Monday, December 21, 2009

Wrapping up 2009

As I changed my profile this evening from Acting Principal to Deputy Principal many memories from the year made me smile. I giggle as I recall deliberating over ever word and phrase in my first communication email to staff, contemplating how the first newsletter to parents should read, wondering how to best introduce the professional learning focuses to the staff. I was apprehensive to start as I did not know what the role would entail. As the year progressed and the unknown was demystified the more I began to relax into the role and the more I understood my own leadership style. I have thoroughly enjoyed the year and learnt huge amounts. I have enjoyed working with a team of committed, enthusiastic and talented individuals who wake up everyday to make their difference. As I now embark on the next challenge of foundation principal in a new environment in the new year I look forward to the stretch and learning that awaits.
In the meantime it's time to recharge batteries to ensure the thinking that leads to the next phase is as creative and forward thinking as it can possibly be.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shirley and Sarah what can the iPhone do?

We are trying to see what these things can do. We are not sure why Shirley can't add a blog entry. We obviously need more sandpit time

Sunday, December 13, 2009

iPhone test 2

Gave the phone to my nephews to play with. They had it down pat in moments. We took a voice recording, test two is to see how easy it is to upload. Here goes ...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

iPhone test

Finally managed to get myself a much wanted iPhone. Was keen to see how easy it would be to do a blog entry. So far so good! Can see that kids would love using these. Would be great to capture e reflections as they happen. That's all for now just testing.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Challenging Thinking - Julia Atkin

Always refreshing spending time with Julia. She has built up an incredible wisdom over the years she has worked in education. She has the most incredible ability to question and probe that bit further. I jumped in the car on Friday to head north for the weekend. Great to clear the head and gain some head space to ponder the depth of what Julia was getting at.
We have been working of the front of the New Zealand Curriculum for around 4 years. This time has been spent focusing on developing a learners capacity and disposition to be a Life Long Learner, Relate to Others and Inquire. This focus was deliberate to try and pull away from the traditional curriculum dominated instruction that was occurring. We are now digging into the back of the New Zealand Curriculum to think about the conceptual understandings we would like our students to leave our school with. Julia critiqued our start by stating that 'I think you have depth but not breadth'. As we started to unpack a bit more what she meant by breadth I felt we could quickly again go down the coverage track rather keeping her infamous questions in balance 'What is powerful to learn?' and 'What is powerful learning?'
It got me thinking about the purpose of primary school - what is our place and role in the learning pathway? Is it exposure to surface interests and talents across a broad range of learning experiences, Is it setting up individuals with important conceptual understandings to make sense of their world? Is it to develop curiosity and wonderment and nurture learning capacity so that when the authentic learning opportunity presents itself the individual will embrace the learning and take it beyond what we could imagine? The later suggests that the teacher pedagogy required is some what different to what the majority students would experience today. There must be a sweet spot in the middle I believe, where students develop the necessary dispositions to know what to do when they don't know what to do and to grow some conceptual understandings to help make sense of their world. Anyway great to get away for that bit of head space, your thoughts?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Artifact to stimulate a Learning Conversation

Just the sort of resource we continue to look for to stimulate learning conversations with students. Perseverence, Self Motivates, Sets goals and plans etc all come to mind.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Seriously - Why e-learning?

I don't think we have the artifacts, stories, evidence and convincing argument to sell Why e-learning to our students, teachers or parents. I am sold on the direction that needs to be taken and in my heart of hearts know that we should be headed in this direction. I do however get a bit stuck beyond my usual arguments justifying the WHY when the spend to mobilize our students and get them into this space is so costly. Moore's laws predictions weren't wrong stating that tools and devices would quickly become considerably cheaper. When this cost is rolled out across nearly 700 students is remain significant.
I am becoming convinced that maybe the spend, once excellent connectivity is in operation, should be on good wireless. Students are encouraged to bring mobile devices and hook into the wireless and away you go. High end machines for Indesign, movie making and other publishing are then placed in pods within classrooms to meet that need. The question comes what about the students and families who can't afford such devices. An alternative option certainly needs to be made available whether that is through lease.
If prices of the Asus eee's continue to come down then I believe we are not far from this reality.
What convincing arguments have you got around justifying the spend on e-learning tools and hardware? Did you know v4.0 is the most significant one I know of?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Educating Parents - Getting the Balance Right

I had a pleasant afternoon today welcoming around 15 new parents to our school with Shirley. Their children were on their 3rd of 4 preschool visits and it was our turn to talk about the school vision and how things are 'done around here'. The highlight of the afternoon would have been listening to 2 of our students share their view on the value of the vision and unpacking what it meant to them as learners. As I intently listened to each child's words it was clear these children were speaking from their heart and that indeed the vision lives within them. They showed a depth of understanding of how they use quite intangible learning dispositions such as reflects, makes connections etc.
I feel satisfied that we seem to be getting the balance about right. We are certainly building key knowledge and understandings that students need to know to make sense of their world and be able to learn on their own, this to is kept in equilibrium by the emphasis placed on building each learners learning capacity.
I felt satisfied walking away from our session together today that we are getting better at communicating the importance of getting this balance right with parents.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pt England School = Deep, Engaging Learning

I left Pt England School this morning looking at my watch in disbelief. The time had flown. In the 2 and a half hours spent there, I was totally absorbed by watching and talking to students about their learning. The depth of learning and engagement was to say the least, impressive. We were warmly welcomed by Dorothy and Russell and then bowled over by an address from six year 6 students passionate about sharing how they had been using different e learning tools in their classrooms.
As a partnership both Russel and Dorothy have a futuristic vision that is enabled by their beliefs, drive and passion to meet the needs of their students and wider community. In touring classrooms at all year levels it is clear that the 'rubber hits the road' and what is shared in concept, lives in practice.
I believe the positive results that have come out of the research within the school need to be shared widely. We have much to learn from the courageous use of e learning and the positive impact it has on student engagement and learning.
Hats off to what you have been doing, you are leading a legacy. I feel humbled by experiencing such greatness!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Us and Them - Surfacing a Traditional Norm

Have been thinking of late that the education system has perpetuated an 'Us and Them' barrier between parents and teachers. Why is it that so many parents report a fear of approaching the school grounds. When you dig a bit below the surface you reveal that, we often use exclusive education speak with parents that adds to the divide. Parents nod in agreement at conferences for fear that they may look silly. As a breed some of us are more approachable than others! The kids can tell you who are the scary and not so scary teachers.
I advocate that a child's success at school is maximised through a 3 way partnership, the child, parent and teacher. Deep down I am sure you would agree that all a parent wants for their child is the best. I think as a system we can afford to get better at letting down the guard to sincerely show that, that is what we want too.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Asking Why Are We Headed in This Direction?

Have been thinking about the way we might convincingly justify the WHY behind where we are headed in education to meet 21st century learners desires and needs.
What resources have you found to be useful in shifting traditional views or old mental models?
Did you know V4 is out now - that is always a good starting point.

