22 December 2016

Measuring What Matters...

Term 2 last year had me pondering some of my thinking around measuring what matters. The recent exercise of pin pointing where our learners are currently at against the National Standards using an Overall Teacher Judgement has provoked a lot of discussion, debate and what I perceived, teachers own lack of confidence/trust in their ability to perform an OTJ.

Evidence = triangulation: observations, conversations, work samples. Assessment is often linked to more formal assessments such as running records, standardised tests and sweeping assessment tools.

Problem solving, critical thinking, social and emotional intelligence.

Timeliness of assessment is vital - what does this evidence tell us about our work as educators? What are we doing well? What could we improve on? How can we develop our teaching approaches to meet what the needs of the children are.

Misuse of evidence/ assessment comes from one off snapshots that do not always reflect the depth of thinking  going on in the process of learning. It should not be about achievement but the progress that children are making. High achievers do not necessarily make steady progress.

It is important to ensure that we are not locked into a process of gathering data for data's sake. Strategy/knowledge stages, scores and curriculum achievement levels do not give enough of a story about the learning.  Assessment needs to be ongoing and actively involving each learner. Assessment needs to be an integral part of the teaching and learning process.

"Teachers who use classroom assessments as part of the process of learning help ALL of their students do exactly what the most successful students have learned to do for themselves." - Thomas Guskey

16 September 2016

Urgent Vs Important

While ‘to do lists’ may still be a worthwhile activity, I have learnt recently that a better approach for me is not to think of it in terms of time management but to realise it is task management. 
I have begun asking myself the following questions: 
- Is this really a necessary task? 
- Do I work on the band aid fix rather than looking deeper at the cause of problems 
- Why do I put off some tasks that I know are important but may be perceived as time wasting? (or cause people to think I’m not busy) 
- Am I 'buffering' other people from their work because they have got themselves into trouble or cannot manage their own tasks? 
- Am I working on certain tasks because they are a passion and if I do, are they the right pipeline tasks?

Coveys “First Things First” habit is captured in his Time Management Matrix. Managing our task effectively means spending our time on things that are important and not just urgent. 

Defining this difference has helped me to focus the use of my time: 
- Important: activities which have outcomes that lead to the achievement of your goals 
- Urgent: activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals 

I have often found myself spending a lot of my time on the urgent activities because these are the “squeaky wheels that get the grease”. My attention is drawn to these because if I don’t deal with them immediately they could have significant negative consequences on myself, or worse - others. 

The Urgent/Important matrix helps me to think about when and how to prioritise certain tasks. It helps me to ignore my natural tendency to focus on urgent activities at the expense of what is actually important.

25 August 2016

This! What Should We Focus On? Have You Watched This?

What Skills are as important if not more so than knowledge for the 21st Century Mind in Action?
Technologies are forcing us to change for the world that is constantly changing so what do we need to do to meet the needs of our learners in our schools?
  • The hard, the soft, the metacognitive, the non-cognitive, the reflective skills...
  • Curiosity... we are immersed in information. What are we asking? Challenging? Creating from this information? Engage through curiosity. Let them be sponges!
  • Liberating human information - bring the perspectives and creative thoughts... (Gardiner)
  • Take the initiative.... Commit to your learning and get others on board. 
  • Make the mind public... collaborate... be open to change...
  • Empathy
  • Practise the empathy... develop deep connections!
  • The human economy... be human not a machine!

10 July 2016

Informative|Transformative Leadership

My latest read reminds me that there is definitely a powerful correlation between the purpose of leadership and the establishment of trust. To be totally transparent, leadership is about influencing others... this can happen at a surface or deep level...

The surface level stuff is referred to as informative leadership by Powell and Powell. It involves only surface influence and can be interpreted as manipulative and coercive. 

Transformative leadership (deep level) creates a theme of relational trust and opens the door to teacher self-directed learning.

I keep thinking back to the feedback received recently and wondering what I can do to "repair" trust when it is low.

I see this feedback as another opportunity. It is the opportunity to repair 'damaged trust' as it is referred to by Powell and Powell. Ben also suggests that this might be a case of misreading the criteria. Regardless, I will take it as an opportunity to repair some mistrust...

