Saturday, 19 December 2015

Finding my Purpose

I’m very appreciative and grateful for all the professional events that happened this year and to all those who have supported or provided opportunities.
  • Appointed coordinator of a collaborative K-2 team
  • Accepted into the ‘The art of leadership’ course at Harvard
  • Awarded the Wenona Fellowship that afforded me an amazing learning experience to meet some outstanding educators.
  • Presented at two conferences
  • Travelled to the US to learn from innovative educators, schools, universities, Harvard & ISTE
  • Received the Keith Tronc Award at the ACEL conference
  • Accepted an offer from the University of Wollongong for PhD
I visited JFK museum in Boston 

I attempted to thank many at the end of my blogs through my Gratitude Journal but there are so many to whom I am very grateful. Upon completion of my fellowship, I did some soul searching and spent many hours reflecting on my experiences and incredible opportunities. What is my passion? What do I want to achieve? How can I make a difference? This fellowship was instrumental to my future endeavours.

I recently spoke with an academic who asked me why I was interested in a PhD. Her approach to finding my purpose was a little off-putting and not the supportive manner I’d hoped for. But I'm appreciative because it did make me stop and question why I really wanted to conduct educational research. I have read education texts, articles, blogs and attended conferences and regardless of the topic, the most important thing for me is the 'PURPOSE'.
  • the aim, goal or intention of a person
  • the reason why something is done or used 
  • what a person is trying to do, become, etc.
  • the feeling of being determined to achieve something
So what's my purpose? 

This graphic represents 'purpose' and with this wonderful opportunity, I'm conscious of staying focused because I have found I can get easily distracted by being active on social media (Twitter), exploring new apps, reading educational texts, and attending conferences. I know that I'm going to have to lose that Fear Of Missing Out. When I met with my university supervisors, they asked for me to share my story. After listening intently, they asked questions and continually referred back to my comments. They used coaching to clarify my purpose. My purpose is clearer and I know at times I’ll be tempted to venture into other territories, but I will ask myself, 

“Will it support educators and enhance or improve their teaching quality?”

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Yin & Yang

This week I was asked to speak to say goodbye to my colleague. In front of many, I wanted this 2-minute speech to be humorous but also authentic. I spoke with another colleague about how to begin. She commented on what she had heard me say… 'She’s the Yin to my Yang’. While I knew what I meant, I took some time to reflect and wondered how to describe it best. I thought of all the surface differences we have-
  • She’s young and I’m not.
  • She’s petite and well... I’m not.
  • She’s a beginning teacher and I have more experience.
  • She’s more reserved and private and me?…not so much.
This led to me thinking about introverts and extroverts and if you think extroversion relates to how outgoing someone is and introversion is the same as being shy, then that would represent the Yin and Yang I talk about. But there is a misconception about extroverts and introverts. The true meaning is-
  • Introverts (or those of us with introverted tendencies) tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.
  • Extroverts on the other hand, gain energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being social.
I read this week that interviews work really well for extroverts and not so much for introverts click here Imagine if a company or school was entirely comprised of extroverts? But I knew our differences were at another or deeper level. And I know what you’re thinking. When you hear differences, you automatically think we don’t get on. You are so wrong!
I reflected on a post I wrote at the beginning of the year- “It’s not my work, it’s my passion”. Here I blogged about my thinking preferences. After completing the survey, I fell within the red/yellow category and I believe if my colleague completed this survey, she would be green/blue. So what does all this mean?

In essence, my weaknesses or challenges are her strengths. 

The green personality is generally referred to as the calm personality. They don't easily get frazzled and are the essence of calmness even in most stressful situations. Their strengths are-
  • Organised
  • Sequential
  • Planned
  • Detailed
  • Implementer
The blue personality are seen as the perfectionists. They are the ones who would generally examine the smallest details of every situation and fret about each one of them.
Their strengths-
  • Argue Rationally
  • Generalise from specifics
  • Problem-solve logically
  • Critical Analysis 
So I now understand why we need to have various personalities and strengths within organisations. Previously, I thought I worked best with educators 'like me', but this perception has been challenged. Now I believe we need to utilise people’s strengths. Balance appears to be key. Teams could be balanced to work more effectively. Utilising Visible Thinking Routines-

I used to think …that I typically work best with someone ‘like me’.
Now I think… that an effective team requires a balance of personalities.

Through analysing our relationship, I learnt something and I need to thank my wonderful colleague for proving to me that having different personalities works very well. The concept of personalities covers a large gamut and I’ve only observed one element. I'm also thinking that sometimes, you just click with someone and the magic just happens. A colleague no more, but simply my friend.

Always learning,

Friday, 20 November 2015


At ACEL conference, I had the pleasure of having several thought-provoking conversations with some very well known educators and some…well not so well known. Both were very interesting, rich discussions. And by rich I mean the conversation had me connecting various ideas and concepts; it had me asking questions; it ignited my curiosity. One of the conversations I had really got me thinking… why are some educators so well known, while others not so much? Is it about gender, culture, race, experience (or lack of), having a platform, being connected or having the support of others?

