Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Long and Winding Road: Week 32 - PRACTICE - Changes in Practice



It's been a crazy 32 week journey...my wife and I had a personal loss on the first day of the course, and since then we have sold our house, started building a new one, shifted in with my parents while we build, discovered and started dealing with big health issues in my Mum, became pregnant with our second child, and I won the Principalship of my current school...all as well as (mainly) keeping up with the week to week work of the course (love those 2 week extensions though!).

The first 16 weeks were a great mix of practical, and thought provoking content. I enjoyed the digital work, even if some of it wasn't new. Being able to discuss ways of using it in the class, and how to spread the message within staff...priceless. But it was the Leadership content that really impacted me. When the course started I was happy in my little leadership bubble as AP...but week by week the readings challenged the way I operated, made me look closer at the way I worked with others, delivered content and ideas, and how I sourced new ideas. Analysing my leadership in such detail, week to week (and more deeply in the assignments) wow...super harsh, but super constructive. I was able to adapt many of the leadership ideas into reality at school, the biggest success being taking the nursing model of RAPID care and translating that into a structure to be focussing on our targeted learners in our 4 ILE teams.

I think PTC4 and PTC 12 have been the main winners for me across the 32 weeks. While I did consider myself to be someone who kept themselves developed, engaging in academic research was a first for me since teachers college...and I found myself really enjoying it. Being able to say this approach works, or is worth trying, based on research has been a big shift...in the past for PL sessions at school Blog posts would be been some pre-reading, now using research as a step up. As someone recently said to me...without research you're just another person with an opinion!

Using the assignments as a way to inquire into both my practice and leadership has also been a real win. Again, deciding on an approach based on research, and determining how to unpack success...a big change from previous inquiries. Engaging with others on the course as well, what are you doing...why...how is it going...would you do it again...what did you learn...questions about practice and outcomes that seem deeper than in the past.

When the opportunity came up early in the second half of the course to apply for the principals job I decided that I was ready for that next step...and thankfully the BoT and external facilitator agreed. Across this last term, the reflective posts and readings have been useful to 'get my head right' leading into Term 3 and stepping into my new role.

Using Rolfe's (2001) model to examine my learning the what has been the course content as described above, and the So What has been the impact on my leadership...the way I view leadership, my own leadership style/s, and how I can become better. It is the What Next that is the real challenge.

While it isn't new to me that education is changing, and that the role of school and teacher has to adapt, the Mind Lab programme has brought that firmly to the forefront in terms of importance. How can I go on such a learning journey, engage with the research showing how and why schools need to adapt and change, engage with leadership literature pointing out the critical role that school leaders play in creating environments focussed on developing great learners...and not DO something with that in my new role?

The coming of the new Digital technology curriculum is well timed, and my literature review into coding, robotics and learning will help a lot with this. Supporting my 2 staff currently still on the course, and allowing them to spread their learning and knowledge also vital. Building leadership in digital learning within each teaching team, another important step. And, being able to find the time to carry on with my own development and learning...maybe not right away, but carrying on to wards my Masters is something I will look into.


As an aside, some feedback for those thinking about joining the course: Being the only one completing the course from school has had its challenges also...in the second half of the course, trying to keep on track would perhaps have been easier working as a team. Having a weekly time to meet, to discuss what is coming, to bounce ideas off...all the great things about the first 16 weeks I missed in the second. We have 2 people in the March intake, and I've recommended to them that they try meet regularly to keep on top of it all.

References

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001).Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Many Rivers to Cross: Week 31 - PRACTICE - Professional Context - Crossing Boundaries



Breaking out of the National Standard silo's has been on the school to-do list for a few years now. We aren't seeing the changes in achievement that we would like, no matter how much we put in. A time for a re-think.
This year we have allowed our Inquiry Learning to include our Literacy programmes...to have the morning and afternoon parts of the school day work together, and build off each other. Small step, but so far so real strength has been seen (and a few weaknesses). The Ross Spiral curriculum seen in the video describes what we know learning could be like...exciting, personalised and challenging, and it also nicely shows what we can't get to with this relentless focus on reading, writing and maths.



