Friday, October 30, 2015

Guest Post - To Korero Or Not?

Guest Post from Kerri Thompson, founder of #BFC630NZ twitter chat, and a passionate and innovative year 7/8 kiwi teacher.  Kerri has been exploring cutting edge personalisation processes in her classroom, with fabulous results.  Her blog is 'Learningmyway'.


An emotional post after a comment directed at me by someone I don't know via a Google Form.

"I wish you wouldn't throw maori words in randomly just to be PC" (*note no capital letter used for Maori)

This was the comment which threw me, made me feel sick in my stomach, then made me angry, then made me want to think why I do it, then made me want to write about it!

So here I am!

Most people who know me will know that using the limited reo I have is a natural part of my everyday korero with colleagues and kids. I am proud that I know SOME to be able to include words and phrases naturally into some of my day-to-day 'goings on'. I know my students love it and am sure this helps build those initial connections.

My interest in #tereo began back in 1988 when I returned from Australia having been on a working holiday (back in the 'homeland'!) I decided I would take some night classes at the local High School. I took to it! All the classes were completely oral - NO WRITTEN - so I had to listen to the sounds and watch gestures to pick up the kaupapa of what was being taught. It was MAGIC.

I went onto Teachers College and from there onto Massey: Palmy 1989 - 1992 where I majored in Art and Maori. It was fantastic - being surrounded by the culture, the singing, the marae, the art, and #tereo. I remember feeling an enormous sense of pride standing up with our year group and performing Kotiro Maori alongside the other students (I also remember thinking STRONGLY that I must have some Maori ancestry somewhere as it felt so natural - I have yet to discover any anywhere!). I managed to take Te Reo up to 200 level and felt proud that I had learnt so much about this most beautiful language and culture.

During this time I was flatting with my best mate - another 'adult student' (us oldies had to stick together). Here was where I learnt the MOST. In an authentic context of everyday living - Erena used #tereo pretty fluently and would speak #tereo everyday all the time!

"Haere mai kei konei"  "Haere ki waho"    "He aha to pirangi?"

"Horoi to ringaringa"   "Ko wai tena?"    "Hei aha"

"Kaore au e mohio"    "Me ahau hoki"    "He aha to whakaaro?"

"Kua mutu koe?"     "Kei te matemoe au"    "E pehea ana koe?"

All little phrases she would use to help me learn some day-to-day reo... I have NEVER forgotten these phrases...AND there are many more.

SO after pondering most of the night and after some support from my wonderful PLN….I have come to this conclusion:

It is not me with the problem. I agree with what many of my PLN say - a little is better than none! And when #tereo slips in naturally it most certainly IS NOT an attempt to be PC. It is my way of bringing what little I can speak into everyday conversations and korero to help keep the reo alive and if it teaches some people something along the way - then that is even better!

So I won't be stopping - maybe it is time to continue to improve my use so it can be more fluent?

What are your whakaaro? Is it appropriate to use #tereo this way?

Or should I have said...

What are your thoughts? Is it appropriate to use the language this way?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Teams Are About People - Lessons From The All Blacks

It has been an exciting month or so.

A potent mix of adrenaline, passion, drive, commitment, leadership, and raw power splashed with a dash or two of testosterone.

What is this wonderful excitement she speaks of, I hear you ask?


Not the grass roots garden variety, but the real (Richie) Mcaw kind. 

Over the last month of so the New Zealand All Blacks have been playing their way through the stages of the Rugby World Cup in England. These games have given me pause to reflect on the links between rugby and leadership - in particular, how it relates to being an Educator and the intricacies involved with Principalship.

The All Blacks are undoubtably known around the world as a championship team.  Loved by many, feared by some and loathed by a handful.  Something Education can relate to - domestically and globally.  The similarities don't stop there - here are my key comparisons.  No doubt other more 'die hard' rugby fans who happen to be in education can draw more parallels.  