Blog Action 09

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Red Beach School Conference - Great Buzz

What a thrill to share with delegates yesterday from near and far. We had over 100 attendees who asked great questions, talked to our students and heard about the journey we have been on since the beginning of 2005. As we shared in the initial address we by no means believe we have all the answers, rather we saw the day as an opportunity to share in the highs and lows of our own journey. We too feel privileged to have talked and visited many colleagues and shared in others journeys too. We felt it was our turn to give back and contribute to the greater good of education and continue the dialogue and debate.

For any conference participants - this link takes you to the
Powerful Learning Presentation
Teacher Effectiveness Presentation

Look forward to continuing the dialogue.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Hattie - Encouraging us to ask ...

Yesterday at an Auckland University leadership seminar day John Hattie advocated for leaders in schools to grow a disposition of asking. He posed the following questions.
A disposition to asking ...

How do I know this is working?
How can I compare this with that?
What is the magnitude of the effect?
Do I share a common conception of progress?
What evidence would convince you that you are wrong?
What is the merit and worth of this influence on learning?
Where have you seen this practice installed so that it produces effective results?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Change - It's a Constant!

I have been taking some time to reflect on why the need to change. We are aware that times are certainly changing. Is it another bandwagon or good reason for real change. What are the real benefits of e learning? technology? How will they benefit our next generation of learners.
Pleased I stumbled upon this in youtube

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Red Beach School Conference

Thrilled to hear this evening as I left school that 61 people are booked in to attend our first conference. Shirley is doing a stunning job of coordinating and organising this event. It shows just how much we are willing to learn from one another across the education sector.
Have been thinking about how we could use a similar model with sharing what we are doing with our parent community. Wouldn't it be great to present to our community why we are headed in the direction we are headed in and then provide parents with a variety of breakouts where they could select areas of interest. Holding a conference during school hours has the added bonus of talking about what we do and then getting parents into classes to see it in action.
Like many schools we are always thinking about ways of informing parents about what we are doing. The reality is, it is different to how we were educated.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Weighing Up Competency vs Content

It's that time of year when we are looking for teachers to fill positions for 2010. The whole process has got me thinking.
Firstly what questions do you ask to reveal an individuals beliefs, competencies and skills in a 30 minute interview?
Secondly what sort of responses are you wanting to hear? Are we seeking individuals who have broad content knowledge or are we looking for the individuals who exemplify dispositions of being a learner, who are positive, risk takers and clearly passionate.
If it was an either or scenario who would you pick? Why?
My third wondering is do you pick people who fit the culture or those that may not because they may bring something that rubs a bit and adds a new dimension and value add.
All good thoughts, it's important the right choices are made.

Friday, October 9, 2009

RBS Vision Live and Well?

I really enjoyed presenting with Shirley this morning. We had an enthusiastic group of educators, who smiled, participated and asked great questions. We value the opportunity to articulate the school change process and journey because it causes much thought. As we look back on the journey we are reminded of how much we have learnt along the way. Having to say it out loud certainly makes us take stock. There are things we would do differently if we started the process again. I feel heartened that collaboration is on the increase in education. There is much more sharing of ideas, strategies and processes that enable change . We are all in the game to make a difference to kids!
Browse the right hand navigation bar if you are wanting to view the presentation.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert - Ted Talks

Was thrilled to stumble upon this Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert the author of "Eat, pray, love" Thoroughly enjoyed her book - Laughed, cried and reflected!

Mark Tredwell - Presentation Ulearn

Developing understanding is a precursor to creativity. Marks diagram illustrates this really well. It makes me reflect on what are the necessary environmental factors that ensure students are free to be curious and imaginative to create and innovate? A culture of learning where not knowing is ok is a pre-requisite to ensuring students learn powerfully.

Mark talks about developing a learners Capability, Competency, Creativity, Personality and Potential.
Mark spent some time sharing the latest brain research. Mind boggling!
Hopped onto google docs to take some more notes
"Why are passionate teachers always good teachers - get a hormonal response which is the optimal response for learning".

Click on the link to view other presentations he is currently presenting on. Mark presented to our EHSAS cluster recently was a fantastic session.
Thanks Mark - once again.

David Merrill demos Shiftables - Awesome

Derek Wenmoth's Keynote Ulearn

Derek shared some amazing ways Technologies are being used. Have linked a few up.

8 Ways cloud computer will change schools - See Derek's Blog. Derek's blog is always worth a read.
Skoolaborate - ways schools are collaborating and learning together
NEN Evaluation Project
Cooliris great presentation tool - free download
WikiEducator - Teachers share and collaborate. Open Education.

Great to have ones eyes open to examples of how technology is being used creatively locally and more globally. Thanks Derek
As Derek's presentation title stated "The future is not what it used to be!"

Yummy Breakfast - The Crumpet Club

Big thanks to Jenny T who this morning took us on a tour to find a winning cafe. We hiked some distance, it was well worth it. We arrived at 'The Crumpet Club', nice ambiance, fine service and delicious food. Certainly recommend to anyone visiting Christchurch.
Andrea, Chris and Lucy enjoying their breakfast.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Managing Change: Herding Cats is Easier

Here is Cheryl Doig's Presentation - Great session
Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Leading Change - Cheryl Doig Ulearn

Cheryl's Website - Think Beyond
Herding Cats is Easier!
Rata Teachers Support Cheryl shared about her experience in South Africa. She shared how she had to take a good look at herself. The photos said it all - These people lived in harsh conditions.
Managing change is about the attitude we bring with us. It starts by knowing oneself. What are the Hidden Areas, Unknown Areas, 'Blind Spots'. Cheryl commented on the key way of knowing self better is to get feedback. Importantly she asked who do we actively seek feedback in our own organisation, from family, friends etc.
Shirley made me laugh - she is sitting next to me and stated a good way is have a glass of wine with Sarah!

Change Enablers Some of Cheryl's messages
Mobilizing people
If Learners are to Thrive - Why are you trying to herd cats? How are you allowing teachers to thrive, create, innovate from the floor, find the joy.
Can you change others? - think of it as working with the people to change the practice.
If we think there are things we need to change in others first we should look at ourselves.
Build a culture where people can raise issues, Building Leadership Capacity
Thinking about - What is it like in the shoes of the other people. This rang true with the recent experiences I have had being present in classes and office spaces to get a sense of different peoples realities.
How do we encourage others to take informed risks? Again another great question that made one think about What do we specifically do in our organisation to encourage this?
Building Team - Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of accountability, Inattention to results. Patrick Lencioni, 2002
Using Evidence - Here's what, So what?, Now What?
Asking what is essential to preserve and what is expendable?

A thoroughly enjoyable session - many thanks Cheryl

Did You Know V4

Great to have a look at the latest Did you Know movie on You Tube and look at the updated statistics and future predictions.
What does this mean for us in educating our students?

