A toothpick slowly scraping at the mortar between the bricks

When first organising my thoughts for the third prompt in the #edublogsclubs challenge – Leadership, I quickly jotted down some ideas I was toying with while waiting for my dad at a medical appointment.

notes on my iPhone

Reflecting back to my Masters in Educational Leadership, I was happy to recall quite a number of researchers, whose papers we were reading and writing about a decade ago. What did leadership mean in the years prior to my completing the masters 10 years ago?

There were a number of areas we explored including change, context, quality learning, leading authentic learning, but one area that stayed with me was that of authentic leadership.

Contemporary approaches to leadership are defined within the context of the authenticity of a leader. “Authentic leadership implies a genuine kind of leadership: a hopeful, open-ended, visionary and creative response to social circumstances, as opposed to more short-sighted, precedent-focussed and context-constrained practices typical of management” (Begley, 2003 p. 101).

My own reflections on leadership at the time were such that I have almost been catapulted back to 2006. Could these same thoughts still to be here in 2017?

In my own leadership at this school, I found it very difficult at first trying to get others to move with me, especially those who had been there a very long time. Sinclair’s (1998) comment that quotes a company CEO who says that the same old people sitting around talking equates to no change at all is reflective of the practices I found at this place. I have run up against such brick walls many times in my own leadership roles where this attitude is prevalent. I like to use the metaphor of a toothpick slowly scraping at the mortar between the bricks. It has taken a long time to get to this point already, where people acknowledge your passion for change, and begin to see it as non-threatening but as a means to improving the current practices in order to align ourselves with our ever changing environment in which our students are expected to survive.

It reminded me of this:

Twitter feed from Research Ed 2016

and sadly even this:

“instead of risking…” via https://marketoonist.com

To some degree, no I won’t colour it with ‘fancy’ talk – THIS IS the reason I moved out of full-time positions in schools. I became very frustrated and torn at what was happening and just how hard it was to break through that mortar with a toothpick. I left in search of a wrecking ball! Don’t gasp! I’m better now. I have my sights set on this tool called a mortar rake which speeds things up a little!

much more practical than a toothpick!

But seriously, my experience of leadership has been both positive and negative. I have worked with many wonderful leaders who gave me plenty of opportunities, who trusted me and let me shine and who I will never forget. Sadly, I have also worked with those who seemed threatened and unhappy no matter how hard we tried. Each experience assisted me in forming my own skills in leadership which I will continue to develop for the rest of my life. You see, I believe leadership is like learning – it never ends.

I often wonder whether there is such a thing as ‘born leaders’ and while I can name a few I think may be, I can’t help but think – really? They were born with leadership skills? Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and his associates found that it may indeed be in your genes!

But for me…I say…No… A leader ‘learns’ the skills… from other leaders, who in turn learned them from others and so it goes… .

Giancola and Hutchinson (2005) emphasise that the transformed leader’s primary focus is “to build a team of leaders who are going in the same direction based on the similar belief that a leader’s main focus is to serve and support the growth of others” (p. 74).

To be a leader

This is a little closer to what I think leadership may be… an opportunity to empower others, only it may also be fruitful if some are going in a different direction just so to add a bit of spice to the journey. I like to be challenged – but not to the point where I feel I cannot go on. I felt that sometimes throughout my career.

I moved on eventually but it did eat me up for a while.

I like what I do now.

For many years I imagined I could do more as a Deputy Principal and sometimes I even considered Principalship but I’m glad I came to my senses even though it did take 20 years! As an education consultant, I get to lead but more importantly, I get to serve and collaborate. I like that better. My passion and vision for better learning continue to spur me, to speak out, to help others, to serve, to learn, to collaborate. I don’t think I’ll ever give this up.

Thanks for reading 🙂

References (from my paper ‘Dimensions which shape contemporary approaches to leadership.’ (2006)

Begley, P.T. (2003). Authentic Leadership and Collaborative Process: Foundations of School Community. Leading & Managing, Vol. 9. No 2, pp. 100-105

Giancola, J. & Hutchinson, J. (2005). Elements of transformed leadership culture. In Transforming the culture of school leadership. (pp. 78-98). Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Sinclair, A. (1998). The traditional path: Heroic masculinity. In Doing leadership differently: Gender, power and sexuality in a changing business culture (pp. 37-53). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Take Outs: Day 2 Evidence-based teaching summit 2016

University of Bologna by Laurentius de Voltolina c.1350

University of Bologna by Laurentius de Voltolina c.1350

Take a close look at the medieval painting above what do you notice?

