Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Making it make sense

I'm so close to making it make sense that I can almost taste it. It's right there and it's becming clearer and clearer how to bring the parts if my school's curriculum together.
Context is that I've had 3 terms leading at my current school and I'm slowly getting my head around it.
It happens in phases. It has to. It goes like this. Phase 1: observe and ask questions.  Get to know people. Build trust. Build relationships. Be real. Give it time.
Phase 2: systems.
Phase 3: curriculum. Learning.

I'm almost out of the systems phase and have now got the head space for phase 3 and it's about time!

We have a pretty good curriculum.  It almost makes sense to me. I've inherited it and some aspects are taking me a while to fully understand but I'm respecting the fact that some good decisions have been made before my time and that it makes sense to others. By observing and listening there are so e loose ends that need bringing together.

And that's the work we're about to embark on. It'll involve everyone. It'll be messy for a while. It'll be challenging for some. It'll be rewarding.

We need to sort our learner profile.  Note learner not graduate profile. It needs to be about now not 6 years from now.

We need to know what we want our learners to be like and why. Is the ability to move quietly in single file from point a to b still important? Is neat handwriting valued or a thing of the past? Is critical thinking something we value? If we really want our learners to be creative, how might qe really give effect to this?

Once we have our core skills named then we can match the contexts from our rich curriculum to those. E.g. traditions, culture or entrepreneurship might fit under a "confident " type banner.

I've found viewing "Most likely to Succeed" again an inspiration and this clip here very thought provoking too.

I am looking forward to getting back to my desk and planning ahead for term 2. Talking with learners about what they want the school to be like and what they want to learn about is going to be interesting. 
Asking the same of parents and staff will be too. My job is to bring it all together and identify if we have any gaps.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

The new guy.

I've begun at a new school as Principal after 7 years at my first school as Principal. I've moved from a rural U3 school to urban U5.

I came home from day one and felt pleased I'd had 7 years experience to equip me to deal with day 1. I'm nearly 2 weeks into it. It's been a blur. It's exciting. It feels right. I'm being well supported and made to feel so welcome. i'm aware there'll be a honeymoon period.

I was welcomed officially by the school through song, some short speeches and flowers for my wife and a book for our 2 year daughter. Nice. Meet a prospective parent. Time in rooms. Chat to some students. Lunchtime. The afternoon whizzed by and I then went out and farewelled everyone at the front gate. Board meeting that night and it was over.

This week I've been having 30 minute one to one chats with each staff member. We're breaking ice and talking about things that have come to light from a self-review sheet I gave out at Teachers only day in the school holidays.

I'm learning lots. Asking questions. Trying to contribute and take the lead. I know nothing is really going to happen until I get relationships going, send some time and build the relational trust. Everyone gets it. Time. Energy. And more time.

I came in feeling a bit sorry for the school to be honest. 20 years with an outstanding leader and a staff that have been together for a long time. And then, BOOM, me! I was worried that it would be strange for them, I'm sure it is. I was worried that they'd worry I would come in and make all these changes. I said reassuring things to let them know that I'm more about evolution than revolution, so they needn't panic.

I had an epiphany today. It's not them that will change as much as what I will. Everything's new for me. It's the same for them, apart from me. It's a different person, and yes, I'll have a different way and different strengths and weaknesses, but things will be the same, for a while anyway. I will change though. Far more quickly.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Is school just preparation for life?

I kind of understand what people mean when they say that school is preparation for life, that primary school is preparation for secondary school (and therefore secondary school must be preparation for university and so it's university that is preparation for real life). And I guess that means that kindy is prep for school.

My problem with this chain of thinking is that it belittles the significance of the "now" in each instance. What is happening now is important for each learner and is real life to them.

I tend to agree more with Dewey's quote above. The power of this way of thinking is that rather than viewing our work as preparation for the next stage we must consider what will make learners successful now. By guaranteeing their success now, we are probably guaranteeing their success later too. And by success I don't necessarily mean achieving NCEA or going to university.

When I consider what I would deem as being successful in life, I tend to think that someone is doing something they are passionate about, that they have chosen to do (not forced into or fallen into by default), that they treat themselves and others well, that they can contribute in positive ways to their community, they're happy (content) and they have a positive view of themselves.

We must consider if what we are doing is ensuring that learners of all ages are being successful in their life now, not just later.

My belief is that they Key Competencies of the NZ Curriculum are the essential ingredient in the recipe of ensuring our learners experience success both now and in the future. Are our classrooms based on teaching these competencies and allowing authentic opportunities for learners to practice and demonstrate these?

In order for schools to fulfil the vision of actively involved, confident, connected and life long learners then Key Competencies need to be at the fore of our thinking in curriculum design and school culture. It would be pointless to have learners who can only relate to others sometime in the future and who can manage themselves at some later point in their life. Surely, to be successful at school then learners need to be competent at these skills as soon as possible.
Think about your "ultimate learner" or what your top 3 outcomes are for learners in your class or school and then ensure that your class/kura is enabling learners to become capable in this now, not just in the future.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Reimagining me! Impact from #NYLD16

Today I attended the National Young Leaders Day in Palmerston North along with 2500 others. We were treated to some short and punchy speeches from a variety of people, involved in a range of activities who each delivered their key points about what they've learned from their experiences- sometimes from a leadership perspective but mainly from a human perspective.