Being Humble Is An Admirable Trait

There is an excellent article in the Herald about how the All Blacks, despite being a champion team, remain humble irrespective of the outcome of a match. How you conduct yourself during the good and the not so good, is an important lesson leaders can take from the All Blacks.  The All Blacks coach Steve Hanson, talks about the importance of enjoying the game and taking time to have fun.   It could be all to easy to be arrogant and think they are better than other teams, but by taking the time to respect the other teams (by inviting them to their dressing rooms afterwards) and to pay homage to the game, is a powerful lesson.  An example of staying 'real' is that the All Blacks clean up after themselves - they don't leave an untidy dressing room and they are expected to take pride in such things.  Educational leadership is not so different.  Working in education is not only a privilege but it is more often than not, a real pleasure.  Knowing you are part of something bigger than yourself, and seeing a child experience success is amazing.  Most importantly, it is fun.  Where else do you get to do the crazy things we do, but in education?  Take the time to remember why you became an educator and share the successes (and the failures) with your team and other educators - this helps you to grow!

Reflective Questions:
How do you and your staff remember why you got into education and pay homage to the 'game'?
How do you celebrate the good, even on the bad days? 
How do you show respect for the other 'teams' (your local colleagues)? 

Stick To Your Knitting

Passing, tackling, supporting the person with the ball and mastering the scrums and line outs are essential.  Just as an excellent rugby player and coach must understand rugby, and excellent teacher and principal needs to understand education, pedagogy and how to improve their 'game'.  

Reflective Questions:
How do you improve the skills of your team? 
What systems and structures do you have in place to support your 'players' so they grow and improve? 
How do you help your top 'players' specialise and keep them on the 'top'? 

The Team Is Stronger Than Any One Individual

The better the team, the more likely the team will succeed.  This requires practice, support, and training, good leadership, a strong culture and coaching.  It is no different in education.  Teachers who continue to refine their practice, reflect and modify what they do with support from leadership and coaching, grow and strengthen the whole team.  Opportunities to collaborate and co construct the team culture assist in fostering the team spirit.  This in turn produces improved outcomes for students.  It is all very well to have several 'super stars' on your team, but if the overall goal is improved outcomes then all members of the team need to continue to improve. 

Reflective Questions: 
What do you do to actively promote collaboration? 
What opportunities does your team have to grow team spirit and culture? 
Is there a sense of 'collective efficacy' in your team where your 'players' are in it together?  How do you know? 
How do your 'superstars' share their knowledge and leadership skills with others on the team to improve overall capacity and capability? 

With the Great Comes the Not So Great (or There But By the Grace of the Universe Go I)

I heard once on the radio that the All Blacks are the only team in the world to have as many wins as they do (World Cup fiascos aside).   Despite this, when they lose, the public seem to suffer temporary rugby induced amnesia and promptly forget the successes and instead focus on the failure.  At this point the virtual pitch forks appear and calls for the coach to be sacked ring through the land.
The cynical message here is that like the All Blacks, the community will always judge a Principal's (and or school or teacher's) performance on any losses or minor speed bumps encountered- not on the overall performance, reputation and wins they and the school may have had.   Add decile, perceptions, and school type into this mix, just to complicate matters more.  It is the ugly side of humanity, and harkens back to the primal urge to seek revenge when things don't go the way you want it to.  The All Blacks ability to rise above this is testament to the carefully crafted culture of reflection and working as a family, that they have built up over the years.  Their resiliency skills and belief in themselves are worthy of reflection.   Sometimes policy or the public knock us down - but like the All Blacks, we just need to pick ourselves up and know that tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to improve. 

Reflective Question: 
What processes do you have in place to build the culture of resiliency and well being in your team? 
How do you manage the dark times? 
What do you do to grow your teams emotional intelligence?  What about yours?

Coaching Makes A BIG Difference

The All Blacks, even under the leadership of Richie, would not be the team they are without the development they receive from the coaching team.  It is no different in education - educational  coaching has the power to lift capacity and capability in a school.  

Reflective Questions: 
How does your team access 'coaching' (at your place this might include mentoring/professional learning networks or an educational coaching model) to improve their capacity and capability?
How do you know it is effective?

Communication Is Important

Knowing who does what, when they do it and keeping the lines of communication clear, open and transparent is a crucial skill - irrespective if you are playing rugby or leading a school or classroom.  Providing constructive feedback is a part of this process.  Good feedback systems allow the All Blacks to build upon their strengths and to minimise and improve upon their weaknesses.  