DK talking about MEDIASNACKERS

Loved this image DK shared with us - he said replace the word business with schools!
How Social Media has Changed the Game!
It's all the funky stuff you can do online that you couldn't do before - web 2.0 etc.
One of the biggest barriers is the fear out there about it all. It's not inherently bad - it's what you do with it, you are in control. Whenever, Where ever, Whatever
"The world has changed and it's not turning back!"
What's the learning outcome now if it's not knowledge due to the birth of wikipedia etc?
Our 19 years olds don't live without blogger, flicker, skype, twitter, social networking etc.
DK shared 'Kids are tooled for involvement - have the phone, MP3 player, Internet' Let's get them out and use them.
Using the tools to show rather than tell people - use of mobile phones to capture images, narrate and publish.
What are people doing online? Are they Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, Inactives?
The web makes me feel ...
Fascinating to view how kids responded to this question - check out the summary on the website link.
The unfinished Swan - take a look at this creative play on gaming.

David Anderson & Mel Stoppard - PLOT Education

A couple of memorable quotes from the session on Facilitation skills were
"Your content is not nearly as important as (learners) interaction with the content" Garnston
'Are you listening to speak or learn?'
We spent the session working in various groups prioritising attribute cards to highlight our leadership qualities/dispositions in different situations.
The exercise certainly highlighted how leadership is so often situational. How you respond or what qualities are required in crisis, challenging situations or big picture thinking are different. It made one think and reflect about personal leadership strengths and weaknesses.
Mel and David were well worth listening too and facilitated a great session. You can find out more about them and PLOT by clicking on the link.

Gary Stager - Ulearn Keynote

Gary's Blog
Gary's Website
'Less us, more them'. Putting the students at the centre

The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas that Make Computers Work - Daniel Hillis
Computer enables self expression, we can make things that we haven't been able to make before because of the availability of construction material online.
'Software determines what you do and what you do determines what you learn'
'To understand is to invent' Piaget
10 Things to do with a Laptop
Write a novel - write more, write better, write differently, writing for different media - podcasting, Research.
Share your Knowledge - The changing nature of memory - no need to remember when you can google it. Wikipedia - distributed nature of expertise, breaking news, passion = accuracy, talk to authors & other experts, publish to authentic audience, access to 'current' info. Schools have created the 'I'm done' attitude in students. How do schools reinforce the importance of comparing info from different sources.
Answer Tough Questions, Access to Primary Resources. Use the movie clips, photos etc. Guess the key is if the learning is purposeful and authentic, students engage.
Make sense of Data, google earth, plotting data, looking at trends.
Design a Video Game, not just consume them. In designing students are involved in animation, narration, number, space, etc.
Build a Killer Robot, building something and refining it, problem solving having a hypothesis and trying it out then tinkering some more. Allow for Computationally-rich learning
Lose Weight, ipod technology students set up virtual running clubs.
Direct a Block Buster, 'your video should be shorter', it should be edited at least one more time', mirrors the writing process.
Compose a Symphony, authentic problems, real construction materials
Change the World - Be a mathematician, a scientist, anything is possible.

Technology Matters - Allows kids to engage with a broader range and depth of problem solving. It allows intellectual stimulation and opportunity.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ulearn - The Hype is Building

Our team lined up at the registration desks this afternoon to get our conference packs and information. Bumped into lots of colleagues, everyone enthusiastic and looking forward to the next 3 days. It it heartening to see many teachers gathering (predicted 1800)in their holiday break to further develop themselves professionally. Looking forward to reflecting through this blog on the keynotes presentations.
Will keep you posted.
Ulearn 09

Monday, October 5, 2009

Effective Teacher

Here is the presentation Shirley Cope and myself are presenting at Ulearn. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What really spins your wheels?

If there were no obstacles what would you do with your life? I have been pondering many such questions over the last wee while. My brother often giggles as he asks 'What do you want to do when you grow up Sarah?'
I feel fortunate in that I loose time doing what I do. I get great satisfaction out of inspiring others and innovating. I guess in life's journey you discover more of the things you loose time doing as it unfolds. Was neat to pull out a few paint brushes and even paint the pictures I have been saying I will get onto!
Feel privileged to have had a few days break over the holiday period to take stock and have a good reflect. Have enjoyed having some time to catch up with dear friends.
Getting ready to head to Ulearn in Christchurch really looking forward to soaking up some more learning and catching up with Colleagues.
A more interesting blog entry next time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Aligning Practice and Belief

A life's work could be ensuring that ones practice is aligned with ones belief. When our collective direction was collaboratively created it clarified our organisations purpose and underlying beliefs. As we began unpacking and implementing our vision principles what became apparent was that there was a miss alignment between our beliefs and what was happening in practice. Listening to student voice was one of the ways this mismatch was illuminated. We have learnt that we often have the talk and can quite eloquently articulate what we are doing. However the rubber hits the road with our students. If our students talk a different talk then our practice is not aligned. Aligning belief with practice is a constant review process, reflecting back and forth to uncover practice that may continue to be implemented due to it being a historical practice something that has always been done. This is no longer a good enough reason.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Teacher Effectiveness

So what is it that our star teachers actually do? What makes them stand out from the rest? How can this practice be exemplified to grow teacher effectiveness across all teachers? How do you make tangible the often intangible teacher effectiveness practice? What practices are foundational and need to be developed first?
The attempt at constructing a Teacher Effectiveness Continuum was to attend to some of the questions outlined above. We wanted to create clarity for teachers and ensure that our vision beliefs lived within our teachers and transferred to our students. The role of the teacher is complex, we wanted to be able to create a model that was all encompassing of the role. You will see two parts to the continuum. The teachers professional responsibilities and the Teacher effectiveness practice.
The main benefits of the continuum are that it is a useful reflective tool for teachers to think about how they are going? Where they are going? And what their next learning steps are. The goals teachers set for themselves are increasingly rigorous due to the Teacher Effectiveness hub.

Change Drivers

There have been a few key words and phrases that have certainly enabled and influenced the change to happen in our organisation. Two important words have been EMBED and ABANDON. Before any change can be implemented something needs to go (be abandoned) to allow the space for the change. Change after change continues to be rolled out and added to the already complex load of a classroom practitioner. We have learnt that change can be adopted more readily and at a faster pace if time and thought is put into what is being abandoned. What practices are redundant? What do we do just because we have always done it like that? What practice has a positive impact on student achievement? Does collecting loads of assessment data actually inform students next learning steps? To make room for the change to happen we started by critiquing the current assessment practise. We questioned why each piece of evidence was collected. Our 20 page assessment profile on each student fine tuned to 4 pages. These decisions created time for the intentional teaching of Life Long Learning competencies to happen.
Other key change drivers that have certainly aided the change process would include
Creating a shared language – building on a common language
Alignment – synthesising trends and information to create simple models
Split screen – helping to keep process/competencies and content knowledge in balance through a split screen approach
Less is more –giving permission to slow the process down
Going deep – taking the learning from surface to deep and then profound levels
Developmental progressions – providing scaffolds for learners so they can talk about how they are going, where they are going and what their next learning step is.
Using Metaphors and Images

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Integral Learning - Conceptualising Curriculum

