A Learner's Journey

January 24, 2017
by mj0401mary
0 comments

A new beginning …

secret gardenCreative Commons License jenny downing via Compfight
As I begin a new job this year at a P-12 Girl’s College, I think about the disposition I want to enact as a teacher leader in this new community. ‘Openness’ is the word that comes to mind …
*open to new ways of working
*open to different ways of enacting the curriculum
*open to new ideas and approaches to teaching and learning for P-6
*open to ideas that seems different to my default positions or understandings
*open to undoing some of my long-held assumptions knowing that I may need to re-think or reorient
*open to the infinite possibilities that working with students and teachers on a daily basis bring
*open to the unexpected and the surprises

What disposition might you be intentional about attending to in yourself this year as you work with students and teachers?

August 29, 2016
by mj0401mary
0 comments

Reflections … Religious Education Conference 2016

Reflections

Marc R. via Compfight

An invitation to ‘wholeheartedness’ – this is the phrase that captured my imagination and gave me a lens with which to reflect from the opening keynote address of Dr Maureen O’Connell at the RE Conference, ‘Be Witnesses of God’s Mercy’. This idea of whole heartedness, of opening ourselves and our being in a deeply authentic way, of exposing and questioning our own vulnerabilities stayed with me throughout the conference as I listened to workshops and had conversations with participants.

During her keynote address, Maureen invited us into an exploration of mercy from three perspectives; mercy as being, mercy as knowing and mercy as transforming.  She spoke of mercy as a way of being that orients us to our own freedom, to uncovering the assumptions, worldviews and philosophies that determine how we respond and react to others and perhaps rethink some of these responses. This requires self knowledge, awareness and reflection as an intentional disposition in our lives. It also means we open ourselves up, exposing our vulnerabilities in order to deeply engage with the other and extend mercy to both self and other – “answering yes to God’s what if’s” as expressed by Emilie Townes.

Mercy as a way of knowing centres around a logic of the heart, rather than a logic driven by power, control or greed. This can easily disorient us as we often find ourselves operating out of places other than our hearts. Working from the logic of the heart has significant implications for us as educators in our relationships and interactions with our students, staff and families. Again, it means placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability where our own positions and thinking are challenged, enlightened, altered or even disrupted.

Mercy as a way of transformation reorients us towards healing and wholeheartedness. This means that we have to acknowledge our own role in the suffering and hurt of others, either directly or indirectly and actively seeking to change this in some positive way. Reaching out to others in mercy is a way of transforming both ourselves and others. It asks us to detach ourselves from what we idolise, from the way we interpret the world and make space for other ways of seeing and being in the world – a hermeneutical approach.

Maureen completed her keynote referring to Parker Palmer, an American author, educator and activist,  speaking of the courage it takes to be in this world deeply steeped in the practice of mercy: “ The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that the teacher and student and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning and living require.” (Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach) It is as simple and complex as that!

August 25, 2016
by mj0401mary
0 comments

Encountering Agile Leadership

What a privilege to attend the National Catholic Education Conference in Perth this term. It was a unique opportunity to connect with Catholic Educators from all over Australia and collectively explore what it means to have ‘Faith to Lead, and Lead to Faith.’ There was a great diversity of Keynote speakers, each of whom were able to illuminate aspects of leadership that are core to our work in Catholic Education. Simon Breakspear’s work around ‘Agile Leadership’ struck a particular chord with me. You can read more about Simon’s work here. For me, as a privileged partner in many Leadership Team conversations within our schools in the Eastern Region, Simon’s driving question seemed to be a purposeful and direct way of considering our impact on student learning:

‘What is your number one priority for improving student learning now?’

This struck me as a powerful question that could drive targeted school improvement in a manageable way, narrowing the focus of the team to one key priority that each team member could contribute to and support. The idea of a one page, short term strategic plan really appealed to me as a practical way of prioritising action and making real and discernible change within schools over a relatively short time frame. Harnessing the collective expertise of a Leadership Team to work together on one key priority seems like an empowering and strategic way to go – imagine the possibilities! Simon spoke of having a ‘relentless improvement focus’ and had some key questions to support the Leadership Team in considering their key priority:

What are we trying to do?

