book, Coherence, and what is coherence is and is not and how this affects change in our organisations. If you have not seen or read this text it is well worth the effort.
Overall, several items that resonated with me that Michael spoke about were;
As educators and leaders we are stuck with the policies however we are not stuck with the mindset and therefore we have great opportunities to create chaos, good chaos!
That is the responsibility of all to re-culture education as we know it and the two main drivers to have in place to ensure that this happens is to built trust amongst peers and build peer collaboration.
As educational systems and improve, so do the people within them, these being people who have the capacity and knowledge however do not highlight thing amongst peers as they are frustrated with the state of the systemic practices.
That the moral purpose of an educational setting arises from the collaboration that is cultivated within it.
If you’re wanting to lead change, poorly, mandate the change you’re wanting. If you’re wanting that change to be (more) successful, be ‘irresistibly pushy’.
All schools and settings need people who are will to both challenge the status quo as no improvement was ever made from doing the same thing over and over.
Change requires people to be serious about the work being done.
That all humans are innately wired to do three things – connect, create, help.
Lastly, Michael also discussed a new term titled ‘Systemness’, meaning, to be a system player. Systemness revolves around the ideology that those within a successful system will inadvertently require that person to act as a collaborative contributor to which they will benefit from, but also willingly contribute too. I feel that in looking at how PLT’s within schools operate there is an expectation that learning is ‘done’ to and for people without always the realisation of those people knowing that there is an importance, as should be the case, for them to be teaching others through contributing their knowledge.
The discussions that stemmed from the above were quite in depth and challenged my own thinking which is what you’re wanting to get from days like yesterday.
From here the day moved to the concurrent workshops, for which I was one of seven presenters, presenting on Change Leadership (yes, I know, presenting on Change Leadership, on a day with Michael Fullan) – I’ll blog about this separately. The workshops were then followed a great 40 min presentation by Professor. Bill Lucas who structured his talk on the global trends in assessing the capabilities. One of the highlights from Prof. Lucas’ session were to hear his thoughts on the academic vocab used to drive the work educational settings are engaged in based on the work of the capabilities. Something else I would like to extend further on in another post. I have not read any of Prof. Bill Lucas’ work which actually surprised me however two of his titles, ‘Educating Ruby: What our children really need to learn‘, and ‘Expansive Education – Teaching learners for the real world‘ I will certainly be investigating further.
The day concluded with Michael Fullan and Simon Breakspear sharing their thoughts on where to next and by this stage I had developed a pretty watertight case for what I was needing/wanting to do moving forward in relation to NPDL. Time will tell as to how well I go with this! Michael Fulln was very adamant that thjose schools driving NPDL the world over, including now those in ontario and Finland, are heading towards innovation in education which we have not yet seen. To quote him directly it was, “innovation that will blow your socks off!”. Cannot argue with that!
So there you have it. Another long winded post in a stock standard reflective nature however it was the post that had to be written in order for me to get back on to the blogging wagon, and hopefully now, write more with greater purpose and intent and clarity!
I have been thinking a lot lately about how schools are deemed to be successful and or seen to be excelling at what they do. What is it that defines a school for it to be successful? Is there a difference between success, expectations or excellence? Should we be differentiating what is expected from some schools as opposed to what we expect from others? Is excellence in teacher practice and what occurs in the classroom what matters most or is the emphasis placed to heavily on outcomes and data, something of which is a little cliché in educational thinking?
In saying the above there are several items or measures of success that spring immediately to mind. These being the Victorian Department of Education’s ‘Effective School’s Model’, the recently released FISO Model (Framework for Improved Student Outcomes), also by the Vic DET and one that I can across last year titled ‘An Effective School Improvement Framework: Using the National School Improvement Tool’. A model developed by ACER. These models can be seen below.
Regardless of which model a school “follows”, will it be effective and or successful if they have implemented and ticked all items depicted? Are there educational settings that have done this? And are they successful? Is their data outstanding? More to the point, are their students happy, engaged and collaborative learners?