Reflective Questions:
What structures and systems do you have in place to ensure communication is effective? 
How is feedback provided to your 'players' and is it robust enough to ensure constructive growth and not simply be mere platitudes? 

Invest In Your Team

The All Blacks spend much time, money and people hours investing in their players, coaches and management.  They start this process right at 'grass roots' level, scouring for talent and growing their skills.  Once they become All Blacks they hone players leadership and continue to grow their talents.  They don't just grow them as rugby players, they grow them as people.  There is no room on an All Blacks bus for a Prima Donna, ego laden arrogant hot head.  The All Blacks know they will be supported and grown, and as a result, are a highly skilled team.  In education, growing our teams and investing in our people is a no brainer.  The more you hone the skills of your team the better your team will perform.  

Reflective Questions:
How do you invest in your team?
What opportunities do your team have to grow their skills? 
How are you growing your own skills? What ways does your school invest in you?
How do you find new talent? 

Knowing Which Position You Excel At

An excellent team like the All Blacks knows that to be successful they need to have the right man in the right place at the right time.  Education is the same.  Maximising the strengths of the team means that the leadership of the team has to know their team.  They need to know the strengths, and the needs of the people they are working with, and how to get the best out of them.  At the heart of this is trust and relationships.  These take time and effort to foster and grow - and sometimes it can be tough.  

Reflective Questions:
Are your people in the right place on the 'waka' doing the right thing at the right time? 
How well do you know your 'teams' individual strengths, 'where to nexts' and what do you do to grow their leadership? 
How to develop relationships?

Data Makes A Difference

The All Blacks spend hours looking at their data, and making changes based on what they find.  They analyse what they do, their performance and how each game went.  They look for commonalities, strengths and weaknesses.  Coaches make changes to the team based on what the data shows, and put in place training to combat or strengthen what the data highlights.  This is applicable to the classroom and the school.  Knowing what is happening means you can make an informed and deliberate decision on what to do next.  Neither educationalists or the All Blacks are out to lose.  Data helps success thrive.  The All Blacks use data to look at their performance and to work on how to make each players performance even better. 

Reflective Questions:
How well do you use data to inform what happens in your school, especially around targeting professional development and student support? 
How well do your teachers use and analyse data to improve outcomes for students? 
How well do your teachers know how effective they are as teachers?  What data do they use and how do they act on this data?

Successful Champions Do More 

The All Blacks are most successful because they go above and beyond their job as a professional rugby player.  These players are ones you will find spending longer honing their skills and improving their game play.  They will do whatever it takes to be on top of their game - even if it means longer sessions in the gym, at physio or building their skills.  The All Blacks have a focus on continuous learning and improvement.  They know that to stay on top they have to work harder than the average player.  Successful schools, teachers and leaders do the same.  

Reflective Questions:
How do you encourage a culture of continuous improvement and learning?
How does your team share their learning with other team mates?
What things do your team do to show they are 'on top of their game'?


New Zealand is a small country and it never fails to amaze me how well the All Blacks do on the world stage.  They always punch well above their weight and are a testament to the number 8 wire mentality of what it is to be a kiwi.   They are innovative, hard working and constantly seeking ways to improve and perform at higher levels.  Their dedication to the game, leadership and culture is second to none.  Most importantly, the All Blacks maintain a humility and sense of family that allows them to work together as one.  I see this same tenacity and ethos in our schools and in our educators.  Just like the All Blacks, our ability to innovate and hold fast to what it is to be excellent providers of modern education means we have and can still, lead the world in effective and successful educational practice.  Most importantly, perhaps as educators we need to emulate the self belief that the All Blacks have in themselves.   

We are just on five days out from the RWC final against Australia - a game that will no doubt be seeped in rivalry and a fierce battle of Australasia.  Whatever the outcome (I have my heart focussed on the All Blacks - just saying) I know that the All Blacks will continue to show the world their leadership with humility and humbleness.  

A thing to aspire to indeed! 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Educational Coaching 101- a Vlog Challenge #EdblogNZ

If you are a regular reader then you will know that I have been participating in the #EdBlogNZ blogging challenges.  Some have been interesting, some have been problematic and this particular challenge - down right petrifying! 

