Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Meaningfully connecting with students

As a leader of your school, are you meaningfully connecting with your students?

As leaders we know that relationships are at the core of everything we do in our schools. Building a healthy school culture based on relational trust and core values is paramount and meaningfully connecting to our students everyday should be our aim.

I received the note below from a student and it not only made my heart sing it reinforced my belief around taking the time to personally connect with my students everyday:

So, how do we best make that meaningful connection?

Simple advice from the net:
George Couros – The Principal of Change
Couros’ 6 ways to connect:

1.     Welcome the kids when they arrive. Wave goodbye when they leave.
2.     Your first interaction with a student should always be a positive one.
3.     Talk as little as possible using questioning to allow the student to share their story.
4.      Use humour to deal with situations any chance you can.
5.     Do the walk – everyday if possible.
6.     Kids will love you if they know you love them.

Jessica and John Hannigan – US Educational Consultants on Leadership
10 easy ways for school leaders to connect with students:

1.     Talk to students daily – know their name, ask questions, listen to their stories.
2.     Eat lunch with students.
3.     Be visible.
4.     Greet students.
5.     Take time to get to know students and their families.
6.     Support your students at school events.
7.     Have classroom chats or chats with groups of students regarding current and serious topics on a daily basis.
8.     Play a game with them at lunch or participate in school activities.
9.     Be there for them if they need you.
1. Positive phone calls home.

Going a little deeper:

James Alan Sturtevant – You’ve Gotta Connect!

He asks:
Do you share your own life with your students?
How do you show that you value their individual cultures?
How do you differentiate relationship building with different students?
How do you embrace challenging behaviours, difficult times, set backs?
Do you compare present students with past students?

Sturtevant’s best practice:

When you share parts of your life students will feel comfortable and share their own.
Enquire and learn about their interests, passions, leisure activities, and family life so that they get a sense that you value them.
Just accept that some relationships will form quickly and others will take time.
Respectfully resolving problems will ensure strong valuable connections are formed and maintained.
Focus on the gifts and needs of your present students rather than comparing the present cohort to the past.

The key word regarding connection is meaningful.
It is relatively easy to adhere to the simple advice offered above but forming meaningful connections requires not only planned, dedicated, sustained effort over time but also should go hand-in-hand with developing strong student voice opportunities.
 have written a blog post previously on meaningful student involvement and provided tools such as the Ladder of Participation and the Spectrum of Student Voice Oriented Activity Model to gauge your current school level of student involvement.
Personally, as a principal I have found the following practice as key to meaningful student connection:

·      Every day, purposefully aim to engage with students on a personal level through asking, listening, watching, and sharing stories
·      Play (in a broader sense) with students, no matter their age
·      Be the greeter – welcome and acknowledge with a warm smile encouraging interaction
·      Schedule frequent class walk through visits otherwise, if left to chance, they won’t happen
·      Host lunch sessions to get feedback
·      Attend extra curricular school activities organised by students to offer your support
·      Personally thank students for any service to the school no matter how small
·      Try to learn as many names as possible as well as personal passions/interests
·      Share your own personal passions/interests with students
·      Offer guidance, support and be a mentor to your students

And remember …

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Why asking our kids what they want to be when they leave school is now redundant

Why asking our students what they want to be when they leave school is now redundant

We have all heard the following statement many times over the past year:

The reality is if you have a child starting school this year, two thirds of the kids in their class will end up doing jobs that don’t quite exist yet.


Thanks to advancements in technology up to 65 percent of children entering primary school today will end up working in completely new job types.

What is the catalyst for this change in skill sets? 
Answer - The Fourth Revolution!

The World Economic Forum’s latest report tells us that there are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact:

The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

The excellent video below shows evidence of the dramatic change that is all around us and happening at exponential speed.

The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report (2016) and their New Vision for Education Report provides a comprehensive picture of the global workforce and purports the following:

·      Most new jobs will have a technology component to them

·      What will increasingly be needed is good training in basic
technology competence, asking the right questions, critical
thinking, analysing concepts and leading a purposeful

·      Creativity, collaboration and non-cognitive skills will be key

·      Knowledge of traditional arts and humanities subjects is
highly relevant to this, making obsolete past notions of a
dichotomy between humanities and sciences.

And again from the World Economic Forum:
It is predicted that 5 million jobs will be lost before 2020 as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and other socio-economic factors replace the need for human workers.
So what skills should workers be acquiring to make sure they have value as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace?

Some may be surprised to learn that skills we develop in pre-school will be valued highly.