Found this old presentation when I was searching for files about curriculum development and programming. Still has some merit. The challenge is to keep everything in balance. That is keeping both Julia Atkins questions in critical tension;
What's powerful to learn? &
What's powerful learning?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leading Through Boundaries

I attended one of Auckland Universities Centre for Educational Leadership Professional Learning Days. It was titled Thinking Differently about Educational Leadership. I must say it was one of the best presentations I have experienced around leadership. The day provoked much thought and deep reflection about ones leadership work and practice.
The opening task was to describe in 10 sentences what our leadership work is right now. Brigid Carroll then skillfully used metaphor and narrative to highlight the command, manager and leader paradigms of leadership. She suggested that we need to operate in the leadership or what Grint terms the WICKED zone, that is to;
Listen, Facilitate, Coach, Question, Be open minded, Delight in new ideas, Be Curious, Risk take, Gather perspectives and be Collaborative/collective.
She suggested most people function only 10% of their time in this space, because it's complex, hard work, chaotic and about thinking in the unknown.
We were encouraged throughout the day to identify and find the boundaries in ourselves and our work. Pushing through the boundaries and thinking and talking at the boundaries is where the WICKED work can happen to solve complex problems.
Go get into the wicked space the Command and Management work needs to be achieved efficiently to create time to do the more messy, unpredictable WICKED thinking.
We left today being challenged how we prioritised time and space to allow this boundary pushing thinking to occur.
I feel refreshed and revitalised after hearing the complexity of leadership so eloquently articulated.
Long blog entries are not so fun to be continued ....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leadership - So You Want to Lead Conference

So You Want To Lead - The Leadership Ladder
APPA Management Conference 2009

So You Want to Lead - APPA Conference

What a great bunch of people attending the APPA Senior Management Conference today. It certainly says something about the nature of the leaders present when they are continuing their professional learning on a Saturday. I enjoyed the dialogue in the group I was presenting to today.
We started by defining leadership and then exploring what effective leaders do. I am currently uploading the presentation to slideshare so I can embed it in the next blog entry.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Organisational Culture - Surfacing Norms

Surfacing the hidden often hard to talk about stuff has been a deliberate act in our organisation over the past few years. Building a collective understanding of culture and establishing norms that help us to function as a healthy learning community and organisation has been essential. The vision principles again became the filter. If we believed in Life Long Learning and community as our vision suggested, what were the conditions that would allow staff to be active Life Long Learners and community members. Everyone needed an opportunity to to identify the barriers that were holding us back from living out and achieving our vision. Again it was important that every voice was heard.

‘Go to the source’
‘No question is a silly question’
‘Everyone is someone’

These are examples of some of the catch phrases that have helped to create a safe environment and work place people want to belong to.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Learning, Learning, Learning

Everyone in education I am sure would agree, the question needing to be asking is do we have a collective understanding of what learning is?
I vividly remember a session with Jeremy Kedian. He gave each of the nine people present no more than 25 words to define learning. The definition was to start learning is...

When we shared our definitions what was incredibly interesting was the difference between them.
Here we were leaders of learning organizations with significantly varying ideas and mental models about learning. We repeated this activity with our staff to continue the learning conversation we had started.
I find it intriguing that we often assume so much.
If we should indeed spend time on what important, what are we going to let go of to make that time. We can’t keep adding on to teachers load and what’s expected of teachers. I most value step has been to stock take and question does this practice align with our belief? If not it’s OK to abandon such practices. It’s not until practices are critiqued and evaluated that decision to let go of some practices can occur. Once there is a freely of time and permission is given new approaches can be adopted and time made to talk about the IMPORTANT – in this case Learning.
Creating time for the rich and deep conversations to lead learning has been an important change influence.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Power of Student Voice

We learnt from interviewing students about successful learners just how powerful it is to take stock and talk to students and really intently listen to what they have to say. Students are after all testimony to whether or not we have been successful. In continuing to deeply listen to student voice we discovered a developmental progression of students acquisition of the Life Long Learning competencies.
Firstly students could name the qualities – list
Then they could tell you what they meant - describe
It was quite a different level those students who could explain how they used the competencies in their learning – apply
The ultimate goal was for these competencies to be internalised or as a student so eloquently put it ‘when it’s part of me’.
Without listening to students I do not believe we would have arrived at this thinking.
Since unpacking Life Long Learning we have captured students voice before implementing any new initiative.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Learning - Who's in Charge?

Have enjoyed listening to the responses to the question 'Who's in charge of your learning?' Several years ago the response was very much the teacher, the teacher decides what we learn. In the last few years I have observed a big shift away from the locus of control predominantly being with the teacher and moving more towards the students. Responses now indicate the ownership is shared. As teachers have experimented with handing over more of the ownership to the students, incredible motivation and empowerment has been observed. An important part of the ownership being handed over is building clarity around learning progressions where students can progress and self motivate at a self regulated pace. It is exciting to talk to learners about what they are learning?, how they are going in their learning and what they believe their next learning steps are? 9 times out of 10 they hit the appropriate stretch and challenge in their learning about right.
This seemingly plays down the important role of the teacher. The teacher needs to continue to be the activator of learning. A key role to tailor the learning to hit the sweet spot. Push into that ZPD Vygotsky talks about. I am coming to to the realisation that the teachers role continues to be a fundamental one in that they need to design the learning to develop thinking that goes beyond consolidation and practice tasks. My latest question is how to you get the balance just right when students are learning independent of the teacher. How do you design learning to get that balance between practice and new learning/thinking?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hitting the Sweet Spot

What a thrill today to visit some classes and see teachers immediately implementing practices influenced by the professional learning session earlier in the week. I think many connections were made for and by teachers and the next steps have been made apparent. The thing that got at the 'sweet spot' I believe was after the PD session teachers interviewed students about their understanding of the Powerful Learning Process. It was made very apparent that we are some way from ensuring our students have a sound literacy and understanding of the process. The simple act of talking to kids once again has given much clarity and urgency to our next steps. The challenge now is to see how that it best taught and reinforced with learners.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Professional Learning for Staff - Hitting the sweet spot

What a neat day we have had today. It's been a big one, all go and extremely refreshing. The day started this morning at 7.45 with the beginning of the Professional Learning for staff. The day started with some sharing from staff about our recent Student Led Conferences which from all accounts proved to be a huge success. The comments from the staff who trialled the initiative were enlightening - they talked about the empowerment of students and students having to take responsibility.
The main focus of the professional learning day was around our Powerful Learning process. A big part of the learning was about how to design learning to get at the 'sort it' and 'Use it' thinking. We discussed how often the consolidation tasks students are sent off to complete are practice or tasks that remain at the knowledge building or 'get it' stage. We discussed how the Powerful Learning Process enables learning across curriculum levels. It was highlighted that we have maybe miss led students by talking about science, technology and social studies being Powerful Learning.
The delivery of the day went historically over the 4 years of development that took place to arrive at where we are with our current model. This was important to highlight the change initiatives and the ahas along the way. Some deep learning has occurred by strategically trialling the process in classes and coming together to dialogue, critique and refine.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leadership - Good to verbalise beliefs

I have spent a bit of time over the weekend putting a leadership presentation together for a conference in a few weeks time. What a refreshing exercise to have to simple articulate ones beliefs about leadership. I mentioned in a previous blog titled 'Leadership - No recipe' that there is no right way to lead. Agree anyone can lead and leadership is developed, you don't need to be born a leader to lead. I do believe however that there are more effective leaders than others. I have been puzzling over what it is indeed that exceptional leaders do? What is it about Ghandi that makes him such a great leader? The quotes embedded in the draft presentation have been inspiring. I hope you too enjoy. 'Leadership is a pursuit with no end. One learns and evolves with ones leadership practice, the ultimate to influence to create even greater leaders and people than one self' Sarah Martin

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Classroom Observations - What does one look for?