The challenge:

"Create a 1-2 minute video of an educational topic you are passionate about and post it on your blog (vlog)."

When I read the challenge the first time I nearly had heart failure.  In my head, I was saying that if I wanted to 'Vlog' I would have been 'Vlogging' since the beginning.  You see, there is a certain anonymity that comes with a written blog.  I can comfortably sit behind the words I write.  A Vlog is more confronting.  Sure, I could create a video that is merely a voice over, but that seems to defeat the purpose.  

I have learnt through doing this challenge.  

  • I have learnt that I still do not like seeing myself on video, and whilst I can reconcile the voice I hear with the one that comes out of my mouth, seeing myself is a little confronting to the self esteem.  
  • I have learnt that my iMovie and Google account are not friends, but like everything, there is always a techie way around a problem - and I didn't even have to ask Technoman for help! 
  • I have learnt that there are many many ways to create Vlog content - and now that the gate is open, I suspect I might be having quite the play!  Watch this space because this could be fun.   (All I need to do is create a way to manipulate time and it is all go!) 
  • I have learnt that iMovie has many different filters to play with - today I just used Film Noir (for fun) but I like the different crazy ones, so I will have to find an excuse to make a Vlog using them - just for fun!  I also found an awesome iPhone/pad app - I will share that soon (promise). 
  • I have learnt that iMovie is time-consuming, and after cutting, fiddling around and trying to be a smart Alec I scrapped the mucking around, re filmed and left the little voice mistakes in.  Oh well - it is what it is.  
  • I have learnt to face my fears, to get over myself and to 'just do it'.  The real learning here is that we ask students to do things outside their comfort zone every day, but when confronted with this ourselves, we are not always as embracing.  

Enough hiding behind the keyboard - here is my first ever Vlog featuring me.  The topic is Educational Coaching 101. 

Sources of Inspiration #EdBlogNZ

The last three weeks have been busy in the 'blogosphere' with the #EdBlogNZ challenges.  One of this weeks tasks is to write about what have been my top three sources of inspiration over the last three weeks.  

It almost feels like a trick question.

Top Three Sources of Inspiration

1. ULearn

This was my first ULearn conference.  I was fortunate to have been able to bring three other staff members from our Innovations Team with me.  What struck me most was how good ULearn is for people in all aspects of education.  There was something there for everyone.  It was a great opportunity to network across the sectors; with leaders, facilitators, teachers, industry players and international speakers.  It was also reassuring to hear the stories of other schools that are not that different to us, and that the innovative things we are doing were on the right track.  It was particularly gratifying to hear stories of schools that were not brand spanking new and well resourced in a way that single cell older schools such as mine, are.  Even better, it is powerful for our teachers to hear those stories.  I think what ended up being most inspiring about ULearn for me is that we have teachers and systems and innovative stories that we can share, and all going well, we hope to have the opportunity to present at future ULearn conferences.  Sometimes you need to see and hear the journeys of other settings to appreciate the work you have done within your own. 

2. Grant Lichtman

If such a thing as an educational crush exists, then it would be fair to say I have one for Grant.  It was a real highlight for me to meet Grant face to face, and he was one of the reasons I signed up for ULearn in the first place. His book #EdJourney has been one of the highlight reads for me this year.  To be able to travel around visiting other schools and highlighting the fabulous things that are happening in the educational world (as opposed to constantly hearing how bad things are) is a real privilege, and the fact that Grant has done this is inspiring.  It is on my educational 'to do' list to travel around uncovering best practice one day (any potential funders out there - I am open to discussions!!)  and to read Grants book, then meet him in person, is a little like living vicariously through that!  I would post a pic of the evidence of meeting Grant and his lovely wife, but in the excitement it wasn't taken with my camera! 

3. Twitter

Twitter is one of - if not the - best PLN (professional learning networks) I have ever been involved in.  If you have yet to embrace it, then you will just have to trust me when I say - it is outstanding!  I wonder how transformational my own career would have been if I had been able to access such a rich and varied network right from graduating! If it had been available (along with Pintrest) when I was a beginning teacher who knows what could have happened!  (yes, I am older than you know) I have always believed in the power of collaboration and networking, and this must be the most powerful.  I have access to smart, innovative, and thought provoking educationalists from around the world.  