David Deming, associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, argues that soft skills like sharing and negotiating will be crucial. He says the modern workplace, where people move between different roles and projects, closely resembles pre-school classrooms, where we learn social skills such as empathy and cooperation.

Along with those soft skills, mathematical ability will be enormously beneficial.

So, in conclusion:
 Mathematics + Computer Science + interpersonal skills = being prepared for the future work force!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

7 ways to ensure meaningful student involvement leading to school improvement

Definition of meaningful student involvement:

It is the process of engaging students as partners in every facet of the education system for the purpose of strengthening their commitment to education, community and democracy.

Is it simply student voice?
That is, any expression by any student about any aspect of school life.
Is it student engagement?
That is, when a student feels excited and motivated to learn.
Is it student consultation?
That is, listening to student’s opinions about school.
Is it student participation?
That is, students committed to taking part in all aspects of learning
Or, is it a combination of all of the above?

No, it isn’t!
It is a deeper more committed active process that
leads to school improvement!

 So, what can meaningful student involvement look like?

1. Students as researchers!
Firstly, I have blogged about this before but I passionately believe training older students undertake learning walks to gather and analyse data about learning results in a meaningful research partnership leading to improved student outcomes.

2. Students as curriculum planners!
Again, I believe passionately that students should have the opportunity to plan units of inquiry, with teachers, to ensure prior knowledge and student interest is acknowledged and build into any rich inquiry tasks.

3. Students as advocates for change!
Empowering students to take meaningful action locally and globally is a necessary future focused practice. Offering students rich, complex, real world problems to solve and supporting them to take action will lead to meaningful commitment to service, as opposed to, low level giving through muffin stalls and mufti days to donate to causes.

4. Students as co-researchers with the teacher!
I believe all teacher inquiries should be informed by student voice and opinion. We consult widely to gather research and ideas in answer to our wonderings and inquiries but how often do we share our research with our students and seek their advice, ideas and opinions?

5. Students as culture builders!
In New Zealand we are great advocates of peer mediation and a variety of buddy systems in our schools designed to help students support each other and grow respectful, caring relationships. Tick this one off ü

6. Students as eco-warriors!
Again, in New Zealand, we have a strong philosophy and practice developing our students as respectful environmental citizens who are informed and have developed a consciousness and awareness of the world’s rapidly changing physical challenges and sustainable practice. 
Tick this one off ü

7. Students as teachers!
We know peer teaching has an effect size of .55 (Hattie, 2011). So why do we not utilise this valuable practice more?

I challenge all teachers to answer the following:
·      How often in a school day are your students teaching each other?

·      What opportunities do you provide for students to lead the learning, instead of yourself, throughout the day?

·      Have you consciously timed the teacher talk time/mat time in your class over a school day?

·      Do you start a lesson/activity with “We are going to investigate/learn about ……. Who would like to share their knowledge/skills about this topic/concept/strategy?

·      How often in a school day do you bring closure to a lesson by asking your students to reflect and share/question/explain their learning to other peers?

Together, the 7 ways to ensure meaning student involvement will result in some form of school improvement and definitely bring real teacher/student partnership in learning to life!

Rate your level of student involvement against the ladder of participation below:

Friday, 10 February 2017

Leading through our inner critic voice and self doubt

Leading through our inner critic voice and self doubt

Over the Christmas break I read a book, highly recommended by my Board Chair, called Playing Big by Tara Mohr.

 Reading this book has had a profound effect on my well being and confidence as a leader. Why? Because for the first time in my life it introduced me to my inner critic and helped me to develop an awareness and acceptance of its power and destructiveness!
I believe, like many women, I have developed over many years, a voice in my head that constantly criticises and undermines my confidence and abilities. Why have I allowed this to develop? Why is it so loud and dominating? Why can’t I ignore this inner critic voice? Why have I lived most of my life with self-doubt?
I could blame it on my up bringing (a dominant father), or as a result of my generation, or as a result of gender inequality. However, I learnt that the source of the inner critic is not important; how you manage it is the key.
Tara tells the goal isn’t to get rid of the inner critic. The goal is to learn how to hear those crazy thoughts and self-doubts, know them for what they are, and not let them determine what you do!

