Sunday, 30 December 2018

Reset & Reconnect

My children told me when I began my doctorate in 2016 that they hope I don’t turn into that ‘perfectionist’ again. I tended to agree and shared that I will try to ‘let go’. I began my PhD and after a year, I had completed four subjects but throughout this time, something didn’t feel right. I didn't feel a sense of belonging or connection with my supervisor. Brown explains the importance of feeling connected in her book Dare to Lead (2018). In response to this awakening, I conversed with and secured two interested supervisors. Unfortunately, the university I applied to took 8 months to tell me that my Distinctions for the four PhD completed subjects was not of an adequate standard. Ah the irony! ‘Don’t be a perfectionist mum’ had come back to bite me. Regardless, I learnt a lot that year, including the importance of feeling connected.

People have made comments about me being so connected and at times I’ve taken it as a negative. The connections are worthless if they are not mutually meaningful and authentic. After reading about and reflecting on leadership, the importance of trust, feeling connected, and belonging is consistently being emphasised. One principal met with me every 6-8 weeks to check-in and chat. She would ask what I was researching, learning, trying out in my classroom. This 30 minute-meeting made me feel connected, valued and provided a strong sense of belonging to the school community. Ten years on, I am still connected with teachers, parents and the former principal, which speaks volumes. It has always been important for me to stay connected with educators in the United States and Australia. These holidays have provided the time for me to reconnect with many former colleagues and edu-friends.

Reading the words of BrenĂ© Brown's, Dare to Lead has affirmed my beliefs and behaviours. When asked to work through and determine my values, it became clear that the top two are connection and making a difference. The other values that were on my top four were contribution and belonging. That sense of belonging includes recognising achievement, validating contributions, and developing a system where people know their value. With schools being busy places, I always worried that I was being too needy or my expectations were too high. I felt any meeting with me was taking time away from something or someone more important. I understand now that this need is related to my values, which requires the generosity of others. Brown (2018) provided scenarios that provided such clarification. “You don’t really know people until you take the time to understand their values. We need to make small human connections” (p. 208). I witnessed the importance of making time a priority in coaching and once you see the benefit, it becomes part of your being. No time, no connection, no trust. 

Being accountable to those you work with is more effective when you have a connection. As an extravert, my energy comes from interacting with people, both like-minded and those who challenge me. I thrive when being part of something bigger, so being part of a team for me is imperative. When my role requires more managerial or mandated checklists, I struggle and Brown's words were music to my ears. "When we reduce work to tasks and to-do lists, it is ineffective and shuts down creative problem solving, the sharing of ideas and the foundation of vulnerability" (2018, p. 99). Making a difference doesn't have the same impact if it results in feeling disconnected. 

The school holidays provide teachers with the time to reconnect and reflect. 

We do not learn from experience...we learn from reflecting on experience. (Dewey)
Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous. (Confucius)

So what have I learnt through my reflection? 

My values of connection AND making a difference are who I am. Both have impact but collectively, they are powerful.  Brown (2018) maintains that when we are in need of connection, we need to share with those who embrace us for our strengths and our struggles (p.152). This year I haven't sustained my connections with educators in areas such as coaching, research, TeachMeets and supporting women in educational leadership. Upon reflection, resetting & reconnecting is necessary. According to Brown, ‘a skill set that is critical in this rapidly changing world is learning how to reset after disappointments, setbacks or failures'. I intend to stay engaged, stay curious, stay authentic and stay connected. As a friend said to me, "It's time for you to get back on the horse". 

Always learning....

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

I Have Time for You.

Today I woke to hear the news that Penny Marshall had died. I had witnessed her talents and humour throughout my life with 'Laverne & Shirley' and 'A League of Their Own' that created great family memories. I read through numerous tweets that acknowledge her as one of the most successful female directors of all time; a trail blazer, a role model for women. Not to mention, funny, fearsome and fearless. I wonder why we don't acknowledge people who inspire us NOW…why wait until they are no longer with us?  

Today, everyone is busy. Time is a precious commodity and with work, family and/or study, finding time for friends is challenging. Staying connected is assisted with technology, however, it's important for me to meet and connect with friends. My friends re-energise me and when you truly engage in conversation, time passes instantly. When I leave these conversations, I have more clarity and I feel more confident in myself. And yet, I believe this must be reciprocated. If not simultaneously, in another time, place or situation. I am reminded of quote from the article: Michelle Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross on the Power of Women’s Stories'... when I leave people, I ask myself: Do I feel better or worse?' I am conscious that relationships are give and take. This week @mesterman reflected my thoughts in his tweet:

Your actions should be authentic and your interest should be genuine. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, not sycophantic. Invest in your friendships but be cautiously selective, as it is a two-way street. 

Becoming more reflective with age and experience, it is my view that we need to make time for those we appreciate, those who inspire us and we should let them know now, not wait until we are remembering them. Acknowledge those who lift you up, inspire you, and encourage you to follow your dreams. 

