Monday, 14 November 2016

The End of Year looms!

My 3 Great Steps:
1   Seek transformative feedback (not just information) that requires action to grow leadership.
How? Ask specific questions, engage in professional conversations.
2   Prioritise and balance responsibilities.
How? Book in social time and exercise, cull to-do lists weekly, ask myself if my contributions are 'token' or if I can commit fully.
3   Activate my professional reading
How? Write about it, record my synthesis, record my what now, and talk about it.

My biggest reflection on the year is that my goals were not great. They were mostly unmeasurable and non of them had a teaching focus - which meant that my teaching practice has not developed in the capacity that it could have.

My biggest achievement this year, has been what I've learned about myself and the way I deal with stress. Goal number two played a massive role here and creating time for myself has meant that I can read my own cues better to when I need to activate systems to deal with happenings.

There's been lots of highlights - being a part of the Innovation Incubator team, and the leadership that came with that, has been great. The team make-up was fabulous - serious enough but we had loads of fun, the topic was a passion of mine, and there has been so much learning! I've enjoyed taking a role in leading our team in some development around feedback and capacities also. And my team have been brilliant! I couldn't have asked for better people to work with.

Looking into next year I really want to bring my focus back to the classroom and the habitat. The leadership stuff will happen, now that I have got myself into it. I want to ensure that I'm modelling and promoting school-wide practices like capacities and learning conversations, which can run through progress pebbles.

Big goal: Progress pebbles
  1. Use of capacities to drive reflection/evaluation of progress
  2. Learning conversations/conferences/parent involvement
  3. Instructional techniques to achieve pebbles

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Term Three wrap-up

Term Three has been an interesting one for me. I've had some revelations about myself and done a lot of learning - mostly about me. I actually have two other posts that I've written and are in draft form. I can probably, quite confidently say that they will stay this way. I've come to realise that's it's ok to admit that things are hard, and it's easier to give yourself permission to look after yourself once you've done so. Here's where I'm at with my Current --> Desired Reality.

Looking at my 3 great steps

Seek transformative feedback (not just information) that requires action to grow leadership.
How? Ask specific questions, engage in professional conversations.
Did I manage this? - to some degree. I have discovered though that asking direct questions will not always get you a direct answer if the person doesn't want to give it. It is frustrating and has increased doubt in myself. 
What has been really helpful is that I led some development within my team on feedback earlier in the term, and since then we have been working on practising critical feedback. Being released for short periods a couple of times in the term has allowed the team to focus specifically on one aspect that interests them and feedback to the team to develop capacity in that area. For example, I linked my observation time and the work the Innovation Incubator team have been doing on capacities. 


Now: Prioritise and balance responsibilities.
How? Book in social time and exercise, cull to-do lists weekly, ask myself if my contributions are 'token' or if I can commit fully.
This is an area I have really had to focus on this term. I had really started noticing changes in myself due to the amount of time I was spending working, or thinking about work. It's been hard for me because teaching has always been my passion and what I am drawn to. I'm a natural 'thinker' and 'worker' so, it's taken quite an effort to identify times and triggers of stress and put aside time for me. I started off having a weekly massage and yoga as timetabled relaxation. The massage has tended to go to fortnightly (sometimes due to the therapists unavailability), and I dropped the yoga, but have been walking - and setting aside time to do this. There has been a couple of distractions and exciting personal plans that has been good to take my mind off work (although sometimes they just added to the cognitive load!)


Now: Activate my professional reading
How? Write about it, record my synthesis, record my what now, and talk about it.
This is something that I've lacked in a little this term. Partly due to the (cognitive) load referred to in number two. My personal professional reading is the one that has suffered. However, because I'm absolutely loving the work that I'm doing with the Innovation Incubator, this has been where I have focused on activating our capacities, linked to the reading we've been doing in that team. I've also enjoyed following up on some of the work that we did earlier in the term with Julia. 

One sentence job description
To lead learning that adds value.