Reflecting on this question, I drew on my own experiences.

I remember one principal sat me down and asked me where did I see myself in five years and what was my passion? She wanted to help me achieve this. This conversation has always stayed with me. She said she believed that someday I would become Dr Stringer. I laughed out loud! The deputy principal shared that she could see me working with beginning teachers one day. I laughed at that comment too! What did they see in me that I couldn’t see? What I do know is that these leaders expressed their belief in my potential. Without me realising it, they were building my self-efficacy and over the years they built my capacity.

In the last few years, I’ve spoken with some educators about doing my PhD. I’ve had various responses. Why would you want to do that? Ah, but you have a husband and three children. Where are you going to find the time? Very rarely did I receive any encouragement...until recently. When I attended Harvard, I was encouraged to ‘Go for it’. The support and encouragement from many (even strangers) was surprising. I was fortunate enough to met Maria there. Maria is a lecturer from Monash University in Melbourne. There are some people who come into your life when you most need them. We connected instantly. She read my blogs and continually encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Just this week, I was fortunate to be invited to #EdCoachRES that provided more support and encouragement. Being surrounded by ‘You can do it’ people really makes a difference. I need to be more like that for others. I need to pay it forward.

So I wonder…Do we support each other enough in education? In Australia, we have the Tall Poppy Syndrome (see below). Does this affect our Australian educational leaders and presenters? Do we promote and encourage our newest teachers to be ambitious, to become leaders, to reach for the stars? Do we model or advise them to play it safe? Do we mentor, support, coach and guide? Do we encourage risk taking? Now change all these questions to 'how'. Asking 'how' generates more reflection. Personally, I want to further develop my ability to support and encourage other teachers, as so many continually support and encourage me.

According to a Chinese friend, they have a similar saying- chū tóu de chuán zǐ xiān làn This means: rafters that jut out rot first. And another: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. We should encourage our educators to jut out and to support them, so they don't get hammered or cut down. 

And the learning continues...
For those who aren’t Australian or familiar with Tall Poppy Syndrome, here's some background information.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Can you measure the effectiveness of Professional Development?

I was fortunate to attend the 3-day ACEL conference in Sydney thanks to generosity of my school. I was really looking forward to this, as I thought it would be the highlight of my holidays. And it was! I’m not going provide my thoughts on all presentations or workshops but here are the storifies from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

I’ve been thinking about the direction professional development is heading...TeachMeets, Edcamps, Twitter. I’m reflecting on Alma Harris’s presentation when she stated, “You have everything you need within your system”. I wonder if we have everything we need within our schools or between all of our schools? How has professional development changed over the last few years and where will it be in the next few years? Do we need to physically come together to learn and connect? Some people get their energy from being quiet and in solitude. I love being around people as it energises me. It always has. What are the professional benefits of PDs and how would its effectiveness be measured? I do think there are personal benefits of attending an event like #acelconf2015.

"Hello"- I got to finally meet many of those I’ve connected with on Twitter face to face. While some I had met before, many were for the first time. I was able to thank David Ivers personally for helping with my Harvard application. Meeting wonderful educators face to face made the conference so much richer. Some of the awesome educators I met are listed so you can build your PLN with more inspiring educators. Thanks all for making the event even better!


"Thank you"- I got to personally thank Alma Harris, Andy Hargreaves and Yong Zhao for being guest moderators on #satchatoc. These generous educators are so giving of their time, knowledge and advice. I also got to spend time just chatting with them. Would I have been confident enough to go and introduce myself before I connected with them on Twitter? I’m not sure, but I did introduce myself to Michael Fullan... although Andy continued the introduction. I enjoyed spending time with Yong as we talked about my children, education and the future (with a few laughs as well). It was great meeting Alma who was instrumental in the Women in Educational Leadership chat. Listening and learning from Alma was definitely a highlight and I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with her.

Connecting & Networking- So we all know the benefits of connecting, as you are most likely reading this via Twitter. Twitter & connecting go hand in hand although some are more comfortable lurking on Twitter. Networking is interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Meeting people face to face not only makes it easier to connect but you can also have deeper conversations about topics of mutual interest. Sometimes you feel that connection straight away. The next time someone asks how do you find the time to connect on Twitter, I will share how I've grown both personally and professionally and how my students benefit.