I have been a member now of the Educational Leader / School Principal Team Club now for 20 weeks and within those 20 weeks it’s fair to say that there have been quite a few challenging yet also equally as many rewarding events that sit parallel.
Within the past 20 weeks I have been fortunate enough to have witnessed and been directly involved in several outstanding examples of what I believe success in a school should, if not, be expected to, look like.
As a school leader I am certainly under no illusions that teaching and working within an education setting can be a difficult gig and for some of us in certain settings, it can be a whole lot more difficult than for others.
Success for myself personally and more so for my staff and my campus in particular has come in many shapes and sizes throughout the first semester of 2016. I am certainly ‘chuffed’ due to the fact that I have witnessed first hand the impact that specific changes and adaptations to practice and culture have had in and on the larger collective. That being all school community members.
Putting the massive emphasis on data aside (and data can be a great thing!), I thought I would share what I feel have been extremely positive shifts towards my campus perusing that ‘successful’ tag. Implementing the things that change a culture, change thinking, and drive continual improvement.
Responding to Change
Change is never easy. It’s not meant to be, it’s change! People by their very nature are largely creatures of comfort and routine and once a cat is thrown amongst the pigeons, well, a propensity for chaos often ensues.
I would not say that there has been change/s taking place on gigantic scales, however what has transpired on Campus has been well received with driving support from staff, with, some slight hesitation, but you’re going to get that.
Michael Fullan talks about all implementation of new change going through a “dip”. In short, things getting worse before they get better. What transpires from here is that desired performance level is reached and said change is in play. Not overnight, but it does happen.
As a school leader this is exciting. To see staff willingly changing practice and having the growth mindset to embrace and or, reluctantly attempt, new initiatives is very encouraging.
Raising the Bar
I have been surprised, more so in awe, of the willingness of staff to be pushed and push each other. To keep having the expectations placed upon them raised for the benefit of our students and wider community.
It is inspiring and although it is easy for me to hold that bias, I believe it is inspiring none the less. There has been a continued growth in the notion of ‘paying it forward’, staff identifying and using each other’s skills and capacity to improve the practice of all as a collective. I liken this to Derek Sivers’ (of ‘The Lone Nut’ fame) video “Obvious To You, Amazing To Others”. A reminder that sometimes what is obvious to us is amazing to others, and in identifying that we can all learn from each other.
I believe that it is important for a professional setting of any description to continually be challenged and challenge those within. If there is no growth then there is stagnation and compliancy. Two things that are evil for any organization, and in particular a school.
The quote and image attributed to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, also applies to education as well. Having a mindset that is not willing to grow and be challenged is a dangerous thing. And more importantly, it shows, personally, a lack of duty of care to the kids in our settings.
The adjustments that staff are making towards ensuring that they are catering for al l of our learners is outstanding. The capacity that is being built by staff to identify behaviors in learning to ensure students are being catered for is truly remarkable.
The use of the Positive Partnership’s Planning Matrix, albeit develop for students who fall on the ASD spectrum, has been a great tool and welcome addition to better cater for our students and their needs, whether they be social, academic or well being based.
This work is largely what has driven the prior to areas I have mentioned above. This work has been a change for staff to undertake and engage in as well as something that has pushed and challenged.
The conversations amongst staff that have led to adjustments and improvements in teaching and learning practices being made has been visibly evident in making positive differences. Something that cannot be argued against in contributing towards a successful teaching and learning environment.
Isn’t it great when all are on the same page. That the collective understand and acknowledge the work that is being done but more so the reason/s for that work needing to be done. Going further again the power lies in seeing the benefits that arise from the work giving those in the organization a concrete belief that they are making a real difference.
The old saying of “it takes a village” really does resonate. Because it does. When there is a greater collective responsibility in educating our students greater progress and growth can be made. Students in an educational setting do not / should not belong to one teacher or another, they belong to all.