Has anything changed in classrooms today? Of course yes there are no devices, I’m speaking mostly about engagement – 24:1, only 6 paying any attention, the rest seem disengaged, with more than one having a little snooze.

Now how about this one?

Raphael, School of Athens, 1509-11

Raphael, School of Athens, 1509-11

Ron Canuel (CEA) opened Day 2 of proceedings giving us insights into the research done at CEA. He says that much of education has been hijacked by others and that it is indeed time we took it back. We certainly all know (I hope) that standarised tests do not lead to improvement in the educational outcomes of students, however, they do benefit real estate agents! According to Canuel – everyone wants to live in a catchment area of what is considered a ‘good’ school (and no I’m not elaborating).

Oh and the second painting above? Well, Ron mentioned something that really struck a chord with me, he said that education change should look like the Renaissance with a lot more emphasis on all subjects. School of Athens is how I imagine a classroom should be, collaboration, thinking, genius, excitement, movement, passion, reflection, ordered chaos —–> can you hear it?

26% & rising...kids who are not dealing with school recommended reading from Daffydd Wiesner-Ellix (CBD Strategic)

26% & rising…kids who are not dealing with school recommended reading from Daffydd Wiesner-Ellix (CBD Strategic)

My next take out is about teacher quality. There is no measure for an effective teacher (Gary Marks, ACU). A teacher who may be effective in one classroom may not be in a different one let alone in another school. So where is the teaching profession heading? Tania Aspland (AITSL) argued that we could easily devise a how-to manual becoming an expert teacher the same as one might consult a how-to manual on becoming an expert golfer or tennis player. The first chapter in this manual would, of course, be OBSERVATION and the STANDARDS provide us with something against which to measure our progress. So, where can we make the greatest impact in the context of our place and time (Neil Barker, DET) in schools? Can educators, as Susannah Emery (Curtin University) asks, be ‘quest givers’ given the strong attachment our current students have towards gaming? Perhaps the Teaching & Learning Toolkit presented by Tanya Vaughan might just assist us in making the greatest impact happen in our classrooms, where they belong.

The highlight of the summit for me was meeting and sitting next to David Mitchell, Adjunct Professor (College of Educational Studies and Leadership), University of Canterbury, NZ. He delivered the final keynote address. Of course, while chatting at the table over the two days, I did all the talking about my research before it dawned on me just who he was – for those who don’t know his research is in diverse needs of students and inclusion and if you follow my blog you would know that my PhD is in special needs!!!! I spent the night after the first day of the conference reading up on Dr. Mitchell and got my hands on an online copy of his book. I have since read a number of journal articles and will hold true to emailing him to discuss his research, ask questions and gain first-hand insights as I journey through my PhD.

Dr. Mitchell also commented on my note-taking so here I place the sketchnote I completed as he spoke…now I would have added so much more but I really enjoyed just listening. I think I’ve got enough for you to get the picture of just how much wisdom this man has offered me especially as I continue my PhD. I secretly hope too, that Dr. Mitchell might read this post one day and see it for himself for I was not confident to show him on the day.

Sketchnote -Dr. Mitchell's keynote

Sketchnote -Dr. Mitchell’s keynote


 

Question: Can Principals significantly influence learning in their schools? (Helal & Coelli, 2016)

Fact: 24% of ALL students and 40% of those who are disadvantaged are at risk of reading failure in Australian primary schools. The explicit teaching of literacy covering the BIG5 may assist (Kerry Hempenstall – Case Study presentation).


 

One more thing – Whilst Radmila Harding was a little apprehensive about being the very last speaker of the conference and wondered if there would be anyone left to hear her presentation I have to say it was engaging, and well I’m also going to say … FUN! There were hands-on activities and videos to make us laugh… and so it ended… happily. The take home message not only from Radmila’s presentation but I think from the whole conference:

Let’s work collaboratively to build a team that won’t fall down so all may benefit and grow in their experience and journey of learning and living.

And yes there were enough people left who enjoyed it right to the end.