Grateful- I am so grateful for the relationships I’ve developed with educators and the friendships I’ve made. It was very humbling to receive the Keith Tronc Award and I'm very grateful to ACEL for this recognition. My daughter noticed I got a little overwhelmed while Dr Tronc made his moving speech. I was also amazed by the number of congratulatory tweets and postings on Facebook. Thank you! When I was a beginning teacher in Marin County, I remember seeing in the paper a teacher receiving an award. I thought how awesome it would be to win that award as it would confirm that I was doing a good job and that my students were benefitting from my efforts. As a beginning teacher, I needed others approval. I remember I had my daughter film me on a flip camera, so I could analyse my own teaching. I think this is why I enjoy working with beginning teachers as they need to know they are doing a good job and have their feelings validated. It was also inspiring to see ACEL support emerging voices in educational leadership by awarding the 'New Voice Scholarships'. I think we need to support new teachers and new leaders. While the goal to recognise teachers as professionals like doctors and lawyers is wonderful, all the teachers I've met aren’t in it for the money or recognition. We are all here for the students and that for me, makes all teachers 'superheroes'.

Friday, 11 September 2015

More than just my #PLN

A colleague is moving interstate and I gave her some advice …”Get on Twitter”.  Not because it is free professional development and provides wonderful opportunities but because she could meet some amazing and very caring people. You could say I’ve done my share of moving (Canada, US, Australia etc) and in every new place, I would join a gym. I found it a great way to meet people. The gym not only provided some ‘me’ time but also provided my children the chance to interact and socialise with other children. If you haven’t moved, you may not understand but making friends takes effort and time. Without work colleagues or friends of friends to meet, it can be isolating if you are not comfortable putting yourself out there.

Honestly, it’s hard moving…finding a house, doctor, dentist, school-all those things. It’s especially hard when you don’t know another soul. So I reached out to my Twitter friends in Canberra who were only too willing to connect with my colleague. I feel better knowing that she has some support there, as these people are wonderful educators and ‘good’ people.

Last night I met with many tweeps I have gotten to know through Twitter. You could say these people are part of my PLN but that would be incorrect. These people have become more. They have become my friends. We all go through times when we need a little more support, and the friends I've made through Twitter and TeachMeets have texted, Voxed, Direct Messaged or phoned to provide just that. Getting together face to face is the best but a short message or a lengthy conversation goes a long way too. From a person who knows that making friends takes effort, I appreciate the friendships I’ve gained from Twitter & TeachMeets.

The definition of social networking is the use of dedicated websites and applications to interact with other users, or to find people with similar interests to one's own. Twitter is social networking with social being the operative word. To recharge my battery, I surround myself with positive, passionate people. By definition, that makes me an extrovert. I’ve met people face to face who are quite introverted but this is not reflected on Twitter. 

While life will always provide some challenges, I believe these challenges reveal what and who to be grateful for. So yes, they are part of my PLN but they are so much more. With no family in Sydney, I feel I can always call on many of these friends, which brings me and my family a great deal of comfort. 

So thank you friends,


Friday, 28 August 2015

A Good Work Ethic?

I started work as an apprentice when I was 15 years old. The manager of the salon created a very strict work environment-being timed in the bathroom, taught how to hang the towels ‘correctly’, work day ends when the manager says. Any monetary bonuses were based on targets. It was typical practise to give the apprentice the children and men as they took longer and your percentage per client was always below the target. When I complained to my parents, they said it was developing a strong work ethic and I would be the better for it. We were always told to never quit! My dad was a hard worker and my mother too. Mum continues to keep herself busy today. 

One day my mother called the salon and was told that I was too busy to speak and that personal phone calls were not allowed. My mother (who never phoned the salon) replied, “Could you please tell Andrea that her dad has had a heart attack and was being taken to the hospital”.  The only form of empathy I received from my manager was when she said that her Dad had also had a heart attack. But I think she said this more as a way to say, it’s quite common.

After four years I got up the courage to ask my boss for a transfer. It was hard as we are always told to never quit and never give up. However, I was offered to manage another salon but it would be in a four weeks time. I was so excited! All that ‘hard work’ had paid off. The only problem was that my boss told my manager that I requested to be transferred. So for the next four weeks, my manager would make comments like, “You only have to work with me for two more weeks”.

Years later I opened my own salon and one night I ran into my previous boss. Ironically, I was told that I was the only apprentice who had not asked to be removed from working with this manager. Because I had never shared my concerns, I remained in the same context. I had hoped that my exiting that situation had caused my manager to reflect on her practise. But I also wonder if hoping was enough? Had I made it any easier for those coming through as an apprentice?

I expect many of you have worked with those who support and encourage your professional growth. Yet I expect some may have also worked with those who may also impede your success. These people- 
·      may not work as collaboratively as they could
·      may not share information or documents that make work less stressful
·      may not share your triumphs and successes but always freely share your challenges and mistakes
·      may not allow you any autonomy

And so I wonder …
·      when does your resilience create a precedent for others?
·      when should you speak up and say it’s too much?
·      how do you work with those who you believe are not promoting your success?
·      why do people act the way they do? (Insecurity, modelled & experienced behaviour

And the questions continue...