When a change process is undertaken, when challenges are laid before staff, when things get difficult, the ideation of collective responsibility makes the work being done more purpose, easier, and clear.
There you have it. Four key areas I feel are imperative for a school to be effective and or successful in meetings its needs, targets and certainly overcoming its challenges.
The last thing I’ll leave with that I have been constantly pondering, just due to the fact that it intrigues me, is Dreyfus’ Model for Skill Acquisition, but more so the idea of those teachers sitting within the Expert (Virtuoso) level who can demonstrate “Enormous breadth and depth of knowledge and acts appropriately without thought or conscious choice of actions.” This meaning, teachers being unconsciously competent. This is terminology is taken from theory of conscious competence, a theory attributed largely to Maslow.
This is the point when, someone, i.e. a teacher, is demonstrating the necessary skills effortlessly without making conscious effort. That they come naturally. That these skills are taught to others so to that they become, over time, unconsciously competent. We all do this day in day out with some skill we have acquired over time. Much like the way in which Patrick Dangerfield for the Geelong Cats bursts through packs to break the lines and get the ball forward.
It is the development and capacity building in teachers to develop the acquired skills that make the biggest differences to students and their learning that is what we need to focus on. And again, by ensuring we are striving towards being effective and adapting the four points I made earlier that we can look towards achieving this.
Well, after a ridiculously long blogging hiatus, I am back. Getting my head back into this “blogging” caper has been plaguing me for quite a while and although I am not one to be making excuses, because put simply, that’s a cop-out, the fact of the matter is that stepping up into an Assistant Principal role in 2016 has really not afforded me the time to dedicate to writing in this space. That sounded awfully like a cop-out, I know!
Now in saying that we’ll get on with it and move forward to the crux of this post, Rollercoasters. Perhaps not rollercoasters themselves but more so however the highs and lows, the anxiety and thrills, the happiness and sheer terror that they can bring. All very much like what I have experienced in my first term as an Assistant Principal.
The decision to move from the teaching realm and in to the higher echelons of educational leadership was always something that I wanted to do. It was always just a matter of timing and when my current position became vacant I felt that it was not just the right time but also the right opportunity.
I can say that without a doubt I have learnt more about educational leadership in the last 11 weeks than I have in the last few years combined. It has reminded me a lot of university in the way that it prepares you for the real to be done after university. You can read and read and read about what educational leadership looks like and all of the wonderful things you’ll be able to do however, it is not until you are in that role and walking the walk that you very quickly learn that what you perhaps read and read and read was not all that helpful to begin with. What I mean by that is that theory is great, however it’s the hands on experience where the real learning occurs.
Now something that I have not been great at recently, aka forever, is my ability to reflect on the impact I have had either in regards to my teaching practice and or the educational leadership roles I’ve been in. That has certainly changed over the course of the year and what I have outlined below are the leadership lessons that I have learnt in my short (assistant) principal career. These are and have been standout lessons and takeaways, especially in line with the work that I have engaged in as part of the ‘Bastow Unlocking Potential: Principal Preparation Program’ and, upon further reflection, areas that I’ll continue to focus upon and make priority.
Time is Your Friend: As a newly appointed Assistant Principal, the chances are, all eyes are on you. The focus placed upon all of your actions, your comments, and your behaviors can be heavily scrutinized and to lead staff through any form of change process, you first must build the rapport with others that will support the work moving forward. And, this takes time. As a new leader there is no need to rush in and make immediate impact. As a leader, your efficacy towards building and sustaining positive change is partly measured by your confidence, and to develop this with new staff takes time.
Know Thy People: Peer to peer professional collaboration is not always easy to facilitate and encourage. Teachers often display acts of wizardry in front of students however are reluctant to share professional practice with one another in the spirit of professionalism. Because of this, it is important to know your staff and their personality traits and individual learning styles. Some are happy to take the stage, others are comfortable at talking underwater, some also however are not confident in engaging within professional conversations at all. Having an understanding of your staff, their differences and knowing level of competence they are at means that different approaches are needed to successfully move forward.