Gaining clarity and consistency in what one looks for when observing classroom practice sounds simple, yet I believe it can be quite complex. In the last few weeks as my previous posts have identified, I have been spending longer periods of time in classrooms presencing the learning and teaching. In this initial phase I don't have a set criteria I am observing against. I am merely soaking up what is happening and taking the time to deeply experience and listen to what is going on. My intention is that a pattern may form and indicate an area for more detailed observation, like depth of teacher questioning or monitoring locus of control in the classroom.
A wondering I stumbled upon watching reading in a class the other day was when students are not working with the teacher they are often involved in learning experiences that are to do with practicing their reading, high frequency words or sometimes even handwriting. My question was what type of learning experiences can be designed that take practicing to another level to incorporate thinking or new learning. I am wondering how our powerful learning process can be used to design learning that deliberately pushes into the 'sort it' and 'use it' thinking as the typical independent learning experiences often remain at the 'get it' stage. Refer Powerful Learning Process image in previous posts.
I am convinced such wonderings only surface when time is taken to quietly observe what is happening where it truly counts - In the classroom!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Leaders and Learning - Being Present

I have experienced quite a change in my leadership practice in the last two weeks since I tidied up the office area where I had been working and moved out. It has been some what refreshing being closer to where the work is happening - namely in classrooms. I spent a good part of two days last week being present in various classrooms. A privileged position to soak up the learning and teaching happening. I have been asking myself why is this so important? I know for some teachers it will not be comfortable for others an OK experience.
I am fast coming to the conclusion that it is important to be present in classrooms to ensure that all assumptions for example where we should be headed next with professional learning is evidenced. I believe I am guilty of jumping to conclusions about how to best move practice forward without spending enough time in classrooms feeling and living the everyday reality of the classroom.
Unlike business where it's purpose is to make money, ours is to raise student achievement. To influence the kind of change that is required to raise student achievement one needs to observe and be present where the work/learning is happening. I believe it is through such presence that the most profound insights, solutions and innovations evolve. We must rise above the busy nature of the role and free ourselves of the many tasks we continue to complete because we always have. We must continue to prioritise what is really important and 'not let the urgent drive out the important'. Leaders being in classes I am convinced is a priority to be put at the top of the list.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Leadership - No Recipe

I have been thinking about leadership alot lately. I have been reflecting on my previous leaders and thinking about what I admired and respected about each of them. I remember each leader for different reasons. There were those that encouraged and gave one lots of rope, others that had a bit of the fear factor going on. You would arrive at their office door feeling nervous. Those that you hung off every word and those that you didn't believe as they seldom walked the talk. I have a greater respect for my past leaders as I too pursue the leadership pathway.
I have been reflecting about all this as I plan a presentation for middle leaders interested in further pursuing leadership. I am wondering about famous global leaders, how I myself lead and really why would one want to lead. A question Lester Levy asked a couple of years ago at an international principals conference still resonates, he asked 'Why would I want to be led by you?' A question I continue to ponder and reflect on many months later.
I am fast coming to the conclusion that there is nothing more fulfilling than lighting fires in others and seeing individuals succeed and achieve. Leadership I believe is about influencing and motivating people to achieve an outcome. Keith of Genentech puts it more eloquently said "Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen."
This leads to the question What then are the qualities of leaders to make this happen?
I will post a leadership continuum in the next few days that attempts to help move leadership practice from good to great. I developed this with Kathryn Hodgson and it has since been critiqued by colleagues at Red Beach School. The reason for developing such a tool is to enable learning conversations about leadership, a framework for reflecting about ones own leadership and identify areas for improvement. At a recent leadership meeting we discussed our goal areas and what actions we had taken to move leadership forward. A healthy and honest discussion.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Feeling of Freedom - Trash the Paper!

What an experience today has been. I wore my old jeans to work today to set foot on cleaning out the office area. It was amazing how much paper I had kept just in case the day would arrive when I may need it again. I found bits and bobs that I had brought with me from a previous school, all would not be missed if I no longer existed.
I'm not sure I can believe it myself - I actually moved out of my office entirely! I no longer have a designated home. My goal is to be where our core business happens - in the classroom. In this phase of transition I am feeling quite excited - am looking forward to experiencing how the next few weeks unfold in experiencing a new approach to my job.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I responded as follows to Derek Wenmoth's recent blog titled 'Measuring the Right Things' he shared about Microsoft's recent paper on interoperability; Improving Schools.

A timely blog entry when I have been giving much thought to assessment measures that empower the individual and provide motivation for possible next learning steps. We recently held a pilot with 5 classroom teachers trialling student led conferences where the teacher was available but not present. Student ran around an hour long session with their parents explaining how they were going in their learning and what their next learning steps were. Parents were involved in wide range of experiences including trying out science experiments, assessing a piece of writing using the students success criteria, viewing students online forums and leaving a comment to hearing about their child's report grades. In videoing student responses before and after the experience it was enlightening to hear how great it was for them that they really had to take responsibility and own their learning. A students words of - before the teacher did all the talking, now I have to really know my goals and what my next learning steps are. Parents were delighted and proud of the ownership their children took. Our teachers response was - please don't make us do 3 way conferences like before. Such a strategy highlights the importance of students being at the centre. In the build up to the conferences no assessment was done to the individual, rather they were an active part in building knowledge of themselves as a learner.
Secondly it brought about the very question posed in this blog entry - what should students share? What is important data to present to all stakeholders? As the journey continues I hope the weighting doesn't swing back to being solely on Literacy and Numeracy as the mental models most have around how to assess these ares are steeped in history and top down approach. Our recent developments in producing learning progressions in foundation learning areas that acknowledge the complexity of learning (not linear and about hopping through hoops) are our best crack at motivating any learner to progress learning by being able to answer, how am I going, where am I going and where to next? Kids need to experience stretch everyday! Once web based material, DLOs are linked to learning intentions in kid friendly language , forums for learners to collaborate etc are developed then the world of data starts to become the child's.
Anyway, long entries aren't much fun - bit passionate about this one! Always keen to dialogue some more.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just Do It Approach

I returned to work on Wednesday from a 2 day course on achieving a 'break through' in balancing your career and life. I can't believe how smoothly the last 2 days have run and how much I have achieved as a result of implementing many of the principles we were presented with in the 2 days. On reflection I have found myself just getting on and 'doing it'. It is amazing how ones head can get incredibly cluttered trying to remember a how pile of things and how the piles of paper on ones desk constantly distract. There is no room for procrastination in this approach. I am finding the disciplined approach in how one should tackle the never ending tasks and relentless nature of the job totally through a new lens. As my PA said the other day (she came to day 2) it's like your glasses have been cleaned properly and you see things differently.