My connections map shows the various people. groups and types of learning that I interact with. As I shift into Principalship I've noticed that the job I have been doing, and about to do, is quite different from classroom practice...and the people/ideas that I will be interacting with are different also. In many ways I will be taking all of these disparate threads, and trying to find alignment between them...alignment between the schools vision, beliefs, actions in the class, and how the community and various agencies can best support the learning of the children.

Community of Learning
In my final weeks of being AP, the Masterton schools had their final meetings about commiting to setup a community of learning. The (then) principal took me along to these...but so i could have my voice, and so I could see the lie of the land. A CoL will be the very embodiment of interdisciplinary connections...as the story of a learner from ECE through to tretiary will need to be considered and enhanced.

While these meetings at their very infancy, a lot of planning and idea sharing has happened already. The ACRLog (2015) suggests that successful interdisciplinary collaboration requires a synergy of Qualities/Attitudes, Workplace Conditions, and Common Goals. It was interesting reading about this in light of the steps towards a CoL...getting the mix right, how will that look? The Primary cluster have been working on some shared learner qualities for several years now, so this could be the start of one piece. Setting an achievement challenge as a group will help determine some common goals. But it is the Workplace conditions, the way we will operate together...that will be a real challenge I believe. Keeping communication effective between many organisations, of varying sizes and complexities...keeping the functional elements of all...almost hurts the head just thinking about it.

It will be a challenge, but we aren't the first...so learning from established CoL's about what worked for them, and adapting those ideas to suit our context will be important going forward.


References

ACRLog. (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration

Ross Institute. (2015, July 5). Ross Spiral Curriculum: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Science. [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHZhkB0FJik


Monday, 10 July 2017

Stop! Collaborate and Listen: Week 30 - PRACTICE - Professional Online Social Networks




In an age of collaboration, how will educators who are not connected get on? Are they missing out, or are they wiser than the rest?

I joined Twitter for the first time in 2009, sent out one tweet...then decided it wasn't for me. I had heard how it could be great to connect, to seek new ideas and knowledge...but the reality left me a bit cold, the connection asn't there. In 2014 a group from school went to uLearn, and as a part of that I completed the Connected Educator month through Core Ed. A lot of the skills weren't new to me, but the application really opened my eyes. This blog was started, and I reactivated my twitter account...and started to connect with the people i was meeting and seeing at uLearn. Suddenly the tool had a purpose, and I was away.

The purpose was important...I wanted exposure to new ideas, to thought leadership, and to influential people...to move beyond the knowledge in my school, in my town. Towards the end of that month I blogged about being 'connected', and how the 'knowledge was in the room', and that Twitter just made my room so much larger. Through twitter a connection to Russell Street school was formed, which has led to a sports exchange. That same connection has led to the beginnings of an educamp being run in the Wairarapa later this year. I've asked questions of experts, had my thoughts shared, and collectively built knowledge with others. The Twitter feed on the side of my blog shows show of this connecting (and I also do a fair amount of lurking and viewing!). being able to bring outside ideas to your practice, to see innovative people and what they are doing, to be able to ask questions to those with the answers, and to be exposed to differing methods, approaches, and thinking is the benefit of using such a tool.

Melhuish (2013) says that these social media allow teachers to "engage in an informal kind of professional learning" that meets their needs, and is 'just in time' for them. This is fantastic, and also the biggest challenge to overcome. For this to be the case, to be successful, teachers need an inquiring mindset, they have to want to learn. Otherwise the tool fails. If its purpose is to bring and share knowledge, and this isn't what is wanted, the tool will be seen as an extra, the PL opportunities seen as a waste of time, and the idea swiftly falls over. I see this as the case in many of the postings on the NZ Teacher Facebook page...where instead of a great place for sharing and collaborating, it (at times) becomes a place to offload, to complain, to try avoid doing the hard thinking/work required to be a learner. Lots of the posts are fantastic, but sadly the group doesn't appeal to me...the PLN I have through twitter provides much more, in a much more positive way. The Netsafe video (linked here) sums this up nicely.

Ultimately I think that if you are a learner, if you are a seeker of new ideas, then using a digital tool to access these is a must. It won't replace people (hearing first-hand from excellent practitioners is awesome), it won't replace reading (this has its place for sure), but it does supplement these, and make them more powerful. Watching someones practice from another country...not easy without social media, asking questions of the author of a study you want to know more about...so much faster through twitter.