Typically, some of our staff believe that trust takes time. Others have committed to trust without question. Whatever our approach/ belief, there are times that we need to fix it... If I could have coffee with that #2, I would:
  • Apologise: authentically and sincerely
  • Accept responsibility: Assume responsibility without passing blame. 
  • Atone: make reparations that are directly linked to the situation
  • Amend: Move forward: don't repeat the actions and/ or behaviours
My aim as a leader is to extend trust before it is earned... I want to send out the message that we are a team and that as a team we grow in competence, professionalism and our collective values...

3 July 2016

What does Trust Taste Like?

The title of this post is attributed to the book I am currently reading by William Powell and Ochan Kusuma-Powell. A timely read at the end of a term that has been contemplating relationships, trust and assumptions... 

I am reading this "Teacher Self-Supervision" as a recommended text to help me evaluate where we are at with our teacher appraisal model. However, I have got stuck on the section that delves into "Trust"...  About 4 weeks ago (inadvertently, before things got busy) I asked a random selection of colleagues how much trust they had in me. The response included "unconditional trust" at the upper end. I included this in the measurement as I hoped to stretch people's thinking and understanding around trust. 
The responses supported me in my leadership role and I felt somewhat affirmed in my role as a trusted leader. The comments were especially helpful and gave me feedback to think about and next steps to act upon.  

Needless to say, the wee outlier caused initial wondering followed by genuine curiosity... I would like to have a coffee with that person as their perspective could help me no end. 

Typically, we do not normally address "trust" unless something has broken it. It is not something that is given a great deal of attention until it is lost... Powell and Powell suggest that the absence of trust, particularly over  and extended period of time can lead to "toxic organisational cultures". I have been trying to decide what this means for us as a new little school that is focussed on building our own culture...  

  • Is trust present enough for us as a staff? 
  • Will we spot any emerging toxicity? 
  • What are we doing as a collective to grow a trusting working environment?
Powell and Powell talk to the fact that schools easily establish themselves as an "habitual culture of praise" which is obviously nicer than a culture of criticism and negativity. Having said that, the authors point out that both a culture of praise and a culture of judgement.

It is often easier to see how criticism can contribute to a culture of mistrust but I now realise that this can also come from a culture that is dependant on praise. Both forms of feedback are evaluative and subsequently suggest some sort of hierarchical response. 

So, what does trust taste like? Trust is something we feel intuitively. Conversations can reflect trust especially when individuals disagree.... Their conversations are animated, reflective and cognitive. There are assertive words but no signs of aggression... People are prepared to be transparent and open with their thoughts, knowing that their colleagues are there to support/ challenge their growth. 

Powell and Powell refer to this kind of environment as "psychologically safe". My question (I'd love feedback on this one... ) Do each of us feel psychologically safe enough to venture out of our cognitive and emotional comfort zones on a daily basis?

My feedback survey elicited some interesting discussion around trust. Many of my colleagues felt that this was something you bring to the table and only when the trust is damaged or broken do you not trust. Others on my team felt that trust takes time... 

I was interested to read (Bryk and Schneider, 2002) that there are three types of social trust. These resonated with me because the discussions we have had around trust in our pockets could be classified into each of these "trust" criterion:
  1. Organic Trust: this trust does not come from prior experience. It is 'felt' rather than based on experience or reason. 
  2. Contractual Trust: the kind of trust you need in an 'expert' as in a builder or a plumber to get the job done that you can't. 
  3. Relational Trust: this trust recognises our dependence on each other. 
The latter can lead to a sense of vulnerability and feelings of anxiety... The trust really unfolds when we remain vulnerable but do not feel anxious. 

Trust at Shotover will grow from respect, personal regard, competence and integrity..

My 'to do' items for term 3 that I think directly relate to developing and maintaining 'trust' in our school include:
  • asking myself daily, how I can contribute towards building the culture of trust?
  • ensuring that 'trust' does not get lost in the 'busyness' of the school day. 