Am looking forward to having both a satisfying life and career. Well worth the two day investment. Visit for more info

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Powerful Learning Process

Here is the presentation I shared at the Curriculum Connections Conference. Always refreshing to present on something you haven't presented on before!
Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Curriculum Connections Conference - Positive Energy

I had a most enjoyable day on Thursday. It was the Learning Networks two day conference on our new curriculum document. Julia Atkin asked for the audience to indicate how they felt towards the new document. The response was overwhelming positive. I have heard a number of international speakers now recognize just how good our curriculum is. I believe the real reason for this that for the first time we have a clearly articulated educative vision or purpose if you like. What is at the heart of the document is a vision for how students will be. Connected, confident Life Long Learners etc. The key competencies are a key enabler to ensuring that this vision is achieved. We can not do more of the same and assume that students will leave prepared for their future. The key competencies need not to be seen as an add on, rather integral and central to how learning and teaching should occur.
It was heartening talking to participants about the journey's different schools are on to address the essence of the NZ curriculum. Was is most refreshing about attending such days is being about to collaborate and share. I think we have a long way to go in NZ around sincerely sharing together and taking away the competitive edge that seems to hang over our organisations at times. Thanks Learning Network for a brilliant day - thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and opportunity to dialogue with colleagues.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Powerful Learning Process - More than Inquiry Learning

I have enjoyed taking time in the last couple of days to put together a presentation on our Powerful Learning Process to share at the Learning Network Curriculum Conference next week. I have been giving this a lot of thought for some time. It has become clear in clearly demonstrating the essence of the process just how many assumptions I may have made.
The PLP (Powerful Learning Process) is more than an inquiry process. We certaintly set out several years ago to develop an inquiry process to assist in the teaching an learning of Science, Technology and Social Studies. We quickly discovered however that such a process was a powerful learning process to assist in all learning across all curriculum.
Another important distinction from a typical inquiry process is that the PLP has an embedded hierachy of thinking within in. The Get it, Sort it and Use it types of thinking are distinct and call on certain thinking skills. It is important to note here that we have deliberately been selective about the thinking skills, tools, strategies and organises we have selected. When ones digs into the realm of thinking it is overwhelming just what is out there.
Our audience (primary ages students) is an important piece of the puzzle in making such selections as the thinking required needs to be relevant and developmentally appropriate for primary aged students.
Anyway before I rattle on and make this a huge blog entry just wanted to put down some of those learnings in developing our PLP model. Will put the presentation up when I complete it.

Reflection - Head space to think!

How refreshing to be on holiday and take time to smell the roses. Its amazing the thoughts that come to one self when you give it time. Amazing how the creative juices start to flow and big picture thinking comes back into play. I have recently returned from 4 days at the family bach, in the middle of no where! No cell phone coverage - no internet, no blogging, just the wild west coast - miles of beach and time to think. Even after a few short days I feel energised and keen to strategise about where to next for the rest of this year. I guess the learning from this one is why leave it so long inbetween trips to the bach? No excuses just got to make time. Time is what generates ones best thoughts.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reporting to Parents

Have been thinking a lot about reporting to parents. How should it happen?, when should it happen? and what should be shared? Most would agree that school has changed somewhat yet the reporting mechanisms that are used are often based on traditional assessment measures. We now understand that most sophisticated thinking can not be measured in a pencil and paper test. We generally agree that one can become more brainy the more you think. Thankfully, our notion of intelligence is far broader than once believed. How do we however communicate, show or report this to parents. The reports I have viewed recently grade students against individual curriculum areas to indicate where a child is at and sometimes offers how much effort the teacher percieves the child to be putting in. Our reporting mechanisms reinforce that knowing stuff is more important than knowing how to learn. The picture is quite frankly imbalanced.
There is fine line between what a community expects from reporting mechanisms (how it was done when we went to school) and using vastly different reporting mechanisms to both educate parents and show a balanced picture of their child's achievements. How do you effectively show growth in a children ability to manage self and relate to others. No pencil and paper test will do that. As identified by our new curriculum document these are important dispositions, attitudes and skills needed for a child's successful future. Our staff is trialling a new year of year report for parents to incorporate students ability to be a Life Long Learner (reflect, question, persevere, make connections etc)
No real answers - trying out some ways of showing progression in kid speak in some of these far more qualitative areas. I guess it's small steps.
Your thoughts?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Student Led Conferences - Feedback

What fun I have had interviewing students, parents and teachers about our recent first go at student led conferences. The feedback has been incredibly positive. Some of the themes coming through from the feedback so far is

  • It's great to have more time, you are not in such a hurry

  • Parents said I now understand more about what my child actually does in class.

  • Students said - it's better when the teacher is not there because it makes you take more ownership, I actually know where I am at in my learning.

  • Teacher's said they were amazed at how their students took responsibility and worked from an agenda rather than a script. Science experiments were on some classes agendas

I have been reflecting since about what I observed and heard. The process seemed so much more natural. Such a strategy I believe does enable students to step up and talk about how they are going in their learning, and what their next learning steps are. Surely when students are in the driving seat of their learning it is more empowering and motivating for them. I am looking forward to debriefing further with our teachers to analyse the feedback and critique what went well and what needs improving.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Student Led Conferences - Student Thoughts

Today I visited the classrooms who are undertaking the first trial of student led conferences tomorrow afternoon. I took my good old faithful video with me to capture the student voice. What a delightful next half hour I had.
I was suitably impressed by the talk - the ownership these students demonstrated over their conference was impressive. They articulated the positive of having more time and a chance to really show their Mums and Dad's not just how they are going in their learning but also what they are learning in class. They said in the past we share our grades and then the teacher takes over. When asked if they felt it was a good or a bad thing that the teacher wasn't fully involved in the confderence - they smiled and said it's good. When probed a little further they explained "We have had to take responsibility for our selves and our learning. Knowing where we are in our learning and what our next learning steps are is something we need to own. It's up to us to persevere to get better." There were certainly a few nerves about, however students were excited about the conferences and sharing their learning with their parents.
Will keep you posted on the outcome.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Student Led Conferences - Putting the student in the driving seat

What are student led conferences all about?
We have been influenced recently by Professor John Hattie’s latest research published in his book Visible Learning. He has researched the top 100 interventions that lead to greater student achievement. Developing student’s ability to talk about their progress and learning comes near the top of his list. We believe students need to be able to answer questions like;
· How am I going?
· Where am I going?
· What is my next learning step?
The purpose of student led conferences is to put the student in the driving seat to share their learning with their parents or caregivers. Teachers have observed how students are taking more ownership over their learning, knowing they will be sharing their progress and learning with their parents. Teachers are present to support and prompt individuals if necessary however they do not partake in each individual conference.

