Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's All About The Blog! #EdBlogNZ

I thrive on challenges and I love to blog.  Combining the two - now that's just going to have to be magic! 

It's ironic really - since the 3pm bell heralded the end of what can only be described as a 'mare' of a term, I think I have subconsciously checked out of of the digital world and mentally 'deplugged’. 

 Sort of.  

I have responsibilities that can only be shelved if I leave the country (I know other leaders know what I mean), so avoiding email is irresponsible.  I am also inherently curious (some might say nosey) so I've checked Facey, the Tweetsmosphere, and the Herald Online for the latest in Rugby World Cup drama.   But I confess, it's been half hearted and lack lustre.  Instead I have been attempting to recharge, soak up some sun (goodness knows there has been little of that in recent months), walk on the beach, remind my family I am indeed a wife and mother, and I have even read a book - a real book, with real paper and everything!   The only thing I have yet to conquer is that I have still not quite shaken the persistent head cold (it is incredible how much mucus one body can produce which can only be described as eww) but it is a work in progress.  

However, it is a good thing I am inherently curious, because it was in my half hearted scrolling through the Tweetsmosphere that I discovered the #EdBlogNZ challenge!  I am reasonably active on Twitter so I am not sure how I missed it.  I suspect my over worked, tired and ‘full of head cold’ brain dismissed it.  Or I was pretending to hide under a rock - either works!

So here I am, all inspired and keen to participate.  There are three levels of the challenge - Absolute Newbie, Casual Blogger and Blogging Legend.  Despite a small dry spell (I am totally blaming it on the ‘mare’ term) in the last little while, I believe I  qualify for Blogging Legend.  

So, here we go - challenge accepted and let the blogging begin. 

Week One Challenge 2. 

Why I Blog:

I started my blog nearly two years ago, and I chose to start it during the busiest term of the year.  I decided that if I could find the time to write during term four then I would be able to make it a habit, and that I was showing people I had spoken to about my passion for writing, that I was committed to it.  Hard as it was, it was the best decision to make.  I had finally decided to take writing seriously and I have always said that the best way to improve your writing, is to write.  

Here is why I blog. 

I blog because it ‘scratches’  a few proverbial itches.  Firstly, it keeps my inner monologue happy which in turn means it is  less likely to be keeping me awake with ideas in the middle of the night.   My muse is an active wee beastie, and I find I have ideas and wonderings all the time.  I find inspiration from many places, and inspiration can strike anywhere.  It is not uncommon for me to jot ideas down onto the Notes app on my phone or the odd post it sticky! 

Secondly, it gives me an outlet for recording my ideas, my wonderings (of which I have far too many) and for sharing insights, the odd gem and some of the resources I have made.   The bonus for my staff, and those who I hang around with is that the more I blog the less likely I am to bother them with all my ‘thinking’.  

Thirdly, it helps me consolidate my thinking and if this is of use to others, then that is a good thing.  This is particularly true for when I am at a workshop or conference.  I have a system that allows me to easily go through my notes to find the ‘gem’ that I want to write about later.  Writing about it helps me innovate and to evolve as an educator. 

The fourth reason I blog is because there are stories to be told, and best practice to uncover - and the more that we as educationalists share the good stories, the better placed we are as a profession to advocate for the things that are best for students.  We have an important role to play in terms of celebrating all that is innovative, quality and to be strengthened in education - especially considering the Global Education Reform Movement (G.E.R.M)  and its attempts to subvert this, around the world.  It is our profession and we must be the ones that advocate for it!  

Finally, I like to write, and I am passionate about education, leadership and advocating for students.  I have a vision abut writing, and blogging is a small step towards realising that vision (more about that some other time).  

What do I blog about?

Good question and this really made me think.  

When I started I had a wide range of things that I wrote about, which included some of the things outside of education that I am interested in.  As time passes and I hone my skills, I have honed my topics.  For the most part, I write about education and leadership.  I still love to write about some of the things that I am interested in outside of school, and I especially love creative persuits - especially those that are designed to inspire others.  Now I mostly link this kind of writing to leadership.  

My educational topics vary.  For the newbies out there, firstly let me congratulate you on taking the step of starting.  They say (have you ever wondered, who are these elusive ‘they’ are?) that a journey starts with a single step.  Your first blog post is your first step, and it will be the hardest one you take.  Preserve - the reward is a more settled mind when you go to sleep, and the satisfaction that you created something. 

To help you out on your journey, and to fulfil the requirements of the challenge in my own way, I have listed some topics, and a corresponding blog post.  They may provide you with some inspiration or give you a little gem of an idea from which to sprout your own post.  

Education Related Topic Samples:

Educational Coaching - this is an area I am very passionate about, and one that I find as such a powerful tool to assist our team (teachers, teacher aides and support staff) to reach their potential.  

Leadership - I have been a school principal in three very different but amazing schools.  Each has been a journey, and each has been a privilege. As such, I have encountered just about every kind of leadership conundrum you can think of - and a few that were major lessons learnt.  If my insights can be of use to anyone else, then that is a good thing.  At a minimum, writing about leadership helps me consolidate my own thoughts, and if this in turn improves my own skills then that has to be a win win.  

Educational Piranhas  (about taking the personal out of appraisal) 

Change and Self Review - these are topics close to my heart.  Change is a constant in education and self review is a critical component of our work.  The following blog post is a post that encapsulates both topics. 

Inspiration - I like to (when I have time) create posts that help others.  Often they are reflections of things I have noted and sometimes they are posts that give little bits of wisdom for others.  it is my creative side being exercised. 