End of Day 2

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 1 – EBT reflection

Eat in or take away? Day 1: Evidence Based Teaching Summit 2016

Last week I was invited to chair a panel discussion on policy and practice at the Informa summit on Evidence-Based Teaching and with that came the opportunity to attend two days of professional learning. I gained some wonderful insights and follow up for my own research, but I also came away with many more questions. You’ll see them filtered through the rest of the post.

Angela Carbone from Monash University opened proceedings delivering a keynote on the

What is student success?

What is student success?

resurgence of evidence-based teaching. She spoke of the need for evidence in order to ‘bust’ educational myths. To increase student success, we need valid, reliable, rigorous, accurate and timely evidence. But what is student success? What does it look like in the diverse classrooms of the 21st Century?

The second keynote was delivered by Dr. V. Darleen Opfer from the US. Teachers need to use a data driven approach in order to improve student learning but how do we support teachers to do this? Dr Opfer’s presentation was very practical and I could easily imagine her 5 recommendations working in our schools. She suggested:

  1. Making data an ongoing cycle using a variety of sources.
  2. Teaching students to examine their own data and set their own learning goals accordingly.
  3. Establishing a clear vision for the whole school.
  4. Providing the type of support that fosters a data-driven culture.
  5. Developing a data system that incorporates data from multiple sources.
Change doesn't kill you...

Change doesn’t kill you…the difficulty is not in developing new ideas but in escaping from old ones  (reflections from case study on literacy program by Jeff Symms).

In making data an ongoing process teachers will need to be taught how to collect and analyse the data. This may be facilitated through the appointment of a data facilitator, who is not just a number cruncher but one who can organise, explain and disseminate the data. Teachers can then interpret, develop hypotheses and modify instruction to suit -well if they had time… .Dr Opfer advised that teachers collect a variety of data including classroom performance (formative assessment) regularly and to look for patterns.  Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have time and thus it often takes a back seat when in fact data should be out on the field, playing and contributing to the learning and teaching in schools. Hence the need for a data-driven approach to be established as a whole school endeavour.  What could we do without in order to make time for targeted professional learning, access to data and to developing a whole school culture?

The conversation continued in Chris Ramsden‘s presentation. He challenged educators to make a

Create the climate

Create the climate

difference and thought teachers need ‘actionable’ data that is tangible and accessible. He introduced the notion of practice-based evidence instead of evidence-based practice. Ramsden discussed the general capabilities and questioned whether they are indeed visible in the learning and teaching in schools. In making a difference do we challenge our students to persevere, to grow and be hopeful of the future? Are we arming them with strategies, modeling empathy and humility and displaying a growth mindset? After all, we do need our students to figure things out for themselves and hence the need to encourage risk-taking and the skills to deal with failure.

David Zyngier (Monash University) was up next to discuss the evidence on the issue of class sizes. Of course, there are many arguments for and against smaller class sizes. I’m sure most teachers would support having fewer students in their classes but what we don’t seem to understand is that reducing class sizes requires a different teaching approach, jut as lengthening or shortening periods in secondary schools require a change in mindset. Dr. Peggy Kern from the University of Melbourne and Janis Coffey from PESA presented arguments in separate presentations for positive education. To create ‘better’ learners said Kern, through a focus on positive psychology, a ‘thrive not just survive’ mentality of holistic education needs to be adopted in schools. With one in four young people diagnosed with a mental disorder and one in four teachers in Victoria suffering stress-related illnesses, Coffey believes that schools can make a big difference in this area.

A lively panel discussion with Kevin Donnelly, Peter Goss and Justin Mullaly followed provoked by my opening remarks:

Are policy and practice truly that separate and what role does research play in the scenario? In evidence-based teaching –what is the evidence on which we base our teaching? Does the evidence that tends to prove or disprove something become the basis of belief or disbelief? And what of belief, which is essentially an opinion or conviction, what role does it play in schools?

Can our judgements as educators be credible? Might the empirical evidence we see, hear and think emphasise a more informed approach to evidence-based teaching? In fact, can it be that instead of evidence-based we perhaps adopt an evidence-informed teaching practice?