As with any tool, the user will make what they want to make of it...and use of the tool alone will never be enough.

References

Education Council.(2012). Establishing safeguards.[video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/49216520

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/han...

Office of Ed Tech. (2013, Sep 18). Connected Educators. [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=216&v=K4Vd4JP_DB8

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

How Social is too Social? Week 29 - PRACTICE - Influence of Law and Ethics

How Social is too Social?

A few years ago now we had a teacher who made what I considered to be some social media faux pa's, the biggest of which involved Facebook, parents, and student data.
This teacher had 'friended' some of the parent community on Facebook, something that I had always been very wary of...but not something that the school had taken a stance on (this was 2010). Some of her status updates could be seen as a bit disparaging towards the school, and the learners, such as "yay, can't wait to get out of here, sick of it", "do I have to go to work today, can't be bothered" etc. School Leadership would talk about it about it, and some reminders sent to staff. The big one was after some STAR testing, and she posted "So proud of my Year 4's, made huge progress in STAR Reading. Wish I could say the same about my year 3's, sigh, they're the opposite". Clearly this is not appropriate, especially as parents (and staff) in the school could see that (and perhaps identify children).

Ethically she had taken the private, and made it public, sharing to people that didn't have the right to know, and sharing in a way that was negative about learners in her care. Those learners and their whanau have the right to know about how their child is progressing, but that information stops there. Do other people have the right to know, and is it fair that the choice was taken away from them?

The issue I guess is where is the line between personal and professional life? How public can you be about yourself when you hold a professional role in a public organisation? The Teachers Council later came up with a guide to Social Media, which would have been a great help back then.

What was done to address the issue? Not a lot other than a repeat of previous attempts...a conversation, and a reminder to staff about the perils of Facebook. The teacher did promptly 'unfriend' the school leaders...which meant that her posting were no longer visible to us.

What could we have done? Following Hall's process, we get to the point of asking what restrictions are there to our actions...and this is where we fell down then, and still would, as we don't have a clear policy about social media use in the school. While we can talk about maintaining professionalism, we don't have policies or procedures to fall back onto.

The New Code of Conduct/Standards from the Education Council now give us the means, even without policy. It is clear about describing what a teacher has to do to uphold the profession, and to maintain relationships within and without school. She may have failed by:
- disclosing a learner’s personal or confidential information beyond those who have a legitimate need to know
- communicating in a dismissive, disrespectful or inappropriate manner

The Code examples make things clear by having the negative view of the code, describing behaviours that we don't want in the profession.

References

Education Council. (n.d.). Retrieved July 01, 2017, from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/our-code-our-standards

Hall, A. (2001) What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Developing-leaders/What-Ought-I-to-Do-All-Things-Considered-An-Approach-to-the-Exploration-of-Ethical-Problems-by-Teachers



Sunday, 2 July 2017

I Believe, We Believe: Week 28 - PRACTICE - Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Responsiveness

What is Culturally Responsive Practice?

A big question...but perhaps with an easy, entry level answer?

Believe in the kids (get rid of the deficit thinking), believe in your actions (agentic teachers) and care for your students as people.



Unpacking what Bishop (2012) is getting at...he wants for teachers to care deeply, and genuinely for the students that come through the gates, and to have high hopes, dreams, and expectations for them without letting backgrounds get in the way. To truly believe that as teacher I can create conditions, and facilitate powerful learning that will help make the difference for that child.

Easy to write, easy to believe, harder to put into practice....but should it be?

As a teacher, as a leader, and as a school we have struggled with this across the years. Don't get me wrong, we do many awesome things for our Māori students, but have often grappled with the meaningful vs tokenism debate. Are we doing this to celebrate and grow a culture, or to tick a box for somebody? This has led at times to slow change, and actions not being valued...no matter their ease of implementation (eg daily karakia). This area is still a work in progress.

I was intrigued this week by the Mauri Model of self-reflection, a simple and powerful tool. Using the concept of Mauri, a life force, we can see how 'alive' an idea, a concept or an action is in our practice. Pohatu (2011) used these descriptions of Mauri:

Mauri Moe has two levels: first level is inactive state which can be thought of as “being dead” and the second level is proactive potential which can be described as “sleep” state.