I'm definitely getting much better at reflecting on this more regularly and have a visual reminder that I see most days. I can look at this as both pipelines:
Pipeline One: I think changing how we run our literacy programme has made a big impact on learning in literacy. In reading I feel that I have more time and focus to value all the elements of a quality guided reading programme and I feel that the children are getting more benefit from it. It would be interesting to seek some student voice around that. 
Pipeline Two: We (the Innovation Incubator team) have run to Teacher Meetings this term, and I have had very positive feedback from both. The teachers seem to value the thinking that has gone into our work and the practicality that has come out of it at the teacher meetings. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Term Two Reflection

Wowsers! What a term.

It's harder to write about the successes - they are not the things that stick at the forefront of my mind. But they are important to look back on. 

The progresses/successes I have noticed this term:

Pipeline One

  • Our team has gelled more and found our rhythm
  • Maths has been massive learning for me (never taught these stages before!)
  • Officially opening was magic and an awesome celebration of the (short) history but also the future
  • Communicating Learning comments to parents

Pipeline Two
  • Found some flow with the Innovation team and we're getting into the application of some the things we've been visioning
  • I've been able to give some coaching to our TL around his goals
  • I've done some serious reconsideration around the 'steps' I had recorded in order to get to my desired reality. This has brought me further into pipeline two
  • Learning about the pipelines and having a session with Tony Burkin

Please find here the link to my updated steps towards my desired reality.

This term has been quite draining, with several factors relating to that. Having a team member away for an extended amount of time really makes you realise the importance relationships play in a team and the contribution each person makes. That, and some other events changing, meant changes to the release schedule and a shortage of relievers has put pressure on, on occasions. Planning ahead and being prepared for your non-contact time does not always bring the full sense of calmness you expected. 

Part of 'building a school' (not only the buildings) is to develop the school-based curriculum resources and references. This has been a great area of interest for me because I've always been held an interest in curriculum development. However, it comes with it's challenges, because there are still expectations to meet requirements such as forming OTJs and with some of those references and recording platforms still in the development stage it has made those tricky and time-consuming.

I'm looking forward to a well deserved break and to reassess and plan for the term ahead. I'm stoked to be working on the Innovation Incubator team and reflecting on my development in that. Our team is also looking to change things up for literacy next term, and that will hopefully bring back some of the literacy joy for me.

Clarity in the Classroom - Absolum

We've had a focus at teacher meetings around Chapters 1-4 of Clarity in the Classroom. This has included Learning Focussed Relationships and providing clarity about learning that is to happen. 

As a team we decided that Integrity, Respect and Openness were the best fit for our principles to guide our belief around learning focussed relationships. These are not too dissimilar to the principles that Absolum himself uses. It was an interesting exercise to go through to get to this point, and we really had to dig deep to understand what each of those words meant to us. 

Building on those principles, we looked at sharing learning intentions/objectives/goals etc. with the children and co-constructing these for shared ownership. Chapter four was a good read and I think Absolum makes some very interesting points that confirm my thinking around some of the things. 

  • It doesn't matter what you call them
  • It doesn't matter how you share them - in fact, different ways will work for different things
  • Learning isn't segmented and should be seen as a whole.
This last point, I think is particularly important and I like the example he used about a surgeon knowing how to make an incision, drain wounds and stitch. It's all very well for a surgeon to know these things, but we want them to be able to put their knowledge together to complete a successful operation. If I think about the complexity of writing, learners need to know how to hold a pencil, form letters, spell, form sentences, create interest etc. and put it all together to complete a story. Children need to be aware of the whole, and the parts.

What I worry about, is that balance between communicating the learning process and teaching the actual process. It would be a shame to see great portions of school learning time spent on writing up great screeds of intentions (for the students or on planning) - from the global to the specific. Although there are benefits to working through a sequence of teaching, a teacher is a trained professional, and has good judgement to know where to take students next on a whim. I would hope that a lesson would not have to stop to inform the student of what is about to happen. Often there's joy in the surprises.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

A momentous occasion

18 months into this journey and we got to tick off another first (and in this case, only). The Official Opening. 

It has been such an amazing experience to be a part of the foundation team at a new school and it was nice to celebrate, not only the (short) history but the future. It's so much more than the buildings - but the importance of all of the people involved. 