21 May 2016

We move into a big term where we are expecting people to raise their game in three key areas...
  1. Their professional development and teaching inquiry
  2. Communicating learning 
  3. Working through the complete cycle of concept. 
I am mindful that each one of these can be big so I think one of my key roles this term is to ensure that everyone's expectations are realistic, their workload is manageable and that the there is balance. 

14 April 2016

Evaluating My Emotional Intelligence

Total = 59
Score Interpretation

Self-Awareness: (Questions 1, 8, 11)
Your score is 13 out of 15
Self-Regulation: (Questions 2, 4, 7)
Your score is 11 out of 15
Motivation: (Questions 6, 10, 12)
Your score is 14 out of 15       
Empathy: (Questions 3, 13, 15)
Your score is 12 out of 15
Social Skills: (Questions 5, 9, 14)
Your score is 9 out of 15

This framework was developed by Daniel Goleman. I am not at all surprised where I came out on the framework. When I read the description below I think it gives a fairly accurate description of me and almost reflects my quadrants in the HBDI. The fact that "Social Skills" is my lowest area reinforces my goal on developing my communication skills in my leadership role.

I asked Joe, Muireann and Darran to grade me using the same tool. These scores came out in the mid sixties. I will need to talk further with them about this. 

The outline below of the framework and the test is from this site. 
  1. Self-Awareness – People with high EI are usually very self-aware . They understand their emotions, and because of this, they don't let their feelings rule them. They're confident – because they trust their intuition and don't let their emotions get out of control.
    They're also willing to take an honest look at themselves. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of EI.
  2. Self-Regulation – This is the ability to control emotions  and impulses. People who self-regulate typically don't allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don't make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity , and the ability to say no.
  3. Motivation – People with a high degree of EI are usually motivated . They're willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They're highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do.
  4. Empathy – This is perhaps the second-most important element of EI. Empathy  is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognising the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships listening , and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.
  5. Social Skills – It's usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills, another sign of high EI. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.

2 April 2016

Thinking About Effectivenes

This year, I am really thinking about my impact in our school. How effective am I as a leader? What does it actually mean to be effective in our school?

Covey suggests that it is a combination of performance and production combined with the culture, the  well-being of the collective. Individuals often drive hard for results but are often unable to sustain their performance which can ultimately impact on the well-being of the collective organisation. Alternatively, the culture and well-being of the group may well be outstanding but they fail to perform and produce what they intend to... They just simply have potential. They are not effective.

I've been re-reading about Covey's seven habits that lead to effectiveness and reflecting on my own effectiveness, or lack of it: 

Effective leaders operate in certain ways:

1. They are proactiveTherefore, what is my greatest influence and how can I work from this? This is something I am constantly seeking to develop.

2. They begin with the End in Mind:   For this to happen the beliefs and principles need to be cognitively portable. Conversations need to reflect these and practices that do not align need to be challenged. The why of what we do is the emerging culture at school.

3. They put first things first: What is urgent and what is important? Some days it is really hard to focus on leadership when it feels that there is much to manage... 

Effective leaders work with others in certain ways:

4. They think Win-Win: Only Covey says this well.... "Win/Win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way". It's a real balancing act for me...Empathy can be a strength but I am not anywhere near as brave or as confident as I would like to be.... yet. 

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: This habit is about communicating with others. I am developing the habit of listening carefully and really understanding the other person before I give my thoughts. 

6. Synergize: Two heads are better than one... we know that.  Covey directs our attention to the power of effective relationships. We can achieve so much more when we engage in effective relationships with others than if we acted alone. Out of diversity grows strength as opposed to conflict. 

Effective leaders continually self improve their influence both personally and interpersonally:

7. Sharpen the Saw: This is something that does not come naturally. I have never really had a good work/ life balance but it is something that I am really working on this year. I am walking, enjoying the outdoors, endeavouring to find time to read and watching my nutrition. Watch this work in progress... Ultimately, to get this right will help me to develop further in all of the above... 