 Working through Playing Big enabled me to develop a new voice in my head called my inner mentor! My inner mentor is a combination of all the attributes of the people in my life whom I respect and admire - teachers, principals, colleagues, family, friends, heroes … I visualise how they might handle the situation and what they would advise me to do. Combined, they help me to banish my self-doubt!
Tara Mohr, advises the reader, when faced with a challenge or stressful situation to acknowledge the inner critic voice and then to replace it with the inner mentor’s positive, calm and confident voice.
Just becoming fully aware of my inner critic voice and having a strategy to combat it is personally, very powerful. I check in with my inner mentor regularly and know, over time, my inner critic voice will fade and lose its power over me.
Finally, I have an inner voice of wisdom, calm and guidance. I can truly be a self-confident leader, positively aware of my abilities and empowered to spread the message!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The inspiration of one word goals

The inspiration of one word goals

 Over the Christmas New Year holiday break I spent a relaxing time catching up on a large number of texts, blogs and online articles that had literally been piling up over the latter part of 2016.

In one article, sorry I didn’t note the source, I read about the value of one word goals. Like their students, teachers are asked to set goals for the year often based on their teacher inquiries and/or professional learning next steps. They can become wordy, onerous and sometimes, if they are disparate, become meaningless over time.

The beauty of a one word goal is when you choose a single word you have a single focus. The one word should sum up your essence and focus as a teacher or leader for 2017. It will be your mantra, your defining intention to guide you and shape you all year long.

Why? Because you will remember it! It will stick with you! It will gain meaning, especially if you stylise it into a poster and keep it prominent.

I thought I would try out this idea with my teachers at teacher only day this week.
I did refine the idea, as is my way, by allowing one or two words followed by a sentence explaining what the goal’s intention was. I shared my own 2017 two word goal:

Give globally

I want to give in the global sense of wide reaching ways, e.g. through my blog I hope to inspire, inform and challenge educators across the world and I also want to volunteer (give) in my local community.

I asked each teacher to define their one/two word goal and we displayed them on a large chart. See below:

Our next step is to make posters of our one word/two word goals in order to stay focused and to grow its value through the actions we take throughout 2017.

I am very proud to publish their goals, with their consent, see below:

Inspire: I want to be inspired by my learners and in turn inspire them to love learning.

 Challenge Thinking: Challenge my own thinking as well as push myself to further my knowledge and teaching.

Learning Journey: To expand my education personally and professionally, by learning from others, my environment and university.

Reggio Approach: To delve deeper into my understanding of Reggio, and look at the ways SHPS can incorporate this more into curriculum - so we are balanced with Te Whariki, IB and Reggio.

Present & Effective: To be present in moments and listen more towards effective practice.

 Balance: Effective balance between work rest and play through compartmentalisation, time management and honouring self.

New experiences: It's time to try some new things in my teaching and how I think abut teaching.

Lighten Up: Build relationships, get to really know my girls and focus on their well-being, happiness and sense of pride in themselves. Fun!

Healthier & Interested: learn more about e-learning to enhance my learning with the children.

Connections: Inspire To build connections in class, across team and further afield.  Inspire girls to learn and push their learning beyond what they thought they were capable of achieving.

Simplify: I want to focus on the things I know are important and make them wonderful!

Prioritise: So much to do, so little time … What will make the biggest difference? What is important?  What can we let go?  What can be delegated?

Alongside & Caring: Learn alongside students, caring for their needs.

Order: To create order and structure/routines to enable creativity and space for brilliance.

Balance: Small steps moving through the year making sure I have a good balance with family/friends, work and health.

Altruism & Empathy: Fostering the love and care within the group and capturing moments digitally for sharing within our family and community.

Challenge & Practical: To ensure the learners in my care have practical and relevant experiences.

Sharing& Joy: Finding joy and excitement in the small learning experiences and successes.  Celebrating and sharing these moments with our school, local and extended community.

Opportunity: I'm excited to embrace all the new of this year - team teaching; 1:1 devices; UNESCO; a second year with my girls; hopefully a new home.

Serious Creativity: This is the title of a de Bono book, which maps to the fact that I would like to use creative strategies to teach, and have creative projects happening both in and out of school.

Relationships: Taking time to spend more time tuning in to people.  Valuing each interaction.

Challenges:  Myself in terms of involvement in school and community. Students - inspiring and motivating with new ideas.

Positive:  Positive outlook; positive results; positive difference.

Independence/SRL Drive: Children who are goal focussed, driven, know what they can/should be doing at each moment.  Good class systems in place to ensure they can be inspired and excited.

Grow: I want to continue growing and learning as a teacher and create more opportunities for students to grow and be self regulated.

Documentation/Paper work: Reflecting on how I/we document the children’s learning in a Reggio Emilia sense through ICT.

Growth: Grow the 'gifted programmes' and our girls’ awareness of strengths.  Grow my own professional knowledge.