The best thing for me is that the educators I connect with are happy to debate, challenge, question, and share - and not one of them is bothered about the fact I am an educational leader.  No one couches what they say because they think I might not 'like it', there are no perceptions of control and power, and often times the debate is rigorous and thought provoking.  When I can I try to participate in twitter chats from around the world because understanding the  challenges and differences of a world wide system helps me better navigate the one I work in.  Most importantly, a highlight for me at ULearn was meeting up with the real people who sit behind the twitter handle.  The Twitter Dinner was a really good opportunity to talk without being limited to 140 characters!  The only downside for me was the worry that my online presence is far more engaging than in person!  Twitter really is an ongoing source of inspiration and if you have yet to embrace the 'twitmosphere' then all I can say is go for it - you never know what magic might come from it! 


Inspiration can be found anywhere, anytime and it can take many forms.  I have been particularly inspired by the three things above, but in reality, being an educator, working with teachers, students and the community means inspiration can strike at any time.  The real challenge is how we might inspire others!  If you find the answer to that - drop me a line.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Accelerated Learning Tiers of Intervention Graphic #EdBlogNZ

EdBlogNZ Challenge Week 2 

The Challenge: 

'Find an example of a resource you have made for your students, embed it in your blog and discuss how it has helped them with their learning.  Reflect also on how you might further adapt/redesign the resource to take student learning to another level.' 

The following resource is the 'target' graphic that sits at the front our our Curriculum Achievement Plan.  I created this graphic to assist teachers in understanding the Tiers of Intervention.  In the context of this blog challenge, the 'learners' are the teaching staff at my place.

Targeting for Accelerated Learning 

Any New Zealand school that has been involved in ALL or ALiM (Accelerated Literacy Learning and Accelerated Learning in Mathematics) will be familiar with the requirement for their inquiry team to develop and CAP (Curriculum Achievement Plan).  

In essence, the CAP is a plan designed to outline the expected outcomes for literacy and numeracy (including the curriculum signposts), what progress from year to year looks like, what it would look like if a student is 'at risk' of falling below in a particular year, and the indicators of a student that was below or well below the expected level of achievement for their year group.  

In addition to these indicators and 'signposts', at our place we have outlined explicitly what the Three Tiers of Intervention look like, and teachers are able to use our CAP to outline their plan (under the three tiers) for accelerating the learning of our priority 'at risk' student's.  

I created the following resource to act as the 'cover graphic' of the CAP form.  It was designed to be a visual reminder of the three tiers, and a 'quick glance' resource to remind teachers of what resources might be available at any of the three tiers.

Tiers of Intervention 

Tiers of Intervention Graphic BHPS

To explain the resource:

Tier One:
This tier is about effective teaching for every student in the classroom.  It is saying the most effective intervention in a teachers toolkit is excellent teaching.  The strategies for ensuring effective teaching in each of our classrooms at our place include teachers participating in the following; Teacher as Inquiry, Educational Coaching, Learning Talk Framework (PLN) meetings, teacher/teacher transitions and working with parents/Whanau.  In order to be an effective teacher, teachers need to be responsive and adaptive to the learners needs in their class.  This is the most important tier.  In theory, there would be little to no need for the Tier Two or Three if Tier One was in place.  

Tier Two:
This is like 'double dosing' learning for at risk students.  In Tier Two, teachers are looking at what short term programmes can be used to support students.  For the most part these are 1-1 or small group support processes that are accessed from within our school.  Where possible they occur inside the classroom, where the teacher runs the intervention.  A teacher aide may support the rest of the class when the teacher is working with the group.  In some cases there may be a specialist support teacher assisting the class teacher/group.  At our place we have a support teacher of literacy and a support teacher for math.  Teachers may have an individual or group education plan to support students and where appropriate an application to the Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour may be applicable.  We consider the social and emotional wellbeing of our students is also critical, so some students may receive support from our counsellors (we are fortunate to have two) or through our pastoral care programme (that is a different post again).  

Tier Three:
Tier Three caters for students with long term social, emotional, behavioural or academic needs.  For the most part, this support is accessed by around 2-5% of the student population.  These students often have significant special needs, and are supported by outside agencies and support programmes.  Tier Three is when teachers need to access specialist support, expertise and funding.  