The main messages were not just for "young leaders" as an older leader at my school I took away a lot. The main reminder I got was about passion.
No matter what walk of life these speakers came from they were so passionate about what they're doing:
Billy Graham - Boxing - "Everyone's got talent, most people never go looking for it" 10% talent. 90% hard work.
James Back - Attitude - The easy thing to do isn't always right, and the right thing to do isn't always easy."
Brylee Mills - Dancer - Don't let challenges stand in your way. Everyone has challenges"
Johnny Wilson - Goodtime Music - You don't have to be the best, just try your best. Focus less on others and how good they're doing - focus on your own race."

So, important messages here for young and old. Back to passion. This was my takeaway.

I've forgotten about passion I think. I'm a passionate person I've come to realise. And in my role as Principal I may have fallen into the trap of being and behaving as I think I'm expected to. I've had to do a lot of stuff that takes me away from the things in education I really am passionate about. Have I got so busy in the day to day stuff that I've forgotten what I really think school is all about?
I love music and singing. Yet, how much of this happens in our school? Today there was a group of 2500 singing - it was moving. We watched stirring video clips, beautifully put together with moving music - you'd have to be a robot not to be effected on an emotional level.
I heard messages about problems that really need solving- environmental and war crisis situation. How involved am I in any cause? How often do I encourage others to be involved. When did I get too busy to care?
I saw beautiful dancing from Brylee Mills. I heard beautiful music from Avalanche City. I saw many students having a great time, swinging arms to the music and going crazy. Not all, but most. Caught in the moment. Having a great time. Who knows what messages they took away from the day. I'm looking forward to talking about it with the House Leaders I took today.

I have an opportunity, as I take up a new leadership position at a new school. I can be the passionate individual that I really am. Be the animated person that is the true me. My true self got interviewed and offered the job, so why not carry on being me. I want to ensure that students in any school I am part of have the opportunities to pursue their passion(s). Is this more easily done in a larger school where there are more staff to offer these?

What part does my leadership play in ensuring that learners can follow their passions? A huge part. My passion for education runs deep. I must ensure that "my" school is one where passions are encouraged whether it be sport, dance or saving the world.

I must reimagine myself again and take the opportunity presented to me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Health and Safety - it's about people

I belong to a PLG with 4 other Principals and we are lead by an experienced consultant who today raised the issue of the new Health and Safety legislation and what this means for us as Principals, as Boards of Trustees and for our schools.
After plenty of discussion about the role of the Officer around property and hazard registers, we were asked to consider also the mental health and well-being of everyone in our school, especially the teaching staff. How is their well-being looked after? What do we do as leaders to model healthy work-life balance? What do we do if notice that someone is stressed?
In today's age when we're all potentially "available" 24/7 how do we ensure that teachers are not burned out or stressed.
It was a timely reminder that health and safety is about people, not compliance and it goes way way further than hazard registers.

Our work is in developing a shared understanding with staff and with Board members so that everyone is involved, understand their roles and see this as being a culture shift.

There were timely reminders today. Health and Safety does need to be viewed differently. It's about people and goes further than just their physical safety.

Monday, October 5, 2015

#edblognz Challenge 2

  1. Write a blog post about an education question/ challenge/wondering that you have or are facing. You don’t need to have the answer/solution.
So here's my post, via my question. (This will only work if people respond!)


Monday, September 28, 2015

Week 1 challenge #edblognz

Think about your teaching practice. How has it evolved over time? What are you currently working on developing in your practice? What tools have you used during this inquiry time?

I'll talk about an aspect of my leadership, as I move towards 6 1/2 years of being a Principal. What has been the most significant change in my leadership is the areas that I pay attention to. When I first became a Principal it was all about systems and getting things working in a way that made sense to me and for staff. While the systems in our school continue to evolve, my attention is more about how I can meet the learning needs of my staff, so our learners benefit from having "expert learners" as teachers. My role in this varies. Sometimes it's about creating the conditions or the culture. At other times it involves getting deep in the mechanics of a particular aspect of practice.
Like others on our staff, I'm employing surveys more often to inform decisions and gathering more voice.
An example of this has been around our professional learning programme where I have wanted to personalise things more. I'd wondered if this was working for staff, so put together a survey (using google forms) and asked everyone to respond. I've shared the results and we have a meeting in week 1 next term to discuss and make some joint decisions.
Like a classroom teacher, I'm constantly asking myself, if I see evidence of learning. And like a classroom teacher, involving the learners in the process and in the decisions.
I'm looking in particular at a couple of work ons from our last ERO report and asking teachers if these are areas they want to work on more. I'll need to ask our learners too and take that voice to the staff to help guide our decision.
A key question will be, "How might we meet individual learning needs through our professional learning programme?"

Thanks to who ever it was that first shared the "How might we..." questions. The first time I heard of this was from Maurie Abraham -a leader who I find inspiring and challenging and whose posts I always check out.

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