Mind. Set. Match: In any form of professional learning, it is imperative that those you are charged with working alongside to drive school improvement attack it via having a growth mindset. This is the notion that a person’s intelligence in any given area can be developed. The influence that school leaders have in inspiring staff to embrace challenges, overcome obstacles, learn from feedback, feed on the success of others and drive their own learning should never be underestimated. Professional dialogue from a principal to their staff to encourage this mindset needs to occur for effective change to take place and there is no better way to do this than to model it yourself.
Know The Work: It is vital that one knows and understands the work that needs to be done. Sounds fairly obvious right? I once heard a well-known educational leader say that data does not tell a school’s story. I disagree. What stories does the data at your school tell you? Where does the focus need to be? What staff need their capacity developed? And more specifically, in what areas of their practice? In identifying the work needing to be done, focus on the solution, and not why those things need improving in the first place. Embed a common and consistent language around positive and growth mindset to help drive the work that needs to be done.
Back Your Judgment: It can be easy to second-guess yourself. Your judgments, thoughts, ideas, conversations etc. can quickly move from being the greatest ideas and thoughts you have had to potentially becoming items that, all of a sudden, you are not so sure about. You are in the position of leadership that you are in because a panel deemed you to be the best person for that role. Back their judgment and most importantly your own. Trust in self is vital to being a successful leader.
Support. Vs. Delegate Vs. Empower: There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know”. No one will think less of you if you do not have all of the answers and you’d be mad for thinking that anyone would. As an extension to this, and what is even better than OK to say is “I don’t know, but together I am sure we can work it out”. There is a vast difference between supporting your staff and doing it for them, delegating work to them, and building capacity within to empower them to drive the work needing to be done.
So what do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and thanks for reading!
Over the past 4 weeks as part of the Bastow UP (Unlocking Potential) Principal Preparation Course, I have had the absolute pleasure in ‘shadowing’ a local primary school principal.
Before I go on I will take this opportunity to thank that principal, their amazing staff, and the wider school community for allowing me into their community and making me feel so welcome. The staff especially went out of their way to engage with me and make feel part of the ‘crew’ which made my time in the school so much more enjoyable. All 330-ish students were also exceptionally friendly, courteous and welcoming and this also played a large part in making my time there very rewarding.
The experience as whole was an exceptional one to say the least. Prior to beginning I was not sure what to expect from a ‘shadowing’ point of view and I am fine with saying that I did feel anxious prior to arriving on the first day.
In relation to the aims of this experience from my courses point of view, the internship component was all about gaining experience ‘in the field’, improving leadership knowledge and to learn from an expert practitioner. Those boxes were well and truly ticked.
Now rather than give an indepth insight into what it was I actually did day in day out for the better part of 20 days, I have shared below my ‘BIG 4’ takeaways below. I have more… however I am feeling this post will be long enough with just the four!
These are items which I noted to be invaluable in what it takes towards becoming an expert Principal practitioner, very much like the one I was able to spend time with and learn from.
So here we go…
Invest in your Staff.
In a lot of, if not all of, the educational leadership professional learning that I have been actively engaged in this year, a heavy focus has been placed upon the need and importance of building the capacity of your staff, and in particular, your middle leaders.
These discussions have also been heavily based on what effective and high quality professional learning actually looks like. We know that it is the teacher that makes the biggest difference in relation to student learning outcomes and when we look at the effect size that Teacher Professional Learning has on student learning, based on John Hattie’s Visible Learning synthesis, we see an effect size of 0.63 which is quite high. So it’s obvious that time, money and resourcing for effective PL is not a wasted exercise.
This was clearly evident at my host school.
The focus that was placed on quality and purposeful professional learning amongst teachers and leadership was very high. The resulting evidence of this, via what I witnessed in my short time, was a cohort of highly qualified cohesive teachers all with a shared vision towards improving student learing.