As Dylan Wiliam suggested in 2015 “…the simple truth is that, in education, everything works somewhere and nothing works everywhere.” So are we to continuously believe the headlines we read – homework is bad, feedback is good, funding is not making a difference in our schools, or will we ever be able to make and follow through on our beliefs based on evidence-informed judgements? Are we to continuously answer to policy driven practice? What changes need to happen to successfully marry policy, practice, theory and experience in education AND have it truly enhance this highly complex and multifaceted notion of effective pedagogy?

Again and again the importance of giving time to educators so they can collaborate, attend PD, collect and analyse data. Here the implementation gap between policy and practice appears. There is no one answer, yet I think we all agree that evidence of student progress is required to inform practice and influence what teachers do. Justin Matthys (Maths Pathways) uttered one of my favourite lines of the first day “What matters is growth along a continuum – not keeping up with the course.” I wish more teachers would take heed of this advice.

Know your staff...

Know your staff…

I have always maintained that to ‘learn’ your students is a most effective way to assist them in their own learning and to experience ‘success’. The same can also be said in this final message visualised here in a slide presented by Jeff Symms: Know your staff…

End of the first day.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 2 reflections here

What do you believe? A reflection on coaching.

To be authentic you need to act in a way that is consistent with what you believe – Jim Knight

In June, I spent two days at a conference run by Corwin featuring Jim Knight sharing his better conversations and instructional coaching expertise .

Knight discusses six beliefs of better conversations that address authenticity in the way we behave and act towards others when in conversation with them.

Perhaps you’ve heard them before but here’s my take on them in relation to coaching:

I see others as equal partners

We are all human beings together. I could easily go into a monologue about how we are made in the image of God and that our humanity is what sets us aside from other living things and how we are placed on this earth to make a difference but I won’t…

In a coaching conversation both parties are equal partners and share a common aim, that is, to make a change in order to move forward. Both learn from each other during that interaction and both should leave feeling that something has been achieved.

I believe people should have autonomy

Free will sets us aside from other living creatures – yes it’s that monologue creeping in again… Choice is a great motivator but with that come consequences and if we make the choices then we must also be ready to face what will come because of it. Good and bad.

I want to hear what others have to say

In order to hear what others have to say we must remain silent and be fully present.

To 'listen' is to be 'silent'

To ‘listen’ is to be ‘silent’

I don’t judge

This is a hard one. It tends to have negative connotations but actually it is about forming an opinion or coming to a conclusion -so why does that have to be negative? Why then can we not judge for the positive? I may make a judgement on which teachers seem to be making the greatest positive impact on students and choose to collaborate with them into becoming a better educator myself. I choose to learn from them, interact with them and develop my own learning. Essentially I am forming an opinion – I am judging in the positive.

Conversations should be back and forth

Absolutely! Otherwise it’s called a monologue. This is a difficult belief to argue especially after I’ve just said that to listen is to be silent. What this says to me is that while there is a time to be fully present and to listen intently to your coachees, it is just as crucial to reiterate what they have said to let them know that yes you have heard them but also to ensure you heard them correctly. In coaching we do not give solutions, rather, we challenge and allow our coachees to ‘think’.

Coaching isn’t about the coach, it’s about the coachee.

Conversations should be life-giving

The other day I assisted in facilitating a workshop for newly arrived international post-grad students. The session was all about small-talk, polite conversations about all things uncontroversial. Were they life giving? Perhaps. Certainly, they were entertaining to do with little effort on our part, although, I suspect that having to think quickly and transfer the conversation from their own language to English out loud was difficult for our students. It was in the end revitalising and we went away quite pleased with ourselves. It gave them confidence to trial the idea with others during the week – so in a way I have answered my question. Was the small-talk life-giving? I think it may have been.

In terms of coaching the conversations should be such that they allow the coachee to direct their own path. The coaching conversation should allow them to think out loud about where they would like to be and to strategically question them into clarifying their goal. The conversation should then steer towards setting actions that will enable them to reach that goal.

Our Coaching Model

As I type this reflection the newly trained coaches and coachees are trialling our model in a pilot program. It is a program that was developed through collaboration and feedback from staff at the College. We worked hard to alleviate the fears and negative responses to prior experiences with coaching. We wanted to ‘own’ the model and then work together to continuously reflect, plan, act, observe, and evaluate our journey.