Mauri Oho is the state of being proactive, being awaken from the Mauri Moe.

Mauri Ora is the state of being actively engaged.

Our Vision, Mission and Values
Last year staff, students and whanau inputted and created our new graduate profile, the DPS Kid. This Kid embodies all that we want for our learners...academically, behaviourally, environmentally and culturally. Interestingly when we asked our community what they wanted for their kids they overwhelming wanted us to help foster great kids, nice citizens, kids who felt safe to be themselves, risk-takers, and just to be happy at school. This ties in so well with what Bishop asks of us as a profession, to know and care for the kids. We used our 5 PRIDE values as a base for this DPS Kid, using the Māori words for them (again, the token debate...) and using a whakatauki to bring a richness to each value. This cultural story that the whakatauki bring was missing before, and is such a simple powerful thing to have done. Our aim over time is to have the children be able to use the English, Māori and whakatauki interchangeably when discussing themselves as a person.

I think for this area of the school we are operating at Mauri Oho as we are making a start, making deliberate choices to bring the culture to the fore within the school. The shift to Mauri Ora will be harder, and I see this as being when the DPS kid has been normalised, along with all the concepts and language attached to it.

Decisions, Decisions
Do we as a school make culturally responsive decisions? Again, a question that has an 'easy to write' answer, but a challenge to bring to reality.
Over the last 5 years our school has become much more strategic, and focussed in our planning...through the charter and annual plan. While not totally rigid, they have meant that once on a path we have tended to stick with it. As we are making these big decisions for the following 12 months we aren't asking ourselves questions about culture, about values, and about how we could be doing things 'differently' (as ERO put it). We ask each other questions about learning, and learners, without considering their stories, without looking further than what the data is telling us. We are making a beginning with this though, with this years annual plan target around Māori achievement, and annual goals around developing a more culturally responsive way of working. As a Leaders team we are looking and learning, two members now a part of a culturally responsive cluster, and we have reframed our 'target' children into 'focus learners', part of the change being to know them before we teach them.

I think we are Mauri Moe, but perhaps the second level. On the way, starting on a good track...but far from proactive yet.


References

A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. (2017, July 01). Retrieved July 01, 2017, from https://vimeo.com/49992994bishop vid

Raising Achievement in Primary Schools (2014), Education Review Office









An Inconvenient Post: Week 27 - PRACTICE- The Broader Professional Context


Globalisation, Climate Change, and the Impact on our Environment



When I was at college my friends and I would often disappear to the local rivers to go swimming. We had our pick, could go anywhere. Fast-forward 20 years and the current students of Wairarapa College have less choice, and more to worry about if they choose to go for a swim. Wairarapa translated into English means 'glistening waters', yet just last week a scientist claimed that Lake Wairarapa will take 100 years to repair the environmental degradation that has already occurred (Wairarapa Times Age, 2017)

An OECD report (OECD, 2016) claims that temperature increases of just a few degrees would lead to water shortages for billions of people...and lead to the extinction of a large part of animal species. The report claims that even with increased environmental awareness, greenhouses gases continue to rise. The Paris Climate Agreement that the report mentions aimed to limit the worlds temperature increases, and was seen as a massive gain for the environment. Unfortunately, with Trump pulling the US out of the agreement are we headed towards those 'few degrees'? The big concern however must be the clash between public knowledge, and public action. While people choose to debate the validity of climate change, there are certainly many that believe it to be true, but this doesn't seem to correlate with large numbers of people choosing to act for the environment, or for elected representative bodies to act either?

All of the above has meaning for practice here at school. Building a habit is easier than un-doing one, so education plays a massive part in achieving better environmental outcomes. The actions we model to our students, our attitudes, beliefs and assumptions, the value we give or don't give to our environment all contribute to growing the next generation of people to deal with this trend/issue.

What Will You Do?
Western education certainly has a big part to play. Where does power come from, how did this food get to my plate, what fuelled my transport getting to school, what is being done locally to restore and enhance the environment we have affected...some question stubs that curriculum could be geared to answer. If nothing else, an awareness that the decisions we make daily have a big impact globally...how much of a consumer do you want to become? What did your decision affect?