You may notice the arrow with Ka Hikitia and the Pacifika Education Plan.  When teachers plan for these students they need to consider where these two important strategies fit within the interventions and how they might be incorporated.  

Further Adaptions:

One of the things I have been pondering in relation to the above resource is the where to next.  This resource is merely the graphic of what is a much more comprehensive document for teachers, but what I think is missing is the leadership version.  By that, I mean what it is that we as a leadership team need to do to support our teachers and to make sure they have the appropriate time, resources, and professional development to sufficiently implement the CAP.  We have the system but an explicit graphic resource that spells out what this looks like might be useful.  

Some self review questions that might assist in the development of this resource could include:  

- How well understood is the CAP across the school?  How do we know? 
- What specific professional development do we need to utilise to support teachers?  (what are the strengths and needs of our teachers?)
- What impact has the interventions used had on accelerating progress - what does the data show?
- How does engagement with the community impact on the effectiveness of interventions and how do we know?
- How well does the teacher as inquiry process and learning talk framework support teachers and learners?  What does the evidence show?
- How robust is our evidence?  
- How can leaders support teachers in understanding and using their data and evidence?

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of questions but a starting point.  I have posted on the self review process before, which would assist this - you can read that here

Collaboration - An Innovation Challenge Accepted #EdBlogNZ

October is Connected Educator month, and this post is a celebration of connecting with others through a collaboration, on the theme of Innovation.  Most importantly, it serves to meet the #edblognz challenge to collaborate with another blogger (or in our case, bloggers) on an important issue in education.  

We are a triad (to clarify, not the secret society kind) of educators, representing primary and secondary.   Each of us are leaders of learning, regular bloggers, active in the ‘tweetmoshere, and passionate about future focussed learning.   

We chose to blog about innovation, and to explore the notion ‘is innovation a future focussed teaching must have and if so, what does it look like, and how do you encourage all educators to embrace innovation?’  We wanted to reflect on what Grant Lichtman had to say in his keynote at Ulearn2015, and in particular, apply that to what we currently do, and how it might strengthen  our own journeys with innovation.  

We make no promises to solve these questions!

Is Innovation a future focussed teaching must have?

Yes, and a strong YES.  
Innovation, for me, sits at the heart of schooling improvement.  The old adage of you will always get what you already have if you keep doing what you already do, has a strong ring of truth to it.  It is not even about being ‘future focussed’ for tomorrow, but for now.  
When I think of educational innovation, I see it as improving upon the existing (in same case removing or replacing), and the addition of new methodologies, ideas and concepts to move our thinking and processes forward.  When I asked Technoman for his thoughts, he said that innovation is about ‘understanding the need, not the want and putting that into practice’, and I could see how that relates well to an educational context.  
Within our system there are so many inequalities and these pose a significant challenge to being responsive teachers, leaders and indeed, to being a responsive system.  Innovative thinking has to be a part of a future focussed educator's repertoire if we are to meet these challenging issues!

Absolutely necessary. Without innovation, just as in life, we stagnate and perish.

Sam Gibson
Absolutely. Without innovation, we all become stagnant. Innovation is what makes the world go round in the 21st century. We often hear the phrase “We are training our students for jobs that do not exist yet”. Therefore, we need to ensure that innovation and problem solving are at the top of the list of skills that we are encouraging with our students. If I am asking my students to be innovative, it is also imperative that I am innovative as an educator.

What does it look like?

Obviously, innovation is going to look different for each individual, setting and context.  At our place, innovation is on a continuum; some teachers are fully immersed, active and engaged, whilst others are a little more wary, simply content to let others bathe in the pool of innovation, whilst they quietly dip their toes with trepidation.  Sometimes it is messy, sometimes it is challenging and sometimes it is magic!
In an effort to cater for this diverse ‘continuum’ of need, we set up our Innovations Team.  I have blogged about fostering innovation previously, which you can read about here.  In a nutshell, the Innovations Team was developed to provide a place for those early adopters to gather, share ideas, practice (including successes and areas of future development) and to support each other's inquiries.  As an opt in option, it gives the passionate teachers a voice and safe place to ‘wonder’, without adding to the fear other teachers might hold around change and innovation.  

