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.

My learning spaces – everything, in every place

Prompt 2 of my newest challenge, a blog a week for the #edublogsclubs is all about our work environments. Since I am not in any one school and juggle quite a number of ‘different’ work, my learning spaces vary dramatically depending on the tasks at hand.

In any one week, I can go from a secondary school classroom, a boardroom, a meeting room, a conference centre, my dining room table, my home office space, a favourite coffee shop, university grounds, and even in my spa! I love the freedom of moving around for different learning activities. You see, as I mentioned in my first challenge post, there is learning in everything and I’ll add now – in every place.

Coffee shop treat while reading on critical pedagogy

In my final year of high school, many, many years ago, each of my subjects was allotted to a different study area in the house (much to my mum’s disgust!). It was almost like a switch on, switch off ritual while I was studying and as each exam was completed so the books and study guides disappeared from each place (to my mum’s relief!).

As an Education Consultant, my learning spaces vary from staffrooms to auditoriums, from conference centres to classrooms and school libraries. My audience numbers vary dramatically for 4-5 and up to 300 at national conferences so my learning space has to work accordingly. I like to do a lot of hands-on and movement activities with my participants, but I also need them to sit quietly and reflect, or to work more collaboratively on certain tasks.

Developing coaching relationships

The learning spaces for workshops with teachers may vary but there is nothing like a nice round table where teachers and learning support staff can collaborate to make learning for students with special needs and indeed all students, more accessible.

Collaborating

When teaching and learning with students the spaces outside of the classrooms are just as enticing and so again the learning spaces change. Last year I really loved how my tutorial room had whiteboard walls!! Visual Art spaces are also enticing and prompt creativity even in everyday manual tools which are an artform in themselves.

Paintbrushes

As a part-time PhD student, I do much of my study and writing at home – and this is where I still tend to move around depending on what I’m attempting to do on the day. We have a very large dining room table and even swapping chairs along and around it help me to focus within the space. It is also a good excuse when my desk cannot be seen for the papers, books and stationery it sometimes holds.

My desk area

Dining room table

And of course, there’s also that learning space inside our heads – thinking! As an A grade procrastinator, I actually do much of my thinking while cleaning, cooking, driving and, yes, even while enjoying the spa -though this presents a problem when trying to write things down in my notebooks!

Ahhhhh…spa!

Finally, I’d like to also add that for me learning spaces are not only the physical places one inhabits but they can also be found within the pages of a lovely notebook or scrappy bits of paper, on a computer screen or in a painting.

Travel diary

There is learning in everything; in every place.

Thanks for reading 🙂

My Blog Story

I’ve just joined a new little family #Edublogsclub and set myself yet another challenge of writing a weekly blog based on a prompt (just don’t tell my PhD supervisor!).

I began blogging about 4 years ago as part of my new adventure out in the big wide world. I wanted to try my hand as an education consultant after 30 years in schools. Consulting wasn’t new to me. I had been representing my schools at conferences and through a number of professional learning education agencies for years. I just felt I could do more as a free agent. So along with other social media platforms including twitter (@JoPrestia) I started this blog.

My twitter page

I like to think out loud through writing so thought this could be a great way to do it. I blog about everything educational including adventures in the classroom, relief teaching, conferences, coaching, consulting work in schools and with teachers, teaching and learning with pre-service teachers, my PhD & family and friends.

There is learning in everything.

I’m proud to say I have a little following and every now and then I get feedback. However, I don’t write to get comments or praise (though it is nice!). I just write because I like it. It helps me think – in writing.

I also love reading other blogs, mainly educational, including fellow PhDs and a myriad of great teachers who provoke my thinking. I love the Thesis Whisperer and Pat Thomson for my PhD advice, and others I enjoy reading, including @debsnet, Chris Munroe, Mark Weston, Jon Harper to name but just a few. I don’t always read posts immediately. Instead, I have long binge sessions regularly where I try to catch up. I also stumble on many great blog posts via twitter and my facebook page.

Bed chat

I try to use my time wisely though I am an A grade procrastinator! Sometimes I’m even shocked at how I get everything done! Even now I’m sitting in a nail salon waiting… so taking the opportunity to begin composing this blog on my iPhone. When it rains…

So that’s my blog story… never ending…

(What you have just read was finalised in the comfort of my own work space at home and my trusty mac!).