Building a School

It's fair to say, it is not about the building that makes a difference in a new school but the actual metaphorical foundations. I am thankful now that our new school was not completed when opening and the fact that we won't be fully open until 2016 seems to have helped us realise that this takes time and that the foundations of our school will make (hopefully) for a solid institution with a team and community that share a vision.

Education is a human system not a mechanic one. It is about people. Teaching is a creative profession - they mentor, provoke, model, suggest. There is a need to talk about learning. Assessment needs to support learning not direct learning. Curiosity is the engine of learning. It is what drives the learning. In any system, culture is key to the success of any school. We are not about command and control but climate control. Hence our school vision "creating a climate of possibility"; used with permission from Sir Ken himself. We can not think this is anything other than organic.

Out of our vision have come our learning beliefs:
  • Curiosity
  • Thinking
  • Growth Mindset
  • Joy
  • Collaboration
Under the vision beliefs and capacities, are all of our essence statements. All of which help us to plan relevant programmes for learning.

Dr. Julia Atkin: Expressing the essence of the NZ Curriculum from EDtalks on Vimeo.

25 March 2016

Communication and Leadership

I am mindful of how well I am communicating daily as this is an area that is a continual focus for me.  There are areas of communication that I know I am improving in but there is much to be done here. 

I was asked to watch and respond to this video this week. The key questions were "what has gone wrong with regards to communication? How could it have been avoided. 

Personally, I think here that all parties communicating have failed to establish any form of relationship prior to communication. Assumptions have been made by both parties. I think the lighthouse needed to identify itself immediately and perhaps a common language could have been decided upon... it seems that there is a real sense of self importance by both parties. 

Mark Reding pointed out to me last year, that we talk in words but hear in pictures... By this he meant that all of our conversations are influenced by our past experiences and what we bring to the conversation... I have found this is something to be mindful of on a daily basis.
I think this article shared via Twitter last week, is quite timely for me and fits nicely with this discussion.
I also read Ramsay's article about the 20 biggest communication mistakes we can make as leaders. I think that my biggest take-away is that this article reinforces how important effective communication is. I have to confess here that in a former life, I was actually a bit of a jargon junkie. I have absolutely flown with terms such as "ubiquitous", "agency", "connected"' and "ILE". (The list is endless.) Fortunately, I have been challenged to drop the jargon. The reality was that with a team of teachers starting out fresh from a range of backgrounds and diverse schools, we didn't even totally understand what each other was saying!!! I am working really hard at the KISS approach. I do have to admit here... dropping the jargon has added to my communication woes. Ensuring that we are all talking about the same thing was so much easier with jargon... (or, so I thought).
No. 6 really got me thinking about the place of large group gatherings. Ramsay states that there is a difference between teaching and preaching. He also says that "kids tune out, pontificating". This quote supports my wonderings about the level of full attention achieved in such large groups.

So where to from here?

  1. Seek coaching and feedback from my peers
  2. Focus on bigger picture communication: how can I ensure that I am opening communication channels up to the staff and the community.
  3. Some of our families obviously need ongoing education re our vision and values: what might this look like?
  4. Drop the jargon... build it collectively with the community. (Shotoverise our dialogue
  5. Start challenging as appropriate the start and end of days... 

18 March 2016

At the End of the Day, If I've Done This then I'm Doing My Job!

At the end of each day, if I've done this then I'm doing my job!

Schools can be a very busy place and days can become quickly filled with the unexpected. We can sometimes find ourselves leaving at the end of the day with the job list only longer and a sense that we have not achieved what we set out to achieve. 

The one sentence job description has become a bit of a game changer for me. It is the tool I use as I walk out to the carpark to check that I have in fact done my job that day. It should be what I have achieved in a nut shell each day. 

It works for me because if you ask me what I do each day, I can answer straight away and quite concisely. It is cognitively portable and because I share it with the people I am working with, it has become expected of me. 

The OSJD helps me to be clear about what I am trying to achieve hour by hour, day by day even when it the unexpected is happening around me.  

I know what I am doing, why I am doing it and how I can contribute. Knowing this helps me to stay right on track and not lose what is important. 

8 March 2016

Learning to Lead #2

'It takes guts to do what a leader does, to make decisions and lead with values. 