It looks like life. A complex and ever-evolving ecosystem that cannot exist in a vacuum - it is surrounded by, infused and interacting with other systems and processes that influence and affect it. Choices, opportunities and threats, failures and triumphs, weaknesses and strengths that constantly move and mould.
"Failure is success, if we learn from it." (Malcolm Forbes)

Sam Gibson
Innovation is all around us, and it always has been. However, today innovation is moving faster than ever. New ideas, new equipment, new paradigms. However it looks, the most important thing is that we keep moving forward with it. This is where we can get uncomfortable with change, but  as Grant Licthman said: “Embrace the discomfort”.  I love the Dewey quote: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”. As the world keeps changing, this quote will forever be true.


How might we encourage others to embrace innovation?

This has to be the billion dollar question facing all early adopters and leaders with an affinity for innovative practice.  Understanding change management, making sure we have a robust self review process, being open and transparent and continuing to foster trust are all key elements in helping others overcome their concerns and fears.  
I posed the question the other day on Twitter during Grant’s keynote when he talked about fear holding teachers back, that perhaps if we understood what was at the heart of that fear, and we unlocked it, then we could move forward as a system.  For me, this begins with understanding what is sitting at the heart of my own teams fears and concerns.  If we understand what the problem is then we can work together to find the solutions (Grant elaborated on using Design Thinking during his workshop which will be a useful tool to assist this).

I encourage others by being open to change, by considering and planning, by trying new things or ideas and reflecting on the process and the results. I am transparent. I share my ideas and my outcomes with others for critical reflection, feedback and feedforward. I keep going. Life's a journey. Learning is life itself and therefore is also a journey. You journey by moving forward, one foot in front of the other, by increments (some large, some small).

Sam Gibson
We all ask our students to adopt a growth mindset and learn from their mistakes. We, as educators, need to do the same. Teachers need to be encouraged to innovate. We need to have an environment where it is ok to fail, where we are co-learners in the classroom. Part of this journey should involve reflecting on, and sharing, experiences. Personally, I have found blogging about my experiences a hugely valuable process. This is where I really reflect on what I am doing. Through this, my PLN on Twitter has been valuable in terms of providing encouragement, feedback and new ideas.

How do we foster innovation?  
How will we strengthen it?
Key takeout from Grant Lichtman's keynote and how it applies to our current journey?

One of the key takeouts I have been absorbing from Grants keynote is that we need to have open and honest conversations with all members of our school community about what we do, why we do it and what we want it to be like.  It starts by challenging the assumptions of the status quo (see infographic below).   Talking about these things and the resulting changes that may come from it will be uncomfortable, and they will be challenging, but on the flip side, they will be exciting!
We can’t be limited by our notions of schooling based on what was done in the past, but rather, be prepared to be embracing of what the future is and can be.  At our place we have started the conversations but we still have some distance to travel.  Big things come from small steps, and I am more than confident that we are on our way!

Key Takeouts from Grant Lichtman st3ph007

Sam Gibson
As Grant Licthman mentioned in his keynote, the world is changing at an incredible rate, we therefore need to reimagine the fundamental learning relationships between teachers, students at knowledge. To be truly innovative, schools really do need to blow up many assumptions that we have about learning. Most teachers are so used to being the main source of knowledge within the classroom. This idea has changed dramatically over the last ten years with the technological advances we have seen. When thinking about technology use in the classroom, I always like to ask teachers “What are the main ways in which technology is allowing you to enhance the learning for your students?”. This question should be in the forefront of every teacher's mind in today’s classrooms. This is where we can start to blow up some of the assumptions from the past, and look to new innovative ways that we can facilitate learning.  

In conclusion, although we are three educators from three diverse settings, we are not that dissimilar in our thinking. There is a reassurance here, in that if we can be on message over such an important issue in education then this must surely be a great sign. To be able to collaborate and share thinking across sectors has been a powerful reminder of what we can achieve as educators when we share ideas and work together. I believe it is exactly this that Grant was talking about when he said if you want to be relevant in the future than you need to be a 'big node' in the 'cgnitosphere'. Thank you Mike and Sam for helping me to fan the 'bushfires of innovation!