Always learning,

The lyrics of Laverne & Shirley
Making Our Dreams Come True

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight
Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated
We're gonna do it!

FYI- Schlemiel is an inept clumsy person and a Schlimazel is a very unlucky person. (Yiddish sayings)

Give us any chance - we'll take it
Read us any rule - we'll break it
We're gonna make our dreams come true...
Doin' it our way

Nothin's gonna turn us back now
Straight ahead and on the track now
We're gonna make our dreams come true...
Doin' it our way

There is nothing we won't try
Never heard the word impossible
This time there's no stopping us
We're gonna do it

On your mark, get set and go now
Got a dream and we just know now 
We're gonna make our dream come true
And we'll do it our way - yes our way
Make all our dreams come true
And do it our way - yes our way
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you! 


Sunday, 14 October 2018

Evidence, Experience & 'Expertise'

“To free up creative energy we need to let go and divert some attention from the pursuit of the predictable goals that we are naturally inclined to pursue and use it instead to explore the world around us on its own terms.”  
Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1997. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Attending the ACEL conference in Melbourne last week generated a couple of questions.

1.     Do we promote and provide time for curiosity to develop in students and teachers?
2.     Do we allow students and teachers time to explore their purpose or passions?
3.     How can my teacher-voice be heard?

Bryan Goodwin presented ‘Flip the script with student curiosity’. According to Goodwin, ‘Curiosity is as powerful a predictor of student success as IQ and student motivation matters as much to student outcomes as teacher quality. Yet both are often overlooked in our efforts to improve student outcomes in schools. In fact, the longer students stay in school, the less curiosity and motivation they demonstrate.’

With NSW reviewing the curriculum, I am hopeful that teachers will have a voice and contribute their experience and expertise. If curiosity is important to student learning, then it appears we need to go deeper into a topic and make learning more personal, engaging and authentic. Covering less content will provide the opportunity for teachers and students to dive deeper into a topic with an emphasis on motivation, engagement and curiosity.

In Robert Biswar-Diener’s presentation titled, 'What is experienced in experiential learning', he stated there is a long and rich tradition of attention to experiential learning in formal education systems. The common assumption is that it is through doing (behaviour) that learners have the opportunity to acquire skills, gain new knowledge, and interact with others. He suggests that although behaviour is integral to all experiential learning, it is possible that educators too often overlook the more psychological dimensions of experiential learning.

The teachers I know and work with understand that emotions are an integral part of the learning process. Teachers are struggling to complete the administrative expectations and unfortunately, it is my belief that if nothing changes soon their passion and purpose will be compromised. If teachers are provided with more support and time, they would be more effective and our students would benefit. With competing priorities, how are we supporting the teachers exploration of their passion and purpose?

I attended QandA last Monday night and because there were no politicians on the panel, it was all quite civilised. However, I do think a politician on the panel would compel them to hear the voices of those in the education industry. My question was not selected but using my 'teacher voice' I've since tweeted it to @pasi_sahlberg in the hope that UNSW Gonski Institute for Education @GonskiInstitute & Adrian Piccoli @PiccoliMp will respond.

Research is indicating that in the UK, USA and Australia, teachers are leaving the classroom within their first 5 years of teaching. While I received my teaching degree from a university in New South Wales, my 3 practicums were experienced in Washington state. I became credentialed in Washington State and then again in California. I was provided a mentor for 2 years, which was funded by the state governments to complete my teacher accreditation. Seattle School District also provides a mentor (outside of the school) to support the early career teachers in their first 2 years of teaching. If other countries are being proactive, why aren’t we?  How can we support our early career teachers in their first few years of teaching and through their accreditation process?

We need to support our teachers and reflecting back on the conference which was titled ‘Evidence & Experience’, I agree with Professor John Hattie, the word Expertise could have been included. While it is beneficial to have well-known keynotes with theory and research, it would have been great to hear from more general practitioners-those with expertise...
  • teachers who work with students daily
  • teachers who program with every new syllabus implemented (especially primary teachers)
  • teachers who write assessments and reports
  • teachers who work through the holidays planning for the Term
  • teachers who attend conferences to develop professionally (even in holiday time)
  • teachers who complete risk assessments & permission slips
  • teachers who know and care for their students way beyond 9-3
Teachers need to be recognised as the ones with the Expertise and need to be included at the table with the politicians, policy makers and academics. Teacher-voice and agency should be a priority because 'our students are our priority'.

I completed this data survey shared by Nicole Mockler on Twitter to again reflect my teacher-voice. 

Data, data everywhere! But what does it mean? How do we use it? To what end? Some of the qns @meghanrstacey and I are trying to get to the bottom of! Teachers in Aust, please consider doing our 15min survey & get your voice in the mix. (and pls RT madly!)

Let's put some play back in school!

Thanks for reading.