Nonno, where’s Nonna?

This week’s #EdublogsClub Prompt 35 asks us to respond to the below image in a 100 word challenge.

Image: www.theedublogger.com

“Nonno, where’s Nonna gone?”

“Ah Marco, I tell you before; she go to visit your other Nonna.”

“Nonno, when is she coming back?”

“Ah Marco, she take her time. It’s a lovely place where the other Nonna is.”

“Nonno, what’s the other Nonna’s place like?”

“Ah Marco, it’s a colourful place, people very happy there – they like to stay for long, long, time there.”

“Nonno, can we go too?”

“Ah Marco, one day, one day we go too, don’t worry. There will be a beautiful colourful place.”

“Nonno, I miss Nonna.”

“Ah Marco, me too, me too, miss her.”

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

Take yourself on a journey to professional learning

 

In Victoria, teachers are required to complete 20 hours of professional development (PD) every year. Though not specified, some of that time must be given over specifically to engaging in PD to do with special needs. The PD must also be linked to the three domains of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST): Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement.

teacher as learner

#Edublogsclub Prompt 25 asks us to write a post about conferences and professional learning. I thought I’d take the opportunity to inform teachers and other staff in schools just how easy it can be to reach the quota for PD and perhaps have some fun doing it.

For a number of years, we have been using the term PD interchangeably with professional learning  (PL). Some have attempted to separate, or at least differentiate these terms, including AITSL and George Couros. It would seem that PD is something which is ‘done’ to you while PL is something you do yourself. PD ends while PL continues even after the event.

As a way to improve teaching, student outcomes and keeping up to date with all things education, oh, and pass the VIT audit, educators ‘do’ PD. However, if you just attend PD to gain knowledge, then you’re wasting your time. The most important and relevant part of PD is not PD at all, but the PL that happens, before, during and after each session.

So how do we ‘continue’ the PL before, during and after the PD? Here are my 6 top tips.

1. Network at conferences

Conferences are expensive so be sure to get your money’s worth. Enjoy the learning, the food and drink but more importantly take the time to network. If they provide a list of delegates, be sure to note who’s there and don’t be afraid to say hi. Many I notice, get ‘selfies’ with keynotes or other presenters, but if you don’t take the opportunity to ask a question, get your book signed or make a friend for future reference then all you’ve got is a selfie.

Deakin Education Conference

2. Twitter

I do not understand why more teachers don’t take advantage of the free, 24 /7 availability of professional learning that happens on Twitter. It is not about sharing what you had for breakfast or how many followers you have. My own Twitter journey over the last 4 years has been amazing. I first joined in December 2012, shortly after resigning from full-time teaching and leadership roles. At the time I had no idea of its potential as a learning platform. Today things are different. I only follow people linked to education, both those who support my views and those who challenge my thinking. I participate in a number of Twitter chats and run my own #survivephd monthly chat, an offshoot from my MOOC experience run by Dr Inger Mewburn (AKA Thesis Whisperer). In an effort to get teachers hooked onto Twitter I often use paper tweets to have them reflect or communicate their own experiences of the workshops I facilitate. I cannot recommend Twitter enough as the best PL for all those interested in extending their learning and thinking. Participating in education Twitter chats can be logged as PD. I use Storify to capture the discussion as evidence of participation.

papertweets

Twitter staffroom

3. Coaching

Coaching, different from mentoring, is a great way to improve how you go about your work. Coaching encourages, stretches, and pushes others to take responsibilities for their own development, to set goals that reflect the bigger picture and to take action, that is, to GROW [Goal, Reality, Options, Will] first developed by Whitemore in the 1980s. Many schools are taking up coaching as a way to extend their staff. This can be a wonderful opportunity to ‘be better’ and to go beyond that one day wonder of a professional development session. Coaching is truly an on-going and rewarding PL opportunity. Coaching sessions can also be logged as PD, even more powerful, if you keep a log or journal of your goals, learning and action.

Developing coaching relationships

4. Read blogs

Many of us have taken to blogs to reflect, express, share, and learn. I often take the time to extend my professional learning, reading a variety of blogs to learn and be challenged. Some of my favourites include those written by great educators, researchers and ‘edu’ coaches. Time reading and reflecting can be logged as PD, simply but writing or recording the few main points or writing a comment or response on the site is evidence enough.

5. Collaborate with LSOs

I’ve included this as a way to encourage teachers to better use their Learning Support staff in schools. In my experience, both groups tend to work as separate entities and only communicate ad hoc moving from one class to another or in brief conversations over email. Imagine if we made time (think here what we do in meetings now that we could do without) to sit and collaborate with each other – teachers and LSOs – using our knowledge and skills about teaching and learning to enhance the learning of our students with disabilities. This is PL at its very best and it covers VIT requirements to do with special needs PD.

Collaborating

6. Take yourself on an excursion

Many teachers are not aware that visiting museums, art galleries, performances, historical sites and other events related to their teaching areas or as possible excursion sites for their students are considered PD and that time can be logged as such.