Link to Sam's Blog
Link to Mike's Blog

Friday, October 2, 2015

Educational Inspirations #EdBlogNZ

Todays post is my second for week one of the #EdBlogNZ challenge.  You can read my first post here about why I blog and what I blog about.  Challenge three for this week was to write a post about how something like a favourite movie, song, or piece of art relates to who we are as an educator.  

I have chosen two songs (but I could have filled the post with a playlist of the songs that inspire me as a leader and as an educator), a quote, and a book.  Whilst each stand on their own, there is a theme that connects them, and it is this theme that is at the heart of who I am as an educator.  It drives me, it shapes my journey, and when the road gets rocky, it inspires me to bounce forward.   

Song:  Imagine - By John Lennon 

"You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you will join us
And the world will live as one"

This song is my all time favourite song and is a dead giveaway that deep down (or not so deep to those who know me well) I am an idealist.  In my utopian world the human race strives for the pursuit of kindness and to live in a better world.  This, as opposed to striving for greed, corruption, war and power.  At the heart of this is a quality public education system which is working towards building a better society where fairness and equality for all are the founding principles.  The realist in me knows that this is a long shot, but much like the Starfish Story (another source of inspiration), I may not have the ability to make positive change for the entire human race, but I can make a difference in my own patch of the world.  The thing that I find most hopeful about this song is that it acknowledges that there is not just one 'dreamer' in the world, and if all of us that have a vision get together to bring about a positive change, then we can literally 'move mountains'.  It is a bit like that old adage, that a vision not shared and unexecuted is just a hallucination!    

Quote:  Whakatauaki - Maori Proverb 

He aha te mea nui o te ao 
He Tangata, he tangata, he tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people, it is people, it is people! 

Despite the fact that this Whakatauaki is very popular and often quoted, I have always felt education particularly, is the embodiment of it.  If we want to make meaningful change, then we need to have people that believe in that change.  It is irrelevant how good your vision or strategic plan is if it has not involved the people it is meant for, or if they do not believe it to be something they want to strive for.  Our most important resource is our people.  Our students, our teachers and support staff and our community.  Without them, our work is pretty pointless.  It is a guiding principle of what it is to be an educational leader!

Book: To Kill A Mockingbird - by Harper Lee 

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view..."

I first read this story when I was a teenager as part of my Fifth Form English (year 11) and from the moment I started reading it, I was hooked.  I have blogged about To Kill a Mockingbird before, because it is one of those books that has had a profound influence on me.  At the time, the 15 year old me was horrified at the injustices I was reading about.   Perhaps I had been sheltered from such atrocities and this was my first real introduction to some of the hate that exists in our world, but to this day, I strive for equitable outcomes and I will always look for ways to ensure the students I work with have access to opportunities for success.  I am privileged to work with a very diverse range of people from many backgrounds and cultures.  Considering things from their perspective has been, in part, as a result of the impact this book has on me.  The other lesson I took away from To Kill A Mockingbird was the way Atticus advocated for others.  Sometimes being an advocate is hard work, sometimes it is unpopular and sometimes it is thankless, but it is so important that those who have the smallest or the quietest voice need to have the loudest advocate.  I consider being an advocate a critical role in educational leadership and in education, and if it means I have to be a little uncomfortable sometimes in order to be the voice of others, then so be it.  It is better to make a difference for some than for none.  

Song: Rise Up - Andra Day 

"I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'l rise up 
And I'll do it a thousand times again 
For you All we need, all we need is hope 
And for that we have each other
And for that we have each other 
We will rise
We will rise"

Sometimes working in education, especially educational leadership is hard, uncomfortable and a little lonely.  It takes courage to stand up, to rise and to face a new day sometimes.  The reward is the difference we make, but it has its price.  I like this song because it is a reminder that the rough bits smooth out, that the tangles untangle, and the sunrise will come  again when the sun sets.  Most importantly, that if we face it together, we will rise and face it as a team, and when we do, we will be stronger for it.  

What inspires you?  What drives you and is at the core of your very educational being?  

The beauty of a challenge like this is the opportunity to remind ourselves of why we do what we do!