So what values drive me to become comfortable with the uncomfortable? ...to raise the heat on myself and others?'

At the heart of what I do each day is "well-being". This includes ensuring that the  whole team's well-being is being looked after and that we are collectively providing a culture of well-being in the school. By this I mean that everyone needs to feel safe, respected, supported and that we have developed an environment focussed on learning that is supported by everyone's preparedness to become risk taking learners. 

This is the culture that underpins school interactions and helps the staff, the children and their whanau to feel valued, safe and able to achieve.

Interactions (interventions, strategies, activities, relationships, planning and practices) need to be underpinned by the school’s culture and values. All staff need to be committed to the well-being of everyone on our site and visitors to the school should see our values in action within both the learning and social contexts.

Positive relationships and school values are evident in the school’s:
- curriculum and operations
- leadership, resourcing and decision making - curriculum priorities and delivery
- pastoral care processes and systems
- interpersonal relationships and celebrations - professional learning programmes.
Leaders as Role Modellers
Leaders are role models in their commitment to well-being and establish clear goals and expectations that ensure supportive environments for students. Mentors are well supported by the Senior Leadership Team and Team leaders in their social skill development work with children.
Partnerships are key

Leaders and mentors work in partnership with each other, the children, parents, whanau, community and external agencies to promote student well-being. Students contribute to the review of school tone and well-being. Mentors collaborate to enhance student and staff wellbeing, through seeking and sharing knowledge of what works for all individuals.

1 March 2016

Learning to Lead

Fred Koffman suggests that leaders are not respected for their success but instead for their "behaviours" in other words the walk they walk. 

This week, I had a go at defining what I value as a leader. I realised that most of these were actually behaviours. Some that I think I do reasonably well and some that are not "cognitively portable"... yet.  There's a bit of a theme emerging for me. The leadership capability survey reminded me that I need to be continually aware of my responses and energy particularly when under a bit of pressure.
And then thinking about which behaviours I walk the talk with and which ones I don't gives me a clear picture of what I need to be mindful of. I am beginning to identify behaviours that may in fact put my credibility as a leader at risk. I won't unpack or give explanations as to why I am not available, inspiring, calm or structured here. I am simply learning to lead and the reality of life, family and new school stuff have meant that I have dropped a ball or two... 

This is very much a work in progress as I read, ponder and make connections to the variety of models in this module, and my own experiences.  More time unpacking and defining my values and "Shotoverising" the behaviours that accompany these will help me learn to lead effectively and grow others' capacities. 

26 February 2016

Current and Desired Reality

My current reality is pretty much where I hoped it would be when I sat down to this task just over 12 months ago. We are a team that takes turns at leading and looking out for each other. We let others know when we are in the 'pit' and how we can be supported to work our way out of it. 

The current reality does not need to be a bad place just a point of time to be aware of which will help me move forward and improve what I do day to day as a leader in our school. 

The aspects of my current reality that I am not so fond of are the systems that need to be worked through (hence the blue clipboard and the green list) and my role in ICT/ eLearning at the moment. The latter is something I am absolutely passionate about, however my pedagogical beliefs about the place of devices and their impact on learning are instead consumed by contract agreements, technical issues and setting up of new devices.

The increase of devices is being warmly welcomed and used to their potential but I feel a real need to slow everybody down and ensure that collectively we are on the same page. It is the beliefs that need to have time spent on them. We have one approach to this landing and it is always easier to take the lid off than put it back on.... 

A detailed description of my realities can be described as this:

