A Learner's Journey

July 4, 2014
by 34mk2012
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What my students think…

Recently, whilst exploring the flexibility and usefulness of Google Forms, I used one to seek feedback on my teaching and our classroom from my students. What a great, easy way of getting feedback that was easy for the students and me! What did I learn from this …

What works well:

My students like the use of Whole Brain Teaching to engage them in their learning, especially the ‘teach’ instruction, which apparently allows them the opportunity to ensure they know what we are focusing on, explaining this to others to confirm they are on the right track.

My students enjoy the enthusiasm I bring to my role in the classroom, from my gestures to my voice! Good to know that my antics are valued!

My students perceive that I love teaching. This feels like such high praise and I am delighted that the love I have for my job is evident in the way that I engage in my classroom. They also commented that I care about their learning – this was wonderful to read because it is SO true!

My students experience learning as dynamic and fun. ‘Fun’ came up repeatedly and I am pleased that the effort and creativity I put into my teaching helps my students to enjoy their learning.

Even better if:

I had time to spend one on one with each student every day. This would be fantastic and is a mighty challenge. I hope that I do engage with each student individually each day although what I think they are after is something more lengthy. This is valuable feedback and something I can try and be more aware of.

Several students commented on wanting more group work. I find this a little surprising as we do work in teams a lot but we could certainly do it even more. There was an even split amongst the students of wanting to choose their own groups and  having groups chosen for them which was interesting.

My favourite; “It would be even better if Mary went to less meetings, but I don’t suppose there is much you can do about that.” Out of the mouths of babes … 

The best thing about being in 5/6 MK:

Overwhelmingly, there were two key themes here. The students are really happy with their teachers and I believe Krystyna and I are a very balanced and effective team. The students also acknowledged the respect, trust and care that exists within our classroom. Many students commented on feeling accepted in the room and always being able to get help when needed. They commented on the non-judgmental tone of the classroom and on how well everyone got along. As a teacher, reading this, my heart swelled! It is this exact atmosphere that allows students to take risks with their learning and feel supported as they do.

This exercise in seeking feedback has been immensely valuable to me as a teacher. Certainly it has been affirming of the way in which I try to operate as a co-learner within our classroom and use energy and creativity to engage the students. But it has also challenged me to try and squeeze out some extra moments of one on one time for every student, not just the ones who so overtly need it. Not to mention the meetings …

What kind of feedback have you sought from your students?

 

April 16, 2014
by 34mk2012
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A Process for Change

One of the challenges in the subject Leading Educational Change is to come up with our own framework for the change process. We have read, reflected on and responded to many models of change presented to us and in the light of this, have been asked to come up with our own. So here is my attempt. I have tried to capture a couple of key things in this graphic (happy to have your feedback on whether I have been successful!); the importance of a shared vision for the change and the non-linear nature of change that requires lots of revisiting, reviewing, reflecting and adjusting.

The Change Process

 

I used www.gliffy.com to create this visual and found it very user friendly and easy to navigate.

Does this visual enhance your understanding of the change process? Would you change or refine it in any way?

April 16, 2014
by 34mk2012
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Leading for Change

Uni is well underway for the Semester and the learning has been relevant and engaging thus far. The subjects for this semester are Leading Educational Change and Perspectives in Leadership and both are very interconnected, really optimizing the learning for me. We have been considering what leading for change looks like and how as leaders, we can best enable change that is embedded and sustained. This clip by Pat Zigami was illuminating in considering the typical concerns that people have regarding change.

She summarises the key concerns as;

  1. INFORMATION – Tell me about this change? Why? What do we know about this?
  2. PERSONAL – What’s in it for me? How will this impact me? Can I succeed in this?
  3. IMPLEMENTATION – How will this really work? What happens if I need help?
  4. IMPACT – Will this change make any difference?
  5. COLLABORATION – How do we get everyone involved?
  6. REFINEMENT – How will we know we have succeeded? How will we evaluate this change?

It is very easy to view those who struggle with the notion of change simply as ‘blockers’ and ‘resistors’ rather than digging a little deeper to discern what the struggles are actually about. Pat states that concerns are usually questions and if we can anticipate them and respond to them rather than dismissing them, we are more likely to be successful with our change initiative.

This is a fresh perspective on working with  staff in seeking change – less judgement  and clear and direct communication may be a better way of involving all staff in the process of change.

What factors have enhanced your experience of change in schools?

February 16, 2014
by 34mk2012
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Here I go again …

Having completed my Masters in Religious Education in 2012, my love of study and pang to do more niggled away at me throughout last year. I found study so stimulating and loved the many unexpected places and people it led me too. My ‘study buddies’ from my previous course are a great group of friends and we still try and get together ocassionally, the conversation inevitably turning towards school!

Study Buddies for M.RE

Study Buddies for M.RE

So now I eagerly await the ‘launch’ of my Masters in Educational Leadership course tomorrow! I can’t wait to get started and find out the unit requirements and get stuck into some reading. It seems like the logical next step in my ‘career’ but also in my learning to pursue excellence in leadership through gaining both increased experience and increased knowledge. This course will be different as the majority of it will be completed in an online space. I am really hoping that this still enables me to develop a sense of community and connection with my fellow students and that this move into online learning exposes me to new ways to learn and express my learning. This is what I am exploring in my classroom with my students constantly.

