Thursday, 23 August 2018

Knowing Me, Knowing You.

I am currently relocating for the 29th time in 28 years of marriage, so I am familiar with change and living in new locations. At the end of February this year, I began a new role in a new school. Here I was known as a parent first, not as an educator. Starting in a new school means many teachers don’t know who you are, your beliefs, passions or purpose. While the content or role is similar to my previous one, the context is new. In education, context is key and relationships are crucial. With my coaching experience, I hope to build many relationships in my new context, but they take time and a conscious effort. If there was one thing I’d like the staff to know about me it is that I’m an advocate for teacher voice, agency and capacity building. I suppose the educators who read my blog posts or follow me on Twitter already know this about me. In my role, I share my purpose through informal conversations, organised professional learning opportunities and coaching. I hope to build trusting relationships, like those I’ve developed through my professional learning network (PLN).

This week I attended a meeting for ‘Leaders of Accreditation Network‘ (LAN), where we discuss the accreditation process of NESA and ISTAA. At this meeting I was introduced to someone who said, ‘Oh I know you, well I feel I know you. I heard your story at #RWLN (Renaissance Women Leader’s Network)’. I was humbled. The next day I attended the ACEL conference, 'Teachers Leading Educational Reform’, with Professor Alma Harris and Dr Michelle Jones. After attending and participating in this event, I have many questions for Australian educators regarding building collaboration not cooperation or delegation...
  • Why do we move teachers every few years (typically 3 yrs), place them into a new grade/stage level and ask them to collaborate?
  • If we accept that Collaboration is complex, why do we assume all teachers will collaborate because research says it is effective?
  • Does culture eat strategy for breakfast? 
  • Is collaboration mandatory in your school? 
  • Are teachers told to be part of a Professional Learning Communities or is this optional? 
  • What are your PLCs based on? 
  • Are coaches facilitating the learning in these collaborative groups? 
  • Are the executives/leaders the facilitators? 
  • How is teacher agency and voice evident? 
  • What comes first, culture or PLCs?
  • If collaboration and collective efficacy are powerful and effective, do schools protect and value allocated time for this?
I was so fortunate to to meet people who I have connected with on Twitter at this event. In one of the activities, I had to point to someone I’d like to chat with and I recognised Maria Serafim from her Twitter profile. To be honest, I really wanted to meet her and talk pedagogy. We chatted about Twitter and education and the conversation flowed so easily. I felt I knew her. Twitter provides you an opportunity to get to know someone professionally, but I also think it provides some insight into their personality too. It was amazing to speak with her and I hope we have the opportunity to connect again. I ended my day chatting with Thelma from Rooty Hill. Thelma and I talked about social justice and how teachers can make a difference. I had met Thelma last year when I spent a day at Rooty Hill High School. Kindly invited by the influential Chris Cawsey, I was fortunate to meet many of the staff there and I learnt a great deal from this experience. Although, most educators appreciate Twitter as a place to find resources, learn from others and share their thoughts and beliefs, it can be a springboard that helps create good friendships.

As my school has just become a NESA endorsed provider,  I recently attended a NESA workshop to learn more about eTams. We were asked to introduce ourselves and it was amazing to hear how many people knew others from various schools. Towards the end of the workshop, a woman beside me, Sarah mentioned that she follows me on Twitter. She then proceeded to tell me that I had attended the Growth Coaching Course with her husband, Jon. Talk about 6 degrees of separation! I really enjoyed our brief conversation and we hope to catch up again soon. I wonder ....would we have spoken to each other without the platform of Twitter? 

Blogging, TeachMeets and Twitter are great catalysts for developing relationships. You can really get to know people and they can get to know you, as this past week has shown. When you are in a new context, it can be difficult for others to ascertain your beliefs, passion and purpose. I will continue to focus on building relationships and trust, by having informal conversation, listening deeply and coaching where possible. This is how I will get to know my colleagues and they will get to know me. 

I bet you have ABBA singing in your head at the moment…sorry about that!

@stringer_andrea

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Integrity, Authenticity & Accountability


Speak with integrity, lead with authenticity and hold yourself accountable

Here are my comments regarding the article, '5 ways to be a conscious leader'.

1. Cultivate self-awareness-
Becoming self-aware is arguably the single most beneficial thing you can do to up your leadership style. 

As a leader and as a coach, I believe every leader can benefit from coaching, as I have found it develops self-awareness. I wonder if it becomes more important for leaders to develop self-awareness with their increased responsibility? I’ve read about the isolation and loneliness some Principals experience and question if they had the support of a coach, could this assist? It’s important to also mention that coaching is based on a trusting relationship, which I have previously articulated in the article, ‘The Benefits of Coaching’.

2. Check your influence-
We are the product of the five people we most associate with

This year I attained a leadership position at a new school and I have been reflecting on the characteristics of acquaintances, colleagues, and edu-friends. Over the years, it’s been interesting to observe who has made the effort to stay connected and who hasn’t. It’s not a judgement but I wonder if the conversation or relationship is elicited by the context or your role?