How are we trying to do it?

How will we know if we are making progress?

What will we do if we are not making progress?

How can I help?

This last question is particularly powerful as it alerts each member of the team to the collective nature of the shared endeavour for improvement. Simon also referred to focusing not on the ‘stuff’ of change but its impact – how is the change we are trying to enact apparent within our learning community?

I am keen to try this new approach to Leadership conversations and look forward to participating in an ‘agile’, dynamic and responsive approach to ‘relentless improvement’. Stay tuned …

November 24, 2015
by mj0401mary
0 comments

Innovation – a way forward

One of the big buzz words we currently hear often is ‘innovation’. I recently had the privilege of attending the 2015 ACEL conference and was able to listen to Professor Ian Williamson describe his interpretation of this word and some of the conditions that might be needed to enable it. He described innovation in two distinct but connected ways:

The creation of new ideas

The harnessing of these new ideas to create valuable processes, products and services

One of the interesting things Ian pointed out was that innovation is often a social and community pursuit – that it is in the combining of complementary skillsets, dispositions and interests that truly new ideas can be created. I know I have experienced this in my own work – the old adage of ‘two heads are better than one’ comes to mind and so often is true. 

The harnessing of these new ideas can be the most challenging part of innovation – seeing an idea through to the enactment phase. Sometimes the ‘ideas’ people are not the best people to harness and enact – there are different skills, knowledge and dispositions needed for this. This can be a risky enterprise, and having the support of leadership throughout this phase is critical. It is a time of trial, reflection, adjustment, change, openness, wondering and questioning. Innovation can require re- imagining and redesigning and takes time. 

So how do we support and enable innovation in our schools and classrooms? Collaboration is key and sharing a vision, a dream or a ‘reimagining’ of the way things could be would seem like an important first step. It may be a team, or just one teacher with the backing of a supportive principal but either way, creating new processes, products and services to improve student learning is always a worthy pursuit. 

I will leave you with this Ted talk I stumbled over today. Richard Culatta talks about some of his reimaginings of a system that enables personalised learning for all students. I love his description of a ‘Learning Positioning System’ that enables point of need for the student to be discerned and acted upon with ease. 

April 17, 2015
by mj0401mary
0 comments

Word for the term … curiosity

8004416109_46356d6204_s

My goal for term 2 in my work as a school advisor is to be curious about what I see, hear and read! To refrain from judgement and instead to ponder and wonder –

why might that be so? what thinking might sit behind this? how might we move forward from here? what might my role be here? why do I think that way? how might I find out more?

My experience as a teacher has taught me that people, communities and teams are complex and there are many reasons for why things are the way they are. There is much to be learnt by stepping off the judgement pedal and taking the time to pause and wonder, think and reflect instead. Will keep you posted on what this process reveals for me …

 

photo credit: What’s the point? via photopin (license)

November 19, 2014
by 34mk2012
1 Comment

A New Direction …

It has been 10 weeks now in my new role as School Advisor with the Catholic Education Office Melbourne. I am loving my new job and learning everyday from colleagues within the office and out in schools as I visit and work with them. Some of my learnings so far …

  • every school is different, and yet so similar! There are many of the same joys and struggles shared by the schools I have visited, each with its own particularity and flavour.
  • schools really are focused on meeting the needs of their students. This happens in many different ways and some schools seem to do this more easily than others, but everyone has that strong desire to be student-centred.
  • there are many, many wonderful teachers in schools doing amazing things with their students. Opportunities to both glimpse and share this is a source of insight and learning.
  • the Leadership Team play such a key role within a school and set the tone for collegiality and collaboration.

The overwhelming thing I feel is there is so much to learn! What a fantastic opportunity I have been given to work with a diversity of schools to improve student learning whilst at the same time, deepening my own understanding of leadership, student voice, the use of data to drive learning and learning design.

After this, I give up.  Probably.
Photo Credit: Curtis Alan Jackson via Compfight

April 16, 2014
by 34mk2012
0 comments

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
1 Comment

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 …

small_6110385718

 

 

 
photo credit: venspired via photopin cc

October 27, 2013
by 34mk2012
0 comments

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
0 comments

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

Skip to toolbar