He aha te mea nui o te ao. What is the most important thing in the world? He tangatahe tangatahe tangata. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people. 
Maori proverb.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Gap Map - Thanks for the Feedback

While doing my weekly reading today - the chapter was focused around 'The Gap Map'. This explains the gap between the way someone means to be seen and the way they are actually seen. Using the Gap Map, it allows us to see where our blind spots are.

We all have blindspots because we can't see our own faces and reactions, we can't hear our own tone of voice (Mehrabian, Non-Verbal Communication) and we are generally unaware of big patterns of behaviour.

Often when we get feedback we may focus on changing our behaviour (arrow 3), but our thoughts and feelings (arrow 1) remain unchanged. Thoughts and feelings are embedded in expectations and assumptions that have accrued over the years. This is a problem.

This, I believe, is where 'a team' would fail to meet the expectation of the 'a leader' and so if a leader does not act on feedback at the thoughts and feelings stage, those thoughts and feelings still leak through facial expressions, tone of voice and body language. These behaviours are still visible to the team.

There becomes a point where if the team sees a behaviour enough, it is amplified as a characteristic trait (rather than situational). It draws into the third arrow where the team will focus on how it impacts on them and the leader is still focused on their intentions. The team don't recognise the good intensions.

The only way to see these blindspots is to ask for feedback and if you find yourself questioning the feedback, you need to question 'Is this feedback actually sitting in my blindspot?' 

The type of feedback you need to receive is honest (rather than supportive) and specific:
  • What do you see me doing, or failing to do, that is getting in my own way?
Respond with genuine curiosity and appreciation and you will be able to draw more out - especially if they have started timidly.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Thanks for the Feedback - Stone and Heen

As one of my three big steps heading towards my desired reality is to focus on receiving feedback I thought I better do some reading about it!

I'm not that far in and already I think this is a throughly worthwhile read. 

So far I have learnt about the three types of feedback:
1) appreciation
2) coaching
3) evaluation

All three types are just as important as the other. The book says that without evaluation (what you are doing is good/average/rubbish - may involve 'results') coaching becomes a bit pointless really. "We can't focus on how to improve, until we know where we stand." 

However, it also says that coaching always includes a bit of evaluation in it. Unfortunately, if the conversation involves both together, then the evaluation often overshadows the coaching. That conversation is likely happening as a coaching conversation because the expectation hasn't been met. This leaves the receiver feeling surprised and unable to take on board the coaching aspect. The authors suggests having the evaluation conversation days, or more, ahead of the coaching conversation. 

Of course, that's just one of the complications that comes with receiving feedback. Consideration must also be given to the type of feedback about to be given or received. It is important to start the conversation with what type of feedback it is to be, in order to avoid confusion. I don't know that this is necessary for appreciation - I think that this is probably the easiest form of feedback to recognise (as long as it's not backhanded) and receive. 

It's left me thinking about where I see feedback in education. There is two ways to look at this - feedback to the the children about learning as well as feedback from senior leaders to staff.

Let's go with the children first. I think, in general, all of these types of feedback are happening all the time. Appreciation happens a lot! All those years as a trainee and early teacher hearing about positive praise (but not empty praise!!!!) has paid off. There is also a great deal of coaching and evaluation going on, but often will happen in the same conversation - "Jane - you're running record (evaluation) shows that you have improved in your reading and you will move up to the next level. Your reading was much more fluent than it has been and now we will work together on improving your expression (coaching)."

How about the teachers though? Are they getting the feedback they need to learn and grow? I'm speaking very generally here, but I think the only true forms of evaluative feedback many teachers get are their students results (which they're actually analysing themselves) and their appraisal. And dare I say it - I'm not really sure of the validity of appraisal.... Others also question this (maybe the same or different reasons) and they are making changes to the way appraisal is being carried out, now putting the appraisee in the drivers seat to steer their own growth. Yes - there are many benefits here BUT where do these people get their evaluative feedback from? Unless it is a coaching conversation that involves evaluation - in which case, as above, the coaching will get lost.

For me, continuing this read will be key to deciding my steps. I think one thing I need to get sorted though is an evaluative conversation with my senior leaders - am I actually meeting expectation in their eyes? 

Stay tuned for further insights from the book.