So here I go again …

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photo credit: venspired via photopin cc

October 27, 2013
by 34mk2012
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Leadership Intensive!

On 17/18th October, the Holy Spirit Community School Leadership Team had the privilege of going away together to the gorgeous RACV Club in Healesville for two days of professional learning together. This was a unique opportunity to spend quality time together, away from the constant distractions at school, to focus on how we work together and what it is we want to focus on energies on.

The first day was facilitated by Helen Goode who reminded us that it is only in knowing ourselves and how we work that we can reach out and work effectively with others. To this end, we completed the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to discover (or rediscover for several of us) what our preferred way of being is. Individually, this was interesting but our profile as a team was illuminating. We were able to see our similarities and differences and identify the strengths that we have as a team. It also enabled us to see where our soft spots as a team may be, and where we each may need to step up and operate out of our ‘less preferred’ modes. The discussion that ensued from this session was rich, collegial and very affirming in many ways. We also shared our personal challenges with one another; as Helen said, what is ‘in our boots’ that we often default to when unsure, nervous, threatened. This was also enlightening!

Friday we set about to define our purpose as a leadership team. This took some time and much reworking and the discussion arising out of this task was most worthwhile. What is our ‘core business?’ What should our focus be? What is worth attending to? We eventually came up with the following statement:

The purpose of the Leadership Team at Holy Spirit Community School is to build a strong culture of trust and empowerment within our community, enacting our shared vision to achieve the goals of the School Improvement Plan. Improved student outcomes are our core business. The key values of the Leadership Team are respect, openness, honesty and courage. The nurturing of relationships is central to our ability to achieve our purpose. 

This statement makes us accountable for both our time and our actions and as we now have a shared understanding of how each of us operate within the team through the MBTI, we also have a shared language. We fleshed out what each of our team values would look and sound like, which also promotes accountability as our goals and ideals are clear. 

We have a team ‘motto’ to act as a quick reminder about how we want to work:

“Backpacks off, eyes down, value add”

Backpacks refer to our individual leadership roles – we need to be able to look globally at what ever issue we are discussing and see it from multiple perspectives, not just literacy, or RE, or Well Being. 

Eyes down refers to imagining we are in a helicoptor, looking down at the big picture of our school community and its needs.

Value add – if we are not doing this as a team, what is the point??

Now the hard work begins – living out the ideals and goals we have set for ourselves. If we are able to do this, each of us will be better, more effective and empowering leaders and our team and school will be focused on the best possible outcomes for each of our students.

September 25, 2013
by 34mk2012
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Aitsl’s 360 Feedback – an initial response

AITSL recently offered principals and teachers holding leadership positions the opportunity to participate in the 360 Reflection Tool process. I jumped at the chance! This involved me filling in a questionnaire and writing two narratives, one about my school context and one about how I perceived my strengths and challenges. I also asked each member of the leadership team and my current and former level leaders to complete the questionnaire. This involved both a scale rating in response to statements and the opportunity to write some anecdotal comments.

My initial response to receiving the report from AITSL was one of excitement –  I could not wait to find a few moments to sit and read it through quietly. There were two things that stood out for me as I read through the graphs and comments:

I was significantly harder on myself than were my colleagues. I have observed this same phenomena when students write self reflections or self assess their work and I am frequently commenting to them that they should not be so hard on themselves!! It is interesting that we seem to find it so difficult to really acknowledge what we are good at.

When I read the areas for improvement, it was confronting in some ways and I did reread them several times! Interestingly, when I decided to compare what the group had identified as my areas of challenge, they were virtually identical to the areas I had identified for myself. This made the groups’ comments far less confronting and I realised that it is actually a very positive thing to know that I am perceived by my peers in a way that aligns with how I see myself as a professional.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will digest the report further and mull over the opportunities it has presented me for learning and improvement. Stay tuned for another post … AND … if the opportunity to participate in 360 Reflection comes up, I would heartily recommend taking it up.

 

 
photo credit: aguscr via photopin cc

July 1, 2013
by 34mk2012
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AITSL Self Reflection Tool: Professional Engagement

This is the final reflection in a series of 3 on the AITSL Self Reflection Tool. I completed this tool at the beginning of this year and have found it most helpful in directing my Professional Learning this year. In this post, I reflect on the section of the tool titled Professional Engagement.

Areas of Strength

6.3 L Initiate and engage in professional discussions with colleagues in a range of forums to evaluate practice directed at improving professional knowledge and practice, and the educational outcomes of students.

I love this aspect of my job! I enjoy any opportunity to share new ideas, innovative practices, classroom strategies and what I have read recently. In my position as Religious Education Leader, I have the opportunity to plan and facilitate collegial dialogue on a regular basis. This can take a variety of forms including engaging as adults with our ‘big question’ for the term in RE, sharing a useful new app I have discovered, inviting staff to share what has worked recently in their classrooms, sharing and responding to some professional reading or a relevant YouTube clip. This is a clip I used recently to stimulate discussion about what we want to be mindful of in our Inquiry Planning for RE next term, 10 Expectations. I work in a dynamic team of 5/6 teachers and I relish our team meetings as a great chance for each of us to share our successes, our failures and our challenges. This leads to learning for each of us and I value the fact that each of us is open to innovation and creativity and constantly seeks to improve learning opportunities for each of our students.