Throughout the years, my critical friends or my go-to people have changed. But then, there are some who for whatever reason, are always there, whether it be to support, to be a critical friend, to push my thinking or to ask the difficult questions. Every school holidays, I make an effort to meet up with educators who I admire and respect. Selfishly, these conversations inspire and can reignite my passion. I truly value these conversations. I can name the 5 people who continue to be influential in my education career…. can you?

3. Meditate-
The great thing about this ancient tradition is that there are many forms of meditation.

My drive to work has been extended so I have an additional time to plan or reflect on my day. Yet, I do know this is an area where more focus in needed. 

4. Be intentional-
Conscious leaders succeed because they bring intention to everything they do. 

As an educator, I have learnt to ask one question. “What is the purpose and what is my intention?” If I stay true to always asking this question, then I will stay true to myself. Although schools are busy places, we should make the effort to pause and question the services, processes and traditions we have continued. I’m not saying we should change everything but we should ask about the intention and the purpose. 


5. Practice the four agreements-

1. Be impeccable with your word (Say only what you mean, and don’t gossip or speak negatively).

It’s easy to get drawn into gossip or to speak negatively when you’re tired and feeling overworked.  It takes effort to stay low on the inferential ladder.

2. Don’t take anything personally (Nothing that others do is because of you, it is all a projection of their own reality).

Teaching is personal, especially when you invest so much of yourself in your work. This agreement is difficult to sustain. I have learnt to not respond immediately. Take at least one night to respond and speak with a critical friend. Firing back immediately never generates the most rational conversation.

3. Don’t make assumptions (Instead, have the courage to ask questions and communicate).

Being a coach has really helped me development my ability to not jump to conclusions or assume. Staying low on the inference later is vital
.


4. Always do your best (Your best may change day to day, but by doing your best you can avoid self-judgement and regret).

I think leaders and teachers judge themselves too harshly. Educators tend to hold criticism like Velcro and compliments like Teflon.




Please feel free to provide some comments on this article and my reflections.

@stringer_andrea

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Pedagogical Activist


I recently attended a 2-day conference on the topic of ‘Capabilities’ at the Association of Independent Schools. Capability refers to the higher level of ability that an individual can achieve or improve to, whereas capacity is the ability that exists at present. Some may get caught up in the various labels used such as capabilities, dispositions, 21st century skills, global skills, competences, non-cognitive or soft skills, 4Cs, 6Cs, 7 Cs etc. My view is that educators and leaders should focus not on the label but on the purpose. Why do we value these skills and abilities and how do we design learning experiences to develop these in our students? Presenters spoke of a balanced approach to learning. 'Don’t fall for false dichotomies-progressive versus traditional, content versus skills'. It’s a balance of both. We need to develop knowledge (brain) and character (heart).

While I could comment on the keynotes and workshops I attended and how I’ve been inspired, this post is focusing on one single tweet. One that I collated from slides provided by Charlie Leadbeater @LeadbeaterCh and added a simple comment.





The biggest problem I find in education is that we never ‘drop’ anything. We keep adding new but don’t replace. Is it about taking a risk? I’m wondering ... #aisnswcapabilities

 



The responses this post generated provided some wonderful analogies.
For every ‘implementation’ what do you take away? Pruning works for plants, axons, dendrites and overall growth. We need to look to nature to grow children and schools. Don’t water the rocks. 
I spent many summers on my family’s orchids and love your analogy - still worried we might be pruning an unhealthy tree 
We never have anything taken off the table. Just added to. When does the table collapse? 
The analogies here are great! Add to them a multi-layered cake... Eventually it becomes unstable, unhealthy and too complex to eat (where do you start?!) 
Yes, we are so scared by compliance. I love seeing my Ts as risk takers and designing & implementing an innovative learning program. 
I like to think about it as making visible the approaches that are already there, perhaps they are subversive influences (for good or bad). How do we tweak/challenge or amplify what's already there, perhaps subconsciously. Must go deep!

One person, one political party, one organisation cannot design a dynamic learning culture; it needs to be a collective effort. A collective review and renewal of our curriculum and assessment practises to allow organisations/schools to design, facilitate and lead dynamic learning opportunities for our students. Students, teachers and educational leaders need to have more influence and be more involved in the decision-making process. As the tweets and analogies above highlight, maybe it's time we rethink education in Australia.
  • What isn’t working in our context?
  • What is working well and how do we know this?
  • What can we learn from research, data and evidence?
  • What can we learn from other countries and contexts?
  • How could we adapt what we learn from others for our context? (not replicate)
  • How can we give all stakeholders a voice in the decision making process?
  • How can we promote and recognise educators as the 'professionals'?
  • Who is prepared to take a risk for our students' education?
  • What should we drop, retain or introduce?


As Dr Katherine Hoekman expressed and tweeted - Let’s be Pedagogical Activists.

Always asking questions...
Andrea