Conversations are Powerful Things.
I can not count the amount of purposeful and rich conversations that I had been directly engaged in and been privy to listening in on. Professional Learning Conversations drive a lot of the action that takes place within an educational setting and as Earl and Timperly (2008) state,
“School leaders are faced with the daunting task of anticipating the future and making conscious adaptations to their practices, in order to keep up and be responsive to an ever-changing environment. To succeed in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, it is vital that schools grow, develop, adapt and take charge of change so that they can control their own futures.“
The above can only occur in a setting if that setting is willing and open to having the discussions needed to be had. I believe that powerful conversations also take place, and more so seamlessly and fluidly, when staff in a setting have relational trust and cohesiveness. That ability to be open and speak freely about professional practice and the changes that perhaps need to be made and or should be made are essential to an organization’s ability to change, improve and sustain practice.
One great example of this that I have recently picked up on is the notion of single-loop and double-loop learning. Some of which I feel that a vast majority of not only schools, but other organisations should think about. The graphic below highlights this very well.
The above in short comes down to expecting different results yet each time doing the same thing to achieve them. That is single loop learning. In double loop learning, a revisit of the what and the why you are doing something often results in a different strategy being undertaken and hence, obtaining a different, and more so vastly improved result.
That was a little off track… but hopefully you can see my point. That professional learning conversations encourage others and self to think differently about improvement. It also forces paradigms to be questioned, discussed, and changed.
Building Your PLN is Vital.
Networking and building a PLN (professional learning network) within education is a highly undervalued thing. If it was not there would be a greater emphasis placed on encouraging teachers and leaders to be involved in this space. The development of my PLN has been vital in me becoming the educator and leader that I am today.
To have a core group of like minded, highly professional, and just downright amazing people to lean on and talk ‘shop’ with has made a world of difference in my career. I had witnessed quite a bit of this over the past few weeks and did not have the knowledge regarding just collegiate school leaders were, and are.
Having attended the Geelong Principal’s Study Tour last Thursday and Friday (that’ll be the next post!) was a real eye opener as again, the collegiality that shone through was amazing. The conversations that ranged from formal, informal, assistive, advice driven, advice sharing, professional and most of all supportive was great and to be part of that was amazing.
Within my Bastow Course there has been discussion around the ‘need’ to have a support base. A strong PLN that meet regularly and support one another is crucial to each other’s success and wellbeing. Again, to have seen this in action with highly professional school leaders who were also just as easy going, friendly and welcoming was terrific.
It has been noted the highest performing schools in the UK, the schools that have a culture of high performance, are the ones who also collaborate, share and engage the most with others. There needs to be a relentless emphasis on the highest quality of professional learning and discussion as possible, with collegiate collaboration the focus that underpins that. Something that i’ll definitely be wanting to push and encourage moving forward in my career.
Wanted: A Shared Commitment to a Shared Vision.
There are a lot of schools and organisations that that have a vision and or a mission statement. There are ALSO a lot of schools and organisations that that have a vision and or a mission statement that is simply tokenistic and not made a focus or priority for that setting.
For a school in particular to be one which that breeds high performance, meaning high quality teaching and learning, a shared vision that is agreed upon and consistently referred back to as the key driving force, provides that directional compass for that setting and the people within.
A shared vision and a shared commitment to that vision I believe is the starting point towards the building and adoption of a culture that fosters trust and builds capacity towards continuous school improvement.
Schools as we know can have a hell of a lot on the go at any one given point in time. If all of this work is not aligned, is seen to be additional work that is simply included on top of current initiatives and workloads, it will be shunned more often than not by those within the organisation. A powerful vision underpins this work. It ties back the work being done in the school setting and helps keep the focus on what has been deemed to be the ‘work’. A vision will/should drive the processes and systems for that continuous school wide improvement. If the vision once developed has not been clearly communicated and passionately articulated then the likelihood of that vision driving a school’s work as the starting point will most likely fail. So my learning here has been, “Have a vision that is shared, and drive others to commit to that vision.”