7.4 L  Contribute to professional networks and associations and build productive links with the wider community to improve teaching and learning

In the years since my return to teaching in 2009, I have been very active in our RE Network. I have been on the Executive Planning Team for the past 2 years and have presented or facilitated at almost every Network Meeting since I joined the Network in 2009. I have blogged here about many of my presentations. My contributions have been well received and led to many opportunities to share ideas and practices with individual members within the network. I have tried to build a twitter PLN for RE Leaders within the zone and although some members are active, this is still a work in progress! I am an active and enthusiastic ‘tweeter’ professionally and have found this to be a rich and varied source of Professional Learning. My participation in twitter has led to many innovations and changes in my teaching practice. I find my PLN a constant source of inspiration and have found many new resources and read many great articles, blog posts etc through it. I would not have found the Self Reflection Tool without it! With my students, I have tried to make our learning more connected and our class blog has been brilliant for this. We have been able to share our learning with not only family and friends but learners from all over the world. Quadblogging has greatly enhanced our connectedness and initiatives from @theheadsoffice such as blogdipping also enable us to share our learning globally.

Areas for Development

6.1 P Analyse the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers to plan personal professional development goals, support colleagues to identify and achieve personal development goals and pre-service teachers to improve classroom practice.

Our Leadership Team has discussed the need for each of us on staff to have our own Professional Learning Plan. I think this is an exciting step forward! I am very aware of some areas in my own teaching that I would like to improve in but at present, this is really up to me to manage and monitor. I am lucky to have some great colleagues that I can have frank and open discussions with but would like the opportunity to have this more formalised. We are also investigating the notion of feedback and the impact that can have on improving teaching practice and student outcomes. Many schools are well ahead of us in this field but beginning the journey is promising and something to look forward to professionally and personally.

7.1 G Maintain high ethical standards and support colleagues to interpret codes of ethics and exercise sound judgement in all schools and community contexts.

This is something that each and every one of us in the teaching profession must always work hard for. It is imperative that we remember every day that we are dealing with people; not data, not numbers, not statistics, but human beings. In this era of data, it is all too easy to get lost in the numbers. I am not disputing the value of data to inform our teaching and help drive improved student learning, but I think we must always remember that teachers’  knowledge of students is far richer than the data we may have about them. When we keep student learning at the centre of all our actions and decisions, it is far easier to maintain high ethical standards. High ethical standards also call me to strive harder to personalise learning for each of my students. I want each of my students to have equal opportunity to learn and thrive in our classroom and acknowledge that this requires different things for different students.This is an area which I am working on currently, trying to meet the individual needs of 28 students in creative and productive ways. I have found ICT a rich tool for helping to diversify learning opportunities, experiences and expression and enjoy the challenge of finding new ways to engage and inspire my students.

I would highly recommend the use of AITSL’s self reflection tool. It is enabled me to see my role as teacher and leader more broadly and perhaps consider some aspects of  these roles in new ways. Give it a go!

 

 

 

May 5, 2013
by 34mk2012
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The Evidence Inquiry Cycle

The Evidence Inquiry Cycle guiding our work

As part of our REL Network, each leader has taken on an Inquiry project. Mine is centered around student thinking. I have observed that many of my students are fairly happy to give the ‘stock standard’, expected answers in RE discussions and I would really like to see them pushing their own thinking more deeply and make those connections that will make their faith relevant to them in their lives. Our current unit is about the concept of relationships and whether having a  relationship with God impacts the world.

To stimulate the students to think about how relationships work, I used the following clip:

 


Students were asked to post on our class padlet their thoughts on where God was in this clip. This is what they came up with;

There were some interesting thoughts posted but most were fairly predictable. I wanted them to go further so I grabbed my copy of Visible Thinking and looked for a thinking protocol I could use with this clip. I decided to use I See, I Think, I Wonder to see where that would take my student’s thinking. This routine prompted some really meaty discussion in the class as each student responded to the prompts. The wonderings were the most interesting with students coming up some surprising and challenging statements. We then got into groups and students collated their responses and came up with their top ‘see, think, wonder’ statements. The groups then set about creating posters. One student asked me “What should the title of the poster be?” to which I initially replied not to worry about a title. Then I realised that creating a title would make their thinking even more visible to me and the other students. Some of the titles they came up with were great!

So having stretched the students thinking, what next? I know I want to go further with them, and having had a conversation about this with our RESA, Deirdre, I have been challenged to now put something provocative before the students to challenge them to think about the situations where God is not so readily visible. As we are doing Natural Disasters at present, that should tie in quite nicely. I think I also need to go back to Visible Thinking and find some other thinking routines that will enable students to view the stimulus in a different way. And I also need to check in with the students again. I wonder if I used the initial video clip again, whether their responses may be deeper already having thought about it in a different way??