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?
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 …
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.
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 …
Student voice has become a buzzword in education at present and at the REL Networks, it has certainly been spoken about multiple times. What do we mean by student voice? Is it about engagement and making choices about learning? Is it about learning design that the student is a key player in? Is it about students working towards school improvement? Perhaps it is all of these things is some ways.
I stumbled across this video clip which apart from being humourous, also made me think about the relationships between teachers/leaders and students and how they have changed (or not!) over the years.
This really gave me pause to think. My first reaction is ‘of course I have never operated like that within the school context’, but after further reflection, the stance of the school leader is one I may have taken on occasions. I feel I have grown much as a teacher since returning 5 years ago and made some inroads on enabling student voice within my classroom but I am not sure how effectively we did this as a school and leadership team. How is student voice authentically placed in school decision making? Where is student voice authentically placed within the school review process?
So for some research …
I came across two websites I feel are well worth a look in expanding understandings of student voice. The first is a document from the Department of Education. It is lengthy but worth a read to put the concept of student voice in context and the questions on page 19 provide a great source of reflection on student voice within the school and classroom. The other site is titled ‘Soundout’, an American based site that has a number of interesting links about student voice. The one that I found challenging and valuable was the one title Cycle of Student Voice . This describes five aspects of supporting student voice in learning: listen, validate, authorise, reflect and act.
The challenge for our REL Network now is to ensure greater and more authentic student voice in our planning and learning design and to also seek student voice on how this impacts learning. Just a small challenge for next year!
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.
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?
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;
INFORMATION – Tell me about this change? Why? What do we know about this?
PERSONAL – What’s in it for me? How will this impact me? Can I succeed in this?
IMPLEMENTATION – How will this really work? What happens if I need help?
IMPACT – Will this change make any difference?
COLLABORATION – How do we get everyone involved?
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?
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
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.