The Student Led conferences are a celebration of learning. They are an initiative to further build our vision concept of student empowerment. We have shared with parents that they are not a forum to discuss behavioural concerns or for discussing matters directly with the teacher, we are encouraging parents to set a time outside of the student led conference if such things need to be addressed
How do they work?
Conferences can last up to 45 minutes. Five to six student led conferences run at the same time in the classroom. Each child has an agenda that they follow. Parents can be involved in a variety of activities throughout the 45 minutes such as looking through their child’s learning books, playing a game to support learning, talking about goals, carrying out a science experiement or reflecting on next learning steps.
Will keeep you posted on how our first conferences go this week - the teachers have been amazing at letting students take the lead and true ownership.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Learning is the Business

Schools like any business are organisations which are driven by a CORE business, what differs is the outcome. In business it is about making money, in education driving learning. It has continued to surprise me over the last decade that in spite of educations core business being that of learning we seem to spend little time talking about it.

What is learning? What conditions support learning? What are the barriers to learning deeply? How does the brain learn? what strategies help me continue to learn when I am stuck?

A few examples of questions that require time to unpack, dialogue about and reflect on for both teachers and their students.
The unrealistic pressure of covering content often only results in surface learning. To learn powerfully and deeply, decisions need to be made by the organisation about what students should be
1 – learning about what content will aid individuals in making sense of the world they live in and contribute creatively.
2 – develop the necessary ‘Learning Power’ as Guy Claxton terms or capacity to learn deeply and powerfully. Both need to be developed simultaneously.

Clarity about the end in mind profile of a student needs careful deliberation and dialogue. A futuristic vision of the knowledge, dispositions and values a student would need to be equipped with based on the principles embedded in the vision is essential in reframing 20th century mental models of coverage verses depth.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Time to Vision, Revision - Where to start?

Do you know what the vision and purpose of the organisation you are within is? Is it obvious to all stakeholders? Are you a newly appointed principal and wanting to make your mark? Is the current environment comfortable, worn out ready for a refresh?

What ever the purpose for visioning or re-visioning I would like to think it is well justified and far from being about any one persons ego.
To vision is to gain collective understanding, hope and clarity about an organisations future endeavours. It is about binding an organisations personnel in pursuit of greatness, creating momentum, direction and success for all.

Any such process could begin by asking questions like;
“What is the purpose of school?”
What should our school stand for?”
“What dispositions will help all our students succeed in the 21st century?”
“What do we need to consider that our past education has not?”

Such questions require processing and time to dialogue with colleagues. It is not something achieved in a one hour after school staff meeting!

Monday, June 1, 2009

What do Successful Teachers Do?

I have been reflecting a huge amount lately on what makes some teachers stand out a cut above the rest. I think it is quite simple really, they communicate effectively and proactively with parents. They get this right from the beginning. They are transparent with parents about their child's progress and it is communicated in parent friendly terms. It is often as simple as getting excited about an individual moving up a reading level or including adjectives in a piece of their writing - the success is shared and more often than not as and when it happens. I think teachers need to be strategic and savvy at working out at the beginning of each year which parents you need to be on the front foot with, and then work at getting the relationship right.
I am excited about the ease in which such communication and proactive action can be taken given most of our parents and caregivers have email. How neat for a parent to receive an email with a picture attachment sharing the science experience the class had that afternoon. Wouldn't that make for a great dinner conversation around the table that night. I know what I would think if I was the parent receiving that email. I would think - gosh this teacher is onto it, he/she cares, look at the great learning happening for my child etc etc.
From there the relationships with the children themselves are equally important.
Then and only then everyone can work in partnership to activate learning nd provide the stretch and rigor for individuals to reach their potential.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

National Standards - First Impressions

Our new governments focus and development of national standards - what does one think?
I think to benchmark national standards or expectations if you like in foundational learning areas of literacy and numeracy is positive. It takes away variance between schools and clearly states where for example students should be reading at the end of a particular year level. This then allows consistency around reporting to parents. I believe schools have been quite exclusive in the language and terminology they use, it is often not easy for parents to understand what is written in an end of year report or discussed at a 3 way conference.

I guess the area that people are feeling anxious about is what assessment means are going to be used to determine where students fall in regards to the national standards. National testing opens a whole other 'can of worms!' one where countries such as the UK have learnt that standards, testing and league tables have shown no increase in student outcomes.

The draft material appears non specific with broad outcomes mentioned. The material presents it's self quite similar to the national exemplars developed some years prior. I am looking forward to the meeting on the 8th of June to find out more. I remain open minded about it all at this stage.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shifting Mental Models

Have been wondering about the best way to shift mental models. Some say it can take years, others say change the belief and the practice will change. Am not so sure. Often it is the change in practice that leads to the change in a belief. At the moment I am sitting on the fence. I am giggling to myself as I write this as typically I am not a fence sitter! Maybe I should elaborate some more. I have come to thinking that it depends on the individual. Some need the nudge to change practice and the change in belief follows others need the philosopical debate and dialogue to be convinced and hence the change in practice follows.

This whole topic was brought to the fore this week as I met with a parent who was not happy with the amount of homework her son was receiving. She said he needed more spelling lists and should be putting words in sentences to see if he could comprehend. I sat there reflecting on the spot that the individual before me had an understanding of how things should be done based on how she was educated. Yes things have moved along considerably since then. How does one reasure such an indivdual convinced that the way she was schooled was the best way. I don't believe that can be achieved in a 30 minute meeting. Yes a challenge for someone who personally wonders about the value of homework full stop in the primary years! They will hit it one day, just let them be kids. All good food for thought.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tony Ryan - Inspirational

How refreshing to have sat in on a dinner meeting session on Monday evening run by Tony Ryan. Tony reminded us of the important job and role teachers play in influencing our future generation. Teachers can make or break a students schooling experience. Most teachers make it, however I continue to be confronted with stories of students who were less fortunate. Bad experiences can scar deeply. I was reminded of this when I met with a parent this week who was concerned about her daughters progress. The mother sat before me with tears in her eyes and said 'I didn't have a good school experience and I don't want my daughter to experience what I did' It was hard to believe coming from a warm, caring obviously able mother sitting before me. Why does our system do that? How can we ensure it doesn't happen?
As Tony reminded us we as teachers we are in a priviledged position, a significant position. We need to be energised and passionate to influence and engage all learners. Our ability to motivate and challenge is crucial in enabling individuals to reach their potential.
Lot's of food for thought .... something I will ponder some more on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

3 Keys to Sustainable and Significant Change

Of late I have been thinking about the key enablers for driving significant and sustainable change in education. Often the most significant influences of change can be seemingly quite simple, some would say common sense.
The first important milestone of such change I believe is the creation of a vision. A clear purpose encompassing the organisations beliefs, desires and best crack at foreseeing the future. Such a vision needs to be created collectively and in wide consultation with all stake holders. The consultation needs to be authentic not tokenism, the child’s voice that states ‘stop teaching us stuff we already know’ needs to be heard, truly heard and reflected on. Most visions and mission statements are created and then put on the odd bit of letter head and shelved! A vision needs room to grow and live within the organisation. In an educational setting a visual metaphor helps to ensure the principles within it are owned by the key stake holders, and importantly our clients, our students.