In the left, top and right borders are sentences that reinforce our vision and values. These need to be visible in our culture and evident in our day to day practice. In the bottom border is what was my one sentence job description from 2015. This formed my daily measure as a leader... if I got nothing else done in a day, had I " built capacity, provoked thinking and maximised potential"? To have all of these phrases cognitively portable helps me to walk the talk each day. 
Current Reality:
At the core of everything we have done over the past year has been the development of a collective construction and understanding of our beliefs and principles. We have constructed BPPs for everything including systems, the physical environment, relationships and philosophical. The sun in my image is rising because the practices you see at our school are clearly reflecting our shared beliefs and principles.
The mountain climbers symbolise the teams that in and the fact that different people will be seen taking the lead. We are okay letting others know when we are in the 'pit' and will seek support/ support each other at different times. The lone climber looking lost and confused represents the nine new staff that have joined us this year. We need to keep an eye out for them and ensure they are not 'left behind'.It is really important that they are supported by the foundation team so that they 'own' some of the work that has already been done. 
The blue clipboard and the green list illustrate the fact that I find myself 'managing' more than I would like to. I often feel consumed by resourcing and the set up stage. As for the iPad and computer... frustration that I have has to negotiate to actually get the ICT agreements that we signed last year, actioned and functioning. In the meantime, this has taken my time away from supporting teachers to introduce the BYOD programme and use of the Google domain.
That's the juggle of management vs leading and I hope that gets easier as we move into our second cycle.
The Desired Reality
This year I want to take time to really reflect on my leadership and develop an understanding of others' perceptions about my leadership. The binoculars represent the fact that I want to be able to see the big picture and also be forward thinking as a leader. I also want to be able to 'zoom in' so that I have a good awareness of the individuals in the team, their performance and their well-being. 
The kind of leader I want to be is one that helps to grow and support a culture that is successful, determined and has a collective vision. I want the vision to be obvious to those who visit our school no matter who they talk to... The images in the binoculars reflect what this will look like...
  1. The chain of people represents a united and engaged team.
  2. The hats on their heads illustrate the structure and clarity in our organisation. This includes roles and responsibilities and the fact that we will all have a turn at leading.
  3. The map indicates the direction we are heading.
  4. Green and blue people show the trust that we need to have each other reciprocally, the accountability we have to the rest of our team.
  5. The green line shows that we are on an upward trajectory overall but that this will not always be linear. The dips in the line are there to remind me of the need for me to be able to inspire and energise in order to maintain that upward trajectory. 
  6. The red and blue people show the need for on-going dialogue, transparency, timely/ authentic feedback that develops and empowers. 
The 3 Great Steps:
These are the 'indicators' or the steps I need to maintain to become the leader I want to be and are based on my "action plan":
  1. To improve my leadership, I need to journal the journey and reflect on my successes, failures and challenges.
  2. I need to regularly seek feedback and perspective about my leadership (, reflect on it, journal it and determine actions).
  3. Celebrate successes and grow capacity in others by way of a robust, authentic appraisal system which emphasises improving not proving.

22 February 2016

Thinking about Thinking

How we think is the essence of learning. The school's graphic for our "Thinking" value has four cogs because thinking is 

  1. creative, 
  2. critical, 
  3. reflective and 
  4. metacognitive. 

To develop a thinking culture it is important that thinking is 

  • on-going, visible and audible in our learning spaces. We model this as adults in our well established culture of asking the 'why'.
  • the culture allows for transparency which allows for reflective thinking that is open and honest. 
  • the process of learning is a focus for each of our learners which leads to increased self awareness. 

How do we model thinking especially metacognition? Metacognition monitors, evaluates, and regulates our thinking.  It is important that children learn that they can analyse their thinking techniques they are using. Do they know that they can the strategies being used suit the learner? I wonder if this is key to developing "agency" and truly "self-regulating" learners? 

Modelling metacognition out loud can also help children to understand how to monitor the clarity and accuracy of their knowledge and thinking. Modelling is key and takes time out of the learning experiences. 

The way we learn information is determined by the processes that we put in place if you are analysing our thought process helps us to achieve a higher level of mastery. 

Teaching information/ learning to others helps reinforce and consolidate learning. This reinforces the concept of Tuakana/ Teina. 

I believe that there is a need to slow down the learning experiences to help children to use metacognition. This naturally leads itself into 'reflection' and paves the way for children to set their learning goals and to monitor their own progress towards meeting those goals. 

As we begin down the path of "Communicating Learning", I believe we need to ensure that we are giving thinking the time and coaching that it requires to help us develop our culture of learning. This takes time and we need to ensure that all stakeholders know and value the time that is needed to talk about learning.