Our Coaching Model

Our Coaching Model

As I begin to receive feedback, I am happy to report that things are beginning to take shape, and that coachees are realising the value in coaching conversations. It is great to hear that while there is much work to be done to get everyone on board, the first of our coachees are reaping the benefits already.

Coachee's feedback on pilot program

(a) Coachee’s feedback on pilot program

Coachee's feedback on pilot program

(b) Coachee’s feedback on pilot program

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

Family home grown learning: waffles, cricket, scattergories & long walks on the beach.

RyeFrieze

You know when three days go by so quickly

And you think, “Oh dear, where did the time go?”

You spent the whole time feeling happy and free and without stress

And when you think about it

You actually did so many different things that you felt empowered as a human being.

And you did it with nature and other human beings, not wifi! Of course there is a time and place for wifi but it doesn’t have to run your life all of the time.

Our long weekend consisted, amongst other things of

Family home grown learning: waffles, cricket, scattergories & long walks on the beach.

It was wonderful to see and hear our children, two families, five kids ranging in age from 10-22, play games, not of the electronic variety, but ‘real’ games where there was much interaction and conversation, and laughter and fun!

Yes, lots of fun, in fact at times they would not even bother to pack up the games at meal times, content to just keep playing as they chewed through their homemade pizza and sausages.

And when they weren’t playing ‘real’ games they were outside painting their nails, sitting and lying on towels in the backyard, talking and giggling their time away (even Master Ten was willing to have his nails done). And don’t think it was frivolous talk. In fact they were discussing novels they had read and comparing them to the corresponding films!

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Then came the cricket games, not your conventional type but just bowling and batting and fielding and catching, one would call it, the freelance variety, that took place anywhere and everywhere, where skill didn’t matter, it was all about the fun!

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Long walks to the beach and then along it up and down, feet wading in the ocean, or almost gliding across the water logged sand dodging the tide as it came chasing you, threatening to ruin your brand new nikes but secretly not really caring ’cause, “Hey, who cares when you’re having this much fun!”

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Then there was the making of rudimentary dams near the water’s edge, digging out the heavy wet sand with your cricket bat and watching the water roll on in and promptly glide away.

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Saturday morning began with a list of adventures. Not like climbing Mt Everest but just the casual list of things we wanted to do on a lazy day near the beach.

First we picked strawberries, laughing and discussing our finds, “Mum, mum, take a photo of this! I found the perfect strawberry!”

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Next on the list was the wine for our picnic lunch.

Yes, we actually stopped off at a winery, tasted the wines before choosing a lovely Juliet Pinot Noir to go with our luncheon.

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Third adventure: A-Mazing!

Personally, I don’t really like mazes but with the promise of a lolly I couldn’t disappoint Master Ten, so I tried the first one – but after that no more – they went ahead…and emerged triumphant!

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Me? I used the hedge gate and found myself in beautiful tranquil gardens.

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And then it was picnic time, mind you very late in the day by now. Couldn’t get it out fast enough.

We were starving!!

And what did they do after that? They played another ‘real’ game of course- this time it was cards!

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Sunday morning found us making waffles – well one person made them – we just ate them – with the strawberries we picked ourselves, ice-cream and real maple syrup!

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This was  followed by more long walks on the beach, cricket, and playing ‘real’ games!

What did we learn from this adventurous long weekend?

Personally I found it very satisfying to see our children, no matter what age conversing and collaborating, holding discussions that were more that just idle gossip. They didn’t spend their time posing for ‘selfies’ to post on social media sites. Instead they played together, they built ginger bread houses, they helped each other, they cleaned up their mess and they took time out to be silent and read. They didn’t complain about being bored, they just moved from one activity to another continually checking to see that all were okay with the decision.

We discussed books, travel, memories, experiences, and even their hopes and dreams for the future. I caught them collaborating when playing their games and guiding the youngest so he did not feel neglected. Every activity was inclusive and negotiated. They all had an opportunity to contribute and simultaneously feel empowered to make decisions and display leadership…seems odd but I tell you it was all there.

Young and old it didn’t really matter.

These are real life skills. This is how the real world works, developing relationships, collaborating, empowering, using our talents to make the world a better place for our being there.

AND

There was no wifi … AND … we didn’t miss it!

Sunday night…Now, where’s my laptop quick, #aussieED chat starting NOW.

Thanks for reading 🙂