Louvre, Paris

There are of course so many more ways to experience PL I haven’t mentioned but I hope you might re-think the approach to PD in education. Professional learning is much more engaging and has the potential for change or at the very least can become more than just a short-lived activity ‘done to you’ – get out there and do it yourself!

Thanks for reading 🙂

My mum

Prompt number 24 of the #Edublogsclub asks us to write a post about parents.

My mum passed away 27 years ago, 2 weeks after her 49th birthday.

My mum

My Mum has always been an inspiration, even though most of the time she drove me crazy. She always seemed to know everything about what was happening in my life as a kid. I couldn’t understand it. It felt like I couldn’t do anything without her finding out. I must admit, I wasn’t a terrible teen – but having been raised in a very strict Italian household even talking with boys who were not family was frowned upon back then. In the end after many tantrums, when I wasn’t allowed to go to parties or go out with my friends, in general, I soon gave it up and just made excuses to my peers to avoid the embarrassment. I just had to accept that this was how it was and that there was no use trying to get away with it. As an adult – I think I finally realised just how my mum always knew in the times before social media…

Image: pinterest.com

That aside, my mum was the best in many ways. She always supported our learning, both my brother and I were encouraged to go that extra mile with our studies. My mum always attended parent/teacher meetings and made sure we were on top of things. We are the first lot to go through post-compulsory studies and gain university degrees. If you follow my blog you’ll also know I’m currently chewing through a PhD. I love learning and so did my mum. She was the only one of her 7 siblings who finished school and if it wasn’t for the antiquated thinking by my maternal grandfather, she would have gone onto university. But alas, ‘there were things to do other than filling your brain with useless knowledge’ as he used to say.

At 20 she migrated to Australia, learning English on the boat, she landed with at least some idea of what awaited her. Mind you, she never really gave herself away, choosing to just blend into the already growing community of Italian migrants in and around Melbourne. She joined her big brother and his family, along with her 2 sisters and together they formed a new extended family. She worked and lived as they all did to make a better life for themselves. She learned heaps on this journey, though she never boasted at how much she understood English – choosing instead, to blend into the Italian community.

In 1963 she married my father, an Italian migrant, her brother’s friend and together with my dad’s two sisters and their husbands, they moved to the house in which I am currently writing this blog. My own family now live in this wonderful house – though it has been extended and refurbished over the years. Still, it holds all my childhood memories and will forever be my sanctuary.

Wedding Day, 1963

I remember my mum always used to say she wanted to be a social worker. She was a great listener and problem solver. She supported many people and often as a child there were many friends who came by to have a chat – little did I know that they were actually seeking out my mum’s for advice on all manner of things – but mostly about relationships. My mum loved having people over and organising wonderful dinner parties. Our extended family always gathered to celebrate everything and anything. My childhood and young adulthood were a stream of parties, dinners, celebrations with family and friends.  She was an avid church goer and loved being part of the Italian Community. Many can attest that they met their partners at some ‘do’ that mum helped organise for the community.

My mum loved learning and so do I. She is and always will be my inspiration to continue my work in education. I hope to make a difference, to make trouble, to unsettle, to challenge and encourage others to think, to take risks, to go beyond that which they think possible. I owe it to my mum and I owe it to myself.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Don’t read anything into this – I just love the song

#Edublogsclub Prompt 18 asks us to write a post that uses art, music, or poetry. I’ve decided to cover all three in this post, just because…

ART

As an art teacher, I very often use images in teaching and learning. In fact, many of my posts already speak about how I use visual art in my practice, in various subjects and workshops. I love taking students and workshop participants on journeys using art.

I caught the incurable travel bug about ten years ago and have since taken off many times, mainly to Europe. In our family, we have a rule about travelling – one may re-visit a place again and again but there must always be the addition of a visit to a new destination on every trip. We also have this other little rule – what you buy you carry – oh and one last expectation – that one will maintain a journal while away.

Over the years my own journals have become places to which I escape during the times when I am not able to travel. They do not so much describe the places I visited or the things I saw but they hold my thoughts, emotions and learnings. Many times I represent these emotions through drawings and colour and add text only where necessary. The text is usually constructed using letters carefully torn from flyers, magazines and newspapers at my disposal. While I’m away I love returning at the end of each day and pouring my experiences into the pages of my journal.

Sea of Galilee, Israel

 

Battle of the Somme, France WWI

 

POETRY

I’m not big on poetry, I don’t think I have ever written a poem as such but I have encouraged students to do it via a visual prompt and the last time I did it my students created some wonderful writing.

Poetry prompt (image credit: Good vs. Evil by *ArtAnda)

The angel inside us (written by Yr 8 student)

MUSIC

What then of music? Well I can’t say I have a favourite band or artist but I do love certain songs that mainly happened a long time ago, like this one:

Don’t read anything into this – I just love the song. For me, it’s about realising dreams, moving on but never forgetting from where we came.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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.