And there we have it. 4 leadership lessons learnt, or reaffirmed and witnessed in action first hand, that i’ll hold close to me and use a basis for my own future development and progression as a school leader. 🙂
If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that I have been a very busy man over the last 2 months and unfortunately/fortunately for a myriad of reasons.
In saying this, it is good to be back finally writing this as contributing to my blog a great release. It allows me to reflect, redirect and reaffirm the work that I have been doing.
I have more post ideas currently than you can poke a stick at and over the coming week/s I’ll be entering a blog posting frenzy. I hope.
The first cab off the rank is to share the recent happenings, and in essence, the finalization of my recently completed ‘Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership’ Course ‘Leading School Improvement’.
I will start by saying that prior to this year I had never attended anything at Bastow due to not having the time and it not overly aligning with my goals and work at that time. This year however has seen a complete flip and it has almost been my second home. I’ve been gobsmacked with the quality of courses and facilitators who drive the programs and workshops and all have been outstanding. Due to my recent Bastow attendance(s) my thinking towards education and educational leadership has shifted towards a more purposeful and driven approach regarding the work I do and how that impacts others.
Now regarding this course, I was brought in a tad late due to the others involved at my College having signed up last year and me only coming on board this year. This only resulted me missing the first day of the 5 day course so the impact was not overly worrying.
To ‘lead school improvement’ we were wanting to break away from the norm and attempt to tackle more than one issue at a time, which in hindsight was overly ambitious, but, I am confident in saying that I feel we pulled it off.
Our plan was to increase student learning outcomes, increase engagement, and through the use of a flipped classroom model / approach. We run a BYOD iPad Framework from years 3-8 and the take up is not as high as we would like it to be. Teachers also, as outstanding as they are, need/ed further support in how to better and more purposefully integrate the devices that students have access to. Our P-2 students have access via shared college owned devices.
And from the above, SWITCH was born!
The SWITCH Program involved four communities of learners within our P-8 campuses. Their amazing teachers were then charged with creating flipped videos to support and enhance their learning. We were wanting to extend the learning of the students just beyond the daily grind of 9:00 – 3:30. At the beginning there was meetings with teachers, pitches given to principals and information sessions ran for parents.
The nuts and bolts of the program resulted in a YouTube channel being created and all created videos being uploaded to that space. Currently, 6 months on, we have over 80 videos that have been viewed over 5,300+ times. A massive credit to those teachers who have crafted and shaped what they do to better engage learning to enhance learning. The YouTube channel is linked here.
Now I could go on about the intricacies of the program and what was achieved. That however is best suited to and read in the final report.
Throughout the 6 month journey that was embarked upon I certainly learnt a few core lessons about leading school improvement. Things that I am confident in that will help me to be a more focused leader in facilitating and leading change. I have listed below my “Top 10 Tips for Leading School Improvement” and would love a comment or two on your thoughts!
To drive change and improvement in a school a clear vision needs to be established, articulated, and referred back to constantly.
If you are not part of the ‘leadership’, you need to have the backing of the ‘leadership’.
Align the change and improvement you’re wanting to make to the current school/college plans and goals.
Research, research, research. Evidence to support and back what you’re doing goes a long way to assisting improvement to occur.
Pulling people into the change process, because they want to be part it, works a hell of a lot better than pushing them into it.
Recognise and celebrate the positives. And the people.
Note that people involved in the process of leading improvement, i.e. Teachers, are at different points in their learning also. Play to this and look to build capacity where you can.
Reflection during the change process, not just after it, is imperative.
Data is your friend. It reaffirms that the work that is being done is making a difference. And remember, focus on the growth that is made, not on the achievement.
Lead school improvement and change towards this because you want to, not because you have to or are told to. Passion and drive towards improvement trumps everything.