The Self Esteem People People Suckers - you know who they are, they are the people whose very being sucks our self esteem out in order to build themselves up.  

Posts inspired by courses, politics and or issues in education - this post is a conglomeration of all these things.  

Dangerous Ideology - the Neoliberalization of Education (particularly designed to explain and demystify what neoliberalism is, something many teachers and lots of the public misunderstand) 

Innovation, Student Voice and Agency - these are topics I am passionate about, and I enjoy writing about them.  

Teaching Practice - there are so many great things happening in the educational world and this starts with what is happening in our own schools - have you thought about writing about what you see happening? 

Current 'Hot Topics' - these include a range of things including Modern Learning Environments! 

As you can see, there are many things you can write about.  The most important thing is to start.  Make a list of things that 'spin your wheels' and write about what you are passionate about.  The great thing about the #EdBlogNZ challenge is that it provides inspiration and motivation to start or to pick up from where you left off!

I am looking forward to this challenge.  It is always good to get some external motivation, and for that I am most thankful.  

You can subscribe to this blog by adding your email to the 'follow by email' button at the top of the blog, right hand side! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Building Capital to Build Capacity

I belong to a PPLG (principal’s’ professional leadership group) and we have been reading ‘The Principal – Three keys to Maximizing Impact” by Michael Fullan.  At our meeting last week, we focused on chapter three, The First Key – Leading Learning.  It is a fairly substantial chapter, and it covers a wide range of things an effective educational leader does.  All of which are very useful and powerful considerations we can use to improve the day to day impact our leadership has on our schools.  One concept I am particularly interested in is the concept of capital – professional, human, social and decisional.

I am really interested in what it means to build the professional capital of your team, and how the interplay of human, social and decisional capital underpins this professional capital.

It left me wondering, how well do we maximize each of the areas of capital in order to grow the success of our teams?  

With this in mind, I wondered if It would  help to look  a little closer at each of the areas of capital, and to ask some key questions as a type of barometer of how well placed we are in terms of maximizing each area.   

Perhaps these questions might help you grow the capacity and capability of your teams, and assist you to conduct a self review of the professional capital at your place.

Professional Capital

This is where you are building the capability and capacity of your teams, both individually and collectively.  

Key questions for maximizing professional capital:

In order to build the professional capacity  of a team, leaders need to consider ;
  • Does the process need to be differentiated or whole school?
  • How will it be scaffolded for success and how is expertise shared across the teams? 
  • Is coaching or mentoring an appropriate vehicle, and if so, how will this be used to grow your team?
  • What elements of collaboration are in place?
  • How are you giving time and precedence to this process,  and is it carefully paced?
  • Most importantly, how is this going to enhance student achievement and learning?

Human Capital

This is the quality of the teachers and team at your place.  Think about it as your teams human resources, and the basic teaching (or work) talents that each member of your team bring to the job.   By gathering information on the classroom experience and qualifications of individual teachers you can improve on the human capital at your place.  It is important to attract and improve the human capital at your place.  Professional development, authentic feedback, trust, support and high expectations help strengthen and grow human capital. 

Key questions for maximizing human capital:

  • How good are the recruiting processes at your place?  
  • How well do you cultivate and grow the talents of your team?
  • Do you know the strengths (and next steps) of the members of your team?
  • How well do you know what each of your team do, and what part they play in your team so that you can maximize their impact?
  • Who on your team are critical in assisting you with growing talent?
  • What systems and processes do you have in place to ensure the quality of your teams work?  
  • Does your appraisal system help you grow your team and highlight strengths and next steps?  Is it a ‘done with not done to’ process?

Social Capital 

Social capital relates to the quality and quantity of the ways people interact with each other.  In short, this is all about relationships.   For teachers it is about how they work together, and how they access and share knowledge/understandings across the organisation.  For all members of your team it is what trust looks like, the expectations they have of themselves and of others.  It is also how committed each member of the team is to the common cause – to your vision of what it is you want to achieve.  In short, it is the foundation of your school/organizational culture.  Social Capital (the group) helps drive long-term change and helps to improve individuals because of the impact of collective efficacy.  Michael Fullan would say that “good people will not stay in places that are unproductive”.

Key questions for maximizing social capital:

  • What does collaboration look like across the school?
  • What opportunities are there for collaboration for your staff, and your community?
  • Do people know what it is you stand for – what your collective vision is?
  • Is there a sense of a collective efficacy where ‘we are in this together’ and how do you know?
  • How do you engage your community and staff?
  • What processes do you have in place to find out what the relationships are like? (an example might be through 360 degree leadership appraisals)
  • How do teachers and support staff work together collaboratively in a focused  way to improve learning for students?’
  • What are relationships in the wider community like?

Decisional Capital

This relates to the processes or systems that people have at your place to make decisions across a multitude of areas.   For me, this is teacher voice and agency in action.  This grows over time.  It is also one of the least strong areas in any team.  

Key questions for maximizing decisional capital:

  • Do the people at your place get the opportunity to participate in decision making processes? 
  • Do your people have the ability to make good decisions?  How do you know and how do you grow this?
  • If they are able to make decisions, can they then act upon them? (there is little point in being able to make a decision if you can not follow them through and enact upon them)

Finally, these are skills that we all need to build up and improve upon.  Leaders also need to develop these. 

I leave you with these questions:

  • If you are the leader at your place,  how do you foster, grow and develop these? 
  • When do you know to step back and let it happen, and give them space?