Thanks for reading 🙂

Writing about not writing: A mis-diagnosis

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via GIPHY

What is it about writer’s block that just cannot be broken for days and sometimes weeks on end? I’ve been suffering it for weeks now and not sure when it will end. I have been reading and thinking and procrastinating and even losing sleep over it. It’s like all of these great ideas are rolling around in my head and yet I cannot get them out.

Last week I facilitated a workshop for newly arrived international PhD students and heard myself telling them that if there is no writing then there is no review or feedback to get. I heard myself telling them more than once yet I am not doing it myself! Do as I say not as I do and all that. A terrible case of imposter syndrome has gripped me and I feel desperately desperate.

Many months ago just after my confirmation and a week before my main supervisor left for a 6 month sabbatical, she set me a mountain of work to do. I passed my first milestone – confirmation – without amendments and in fact the panel was suitably impressed but that was short lived once my supervisor was gone. In that time we took on another supervisor and parted amicably with our associate supervisor. I met with the new supervisor, acting chief, a couple of times to talk and discuss where to from confirmation. He helped me review my ethics paperwork which was granted four weeks later as was ethics application to Catholic Education Melbourne and I even have the principal’s support from the research school. And yet I cannot write.

Further to this, the mountain of work my main supervisor left me included to read more and write up my lit review and methodology chapters. I have been reading but the latter two I haven’t started, although as I sit in front of the television on my mobile phone typing this first draft I realise I have done a little writing on two topics maybe 800 words in all. Surely that’s not enough is it? I have read and taken notes on many articles and am reading off and on two books my co supervisor offered in our first meeting (he doesn’t know that).

Last week I re-visited my rejected article co-written (well … sort of) with a previous supervisor on my minor research looking at relationships between teachers and teacher aides. I’ve decided that I want to do it over on my own but different, so last week I spent two days listening to the interview tapes again and reading through the transcripts but I did not write. I did practice some opening lines in my head as I did the washing and cooking and cleaning and other procrastinations but I DID NOT write. Why?

All this I did as well as attending several meetings at Uni to do with my work not my PhD and re-working my workshop for non-funded students, prepping questions for our monthly #survivephd twitter chat, as well as working on a coaching model review for one school and preparing proposals for schools who are enquiring about professional learning in 2017.

I’m a part-time PhD student and am currently in a state of non-academic-writing … or am I?

Having just written this post here on a recliner on my iPhone, it makes me feel a whole lot better and in fact I may have mis-diagnosed my condition.

I don’t have writer’s block. I may have a little imposter syndrome but certainly not writer’s block.

Tomorrow I shall write some more.
Thanks for reading 🙂

What’s coaching got to do with glitter?

This week’s #2PencilChat moderated by @nathan_stevens in @MagicPantsJones’ absence was on the topic of Glitter. Now while you’re probably in doubt as to its validity, it actually was quite an inspiring chat. Stevens used glitter as an analogy to do with education, with teachers, students and learning.

Question from #2PencilChat 7/6/16

Question from #2PencilChat 7/6/16

Since I used my blog hour time participating in the chat, it got me thinking…

Thinking

“What does glitter have to do with my idea for a blog post on coaching?”

So here it is… (Hilariously I wrote this while waiting for my dad at the dentist!)

1. Coaching has been around forever and it is slowly infiltrating our schools in a positive way, so hopefully, like glitter, it will hang around and infiltrate every corner from leadership to students, from grounds people to parents.

2. Glitter adds sparkle to every project, so too should coaching in schools ignite a passion for learning, setting goals for improvement and actioning ideas to promote optimal learning and teaching.

https://au.pinterest.com/pin/91620173646780264/?from_navigate=true

https://au.pinterest.com/pin/91620173646780264/?from_navigate=true

3. Glitter surprises people, especially if it is included in the envelope containing a Christmas card (no I’m not apologising for this) – just making a point about the element of surprise in coaching especially after a coaching conversation where the coachee realises they can and has a way forward which they themselves developed!

4. Glitter is plural, only as a handful or more does it make an impact. Collaboration is the impact in coaching. Coaching needs lots of people and a positive mindset to make a difference. Coaches need other coaches to help them grow and develop the skills to coach. Coachees need to be open to sharing and to believe in themselves as change agents, just as much as coaches believe in them.

handful of glitter

5. Glitter is made up of all shapes and sizes just as coaching in our schools can be seen in all manner of ways. In coaching everyone is learning, everyone is responsible for growth, no matter what your title or position, coaching is about the coachee – be all in, grab that chance to sparkle and make a difference to learning and teaching in our schools!

Yes, I think coaching is a lot like glitter. Get out there and sparkle!
Thanks for reading 🙂