If you would like to read our final report/book that we developed, click to access a PDF Version of the iBook that was created. I’d share the iBook however it’s over 1GB in size… 🙂
OK. It’s been a little over a week now and it’s time to have a sit back and proper think about my DLTV #DigiCon15 experience.
Usually after attending an event of some description, I try not to comment or reflect too heavily immediately after. I find that from the high and or low that is experienced that can often cloud your judgement of said event.
Usually also, i tend to write a massive ramble about my experience and turn a blog post into something resembling that of the ‘old testament.’
So in doing this a little differently I am going to throw up 5 actions that i’ll be implementing, embedding, adopting, integrating, forcing on to others…. 😉 etc, from the DLTV #DigiCon15 Conference. It is all good and proper to think back to what and who you heard, think about the key messages that perhaps resonated with you based on the inspiring stories, and presentations you witnessed, however how often do we go to a professional learning experience and do nothing afterwards? I know that I have been very guilty of that over the years. The steps of;
You become inspired.
You feel empowered.
You leave on a high.
You do nothing.
It’s not a great way to go about things. Especially not from a conference such as #DigiCon15 where the experience and expertise in attendance was as massive as what it was.
1. Ask More “Why” Questions.
Inspiration: Hamish Curry.
It’s simple. I plan to ask more ‘why’ questions. Correction, I will ask more ‘why’ questions. ‘Why’ is not asked enough in schools. Too often we simply conform to being told what we are doing with no great reasoning, or structure, behind it. by asking ‘why’ it challenges those to think more carefully about implementing new things. On the flip side, I will also be asking ‘why’ more in often in relation to what I am doing. Is what I do making a difference? Is the reasoning/thought process behind what I am doing justified? Will the outcomes outweigh the effort? And so on…
How often do we share our stories with our colleagues? Really. I work with people day in day our who have been in the education game now for god only knows how long and i’ve no idea of their experiences, knowledges in particular areas, schools worked in, challenges faced, challenges overcome, … Telling my story and what I have been through is for the most part this blog. This is where I reflect and share my educational/professional journey. It would be a safe bet to say that those who read it do not share an office with me or even go to the same school. Now that is fine, however, I believe that from what Celia discussed in her presentation that the power that can come from sharing your story is extremely powerful. To have something to reflect on that guides future decisions is very important and therefore if I can share my knowledge based on what I have done previously, then that I believe is a good thing.
Yes, we know it’s not about the tools. But hey… the tools certainly help and more certainly enable students and teachers to leverage traditional pedagogy and learning in ways that was perhaps not once a reality! Aaron’s presentation on #quickmakes was fantastic. The way in which digital means can be utilised to help teachers and students engage with technology was very powerful. Having staff and students engaging in #quickmakes enables you to really celebrate the small wins that are being had within your setting. My plan is to share and drive this notion of #quickmakes, #digimakes, etc… with my staff. To have them and their students engage in these for whatever reason (i’ll need to ask myself why…) will yield some great examples of leveraging digital technologies!
Anne’s keynote messages of take risks, challenge others, and be challenged was done so in an engaging and entertaining way, she is a comedian after all! In thinking about her messages, I found myself asking how often and I challenged, how often and in what ways do I challenge others, and more importantly, how often to I challenge myself? So out of this I will make sure that I am challenging others in ways that build their practice and capacity but also challenge myself in ways that would normally would not fall in my ‘zone of comfort!’. How this looks… time will tell.
Anthony’s presentation on ‘Disruptive Thinking in Education’ was great and one that I felt that a lot of school leaders and principals would do well listening too. The messages on reinventing, reinvigorating and rethinking our education system all lead to the ideation of disruptive innovation. An idea that should perhaps be common practice, or atleast I’d like to think so. What I absolutely love about this way of thinking is that it break the shackles or what is perceived as the norm. It asks educators and ed leaders to think beyond what they know and what they might be able to achieve. So from here on in i’ll be disrupting up a storm, challenging the status quo and trying to shift paradigms for the better.