Once a vision is established, a synthesis of up to date theory and research, current practices and trends needs to be conceptualised to prioritise a way forward. Strategic implementation of the vision principles and prioritises is essential. To successfully implement a vision I believe there are two important words to live by. One being abandon and the other embed. Current school practices need to be talked about and questioned as to their alignment to the vision. For example if a vision belief is one of empowerment then students not being allowed to use photocopiers or assessment measured that are done to students rather than done with would need to be questioned, and maybe abandoned. It’s not ok to keep adding more to the load.

When a vision is created and a strategic plan for it implementation established, thought and collective decisions need to be made about how that transfers to the student. After six years in your primary school environment what would you hope your students would leave being equipped with? What sort of dispositions, self worth and learning abilities would you believe were necessary for future success and satisfaction in life? I ponder often as to whether our expectations in a primary school setting are achievable and realistic. Julia Atkin’s question ‘what is powerful to learn? is a fundamental question to ask when living in an exponential information age.
Simply we believe at Red Beach School that students need to leave with four key concepts and understandings. These 4 concepts relate directly to the vision.

We are two steps of the way to implementing sustainable change. The essential questions addressed so far are;
What do we believe education is all about? (vision)
As a result of our vision what do we want our students to leave our school equipped with, being able to do?

Finally the third essential component to achieving sustainable change is to then ask what teachers and teaching practice will make this possible? What do we need to do as practitioners to ensure our vision principles live and our students leave our school living those beliefs. Teachers are the difference makers, they influence and have power beyond reckon to ensure the next generation will be our future leaders. I have not met a teacher who does not wake up each morning and want to do the best possible job they can for each individual in their class. How do we ensure our teaching practice is strategic, future focused and the best it can possible be to move all from good to great?

Visioning has such potential to gain clarity and provide a way forward when done well. It is a wonderful filter for informing decisions and ensuring alignment. From employing the right teacher to providing effective feedback to moving practice forward it is the essential driver of change.

The three steps to significant and sustainable change are
Creating a collective Vision
Decide on what a student should leave your school equipped with as a result of the vision
Create clarity around the teaching practice that will enable the student to leave as decided.

This is all wrapped in an organisational culture that has underlying norms of continuous improvement, deprivatising practice and ensuring learning is the organisations core business. In creating such a culture mental models are shaken up a little, narratives are shared to highlight beliefs and difference valued.

I believe we are in very exciting times in education. I sincerely feel privileged to be involved in such a dynamic and exciting vocation where I learn, think and feel challenged daily.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Life's Awakening Moments - Testing Times!

What a couple of fustrating weeks it has been. As you can see from the last post I have not blogged for some time. Interestingly this has not been due to not having time or procrastinating. I had my computer gear and internet connection stolen. Gutting to say the least - especially being a vigilent individual at backing up, the darlings stole that too. The hard drive itself may fetch $50 on some dodgy second hand sales site however the photos, songs, memories and personal work from the last decade gone in a flash - priceless to me. Well one can wallow in the sorrow for a wee while however one learns quickly that it doesn't solve much either. Lesson number one - don't store your hard drives and computer gear together. Duplicate backups and store in another dwelling maybe.
I count ones lucky stars, if it wasn't for the web the wonderings on this blog would be lost too!
I guess I continue to realise in some of life's trying times that these are the very experiences as hard as they can be sometimes that cause the most learning.
Am happy to be blogging again - I have missed it!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Assessment - Communicating a Balanced Picture

My previous blog entry talked about having a clear and easily articulated 'end in mind' for the students leaving our school.  The bit we are working on and haven't got quite right yet is what are we communicating to our parent body about how students are going according to the 4 major outcomes we would like students to leave our school equipped with.  For so long we have been so preoccupied with reporting on levels of achievement against curriculum areas.  What we have not been so good at is communicating a students ability to 'know what to do when they don't know what to do' or share a students level of competency in say their ability to investigate.  I think we need to take a hard look at current assessment practices.  A far more balanced picture needs to be presented to students and parents about what equates to success.  At the moment success in school and success in life look quite different.  Let's not let outdated assessment measures and methods hold back innovation.  A fresh approach is required to develop tools and e portfolio spaces that students own and manage.  As I was reminded of recently by a colleague, teachers come and go each year in a students education, parents hold the historic overview and students have the greatest potential to positively influence their learning.   When the necessary scaffolds are in place for example progressions that show students in 'kid speak' where am I and what are the next learning steps are.  Secondly when we grow students assessment literacy to know how to answer, how am I going?, Where am I going? and where to next?, students have huge learning power to achieve to their potential.  We need to strive towards communicating a balanced picture to encompass achievement as we know it and include a dispositional overview of an individuals learning capacity.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Leader Vision or Collective Vision - Our Story

A vision is not a collective one unless all stakeholders are heard, difference appreciated and valued. We began by working collaboratively with the teaching staff of our school. There was the Board of Trustees, parent community and students themselves to share in the process. I believe we are often guilty of doing this well.
Our Board questioned us deeply about the chosen concepts and did not disagree with what the teaching staff had come up with they did however point out that we had missed a very important concept that the school had stood for historically. That was the word achievement.
A representative parent group was consulted with. If we had our time again would we have consulted more widely amongst the parent community? Was it representational of the whole community?
Our students were not consulted – this was a mistake. If we had our time again this would be changed. I think given what we have since learnt from our students we would consult them first.

One said 'Wisdom'

How refreshing today as I was striding around the neighbour on an afternoon walk I bumped into a past secondary school teacher.  It was lovely catching up after so many years.  As we are both in education the conversation soon led there!  We talked about how so much in education tends to over complicate matters.  We agreed that sound practice is common sense.  I then shared that simply there are 4 things we want students to be equipped with in our primary school environment.  He asked what are those 4 things?  I said we want students to; 
  • Know what to do when they don't know what to do
  • Know how to learn on their own (be literate)
  • Be able to relate and connect with others and the world
  • Have a process that helps them problem solve, answer questions and investigate.
My previous teacher said 'that's wisdom'.  Such a statement took me back - hence caused this blog entry.
These four holistic outcomes are very much based on the School's Vision.  They form a clear direction or what some might term an 'end in mind'.  It is far easier to plan strategically to ensure such outcomes are achieved when you are realistic, context specific (what's appropriate for a primary school environment) and that the outcome is manageable and achievable.  

Lovely bumping into you today Mr Mac - Teachers do make a difference!