We are currently a green-gold enviroschool, and take a number of actions to improve our school and local environments. We have a 2kwh solar array generating us a modest amount of electricity, worm farms, compost and recycling systems, but we could do more. The possibilities here are endless, but returning to the enviroschool beliefs that students should learn about, within and for the environment would be a positive start. Looking a sensible ways to build a green(er) culture within our students, and begin to build those green habits.

But will that be enough?

We also need to equip our learners with 21st C skills such as creativity and collaboration. Sadly it will be there generation having to deal with the mess we leave, and using current thinking won't generate the new possibilities that they will need.


References

Trends Shaping Education 2016 | OECD READ edition. (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2017, from http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/trends-shaping-education-2016_trends_edu-2016-en#page32

Wairarapa Times Age (2017). 100 Years to Clean Up Our Lake. [online] Available at: http://times-age.co.nz/100-years-clean-lake/ [Accessed 2 Jul. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). An Inconvenient Truth 2 - An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power | official trailer (2017) Al Gore. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1u9meHJFGNA [Accessed 2 Jul. 2017].

Monday, 5 June 2017

Week 26: Current issues in my professional context

Current issues in my professional context


We are a provincial, urban, Decile 5 school of 360 students. Our school community is quite diverse, with ex-State Housing running along one boundary of school, and coveted 'Westside' properties lining the other. The recent property boom has seen many rentals sold, and has put some of our families under a lot of pressure to keep a roof over their heads...some of whom have been forced to leave our school as they could no longer afford/find accomodation. This has seen an increase in behaviour issues, and as a result we are having to be more pro-active, even starting a before-school pastoral duty to engage with the students prior to the learning day.

Our school has 5 core values, based on the word PRIDE...Peaceful, Respect, Independence, Dare to Dream and Excellence. These 5 values originally started as part of our behaviour management, but have since become much greater. Last year after work with the community the values not only encompass how children act (behaviour), they look at how children learn, their culture, and how they act for the environment. they manifest themselves in our new DPS Kid, a description of a learner at our school. Interestingly the description values learning as a part of creating awesome citizens, and academic success is juts one part of being a successful DPS Kid. This is a new initiative, and we need to keep the focus on it for awhile so that we don't shift back to 'normal' ways of working.

As a staff over the last 3 years we have been shifting toward a more modern way of working, with increasing collaboration between teachers. As a whole our staff give a lot to the children, creating many ways for them to be successful. Like many schools, the struggle to find 'time' can lead to friction. This can often mean that as a school we are slow to change and adapt. Professional learning is a good example, often seen as something being 'done to' rather than as a learning opportunity. We have started to provide a range of options for PLD...giving extra release for personal PLD time, running workshops within PLD to offer different things to different people, and this year I have started optional PLD...taking the great practice in our classrooms, and having teachers run optional afterschool sessions.

Stoll and Fink use these 10 descriptors when looking at improving schools:

Norms of Improving Schools
1. Shared goals—“we know where we’re going”
2. Responsibility for success—“we must succeed”
3. Collegiality—“we’re working on this together”
4. Continuous improvement—“we can get better”
5. Lifelong learning—“learning is for everyone”
6. Risk taking—“we learn by trying something new”
7. Support—“there’s always someone there to help”
8. Mutual respect—“everyone has something to offer”
9. Openness—“we can discuss our differences”
10. Celebration and humour—“we feel good about ourselves”
Stoll and Fink (1996)

I found these interesting to read...so much common-sense and yet so much challenge wrapped up in a few words. Taking a step back I think that often in our learning environment we get some, if not most of the 10 running well...but not all. Is it an awareness thing? Should we be more mindful of the decisions we make, using these 10 descriptors as a filter...will our decision move towards more/all of these criteria being fulfilled?

Collectively we have a supportive, but not always engaged parent community. Our kids are great, our PRIDE values shine through them and our staff work hard to improve outcomes for their learners.

References

Stoll, L., & Fink, D. (1996). Changing our schools: Linking school effectiveness and school improvement. Buckingham: Open University Press.