Building trusting, positive relationships is at the heart of any leaders role. To lead you must have the trust and respect of those who you would have follow you. In schools this means that you must be constantly striving to build connections with students, staff, parents and the wider community.
I recently was lucky to be able to spend a whole day with a group of middle leaders unpacking a new “coaching” role within our cluster of schools. At the core of the matter was the ability for team leaders to build a coaching relationship with their team in order to effect ongoing increases in team capacity. It is an exciting development and one which operates with a high-trust model. I am keenly aware that our success as leaders relies on this key trait: our capacity to build positive, professional, trusting relationships with the people around us. As John Maxwell states in his sixth “irrefutable” law of leadership:
Trust is the foundation for all effective leadership. When it comes to leadership, there are no shortcuts. Building trust requires competence, connection and character.
“The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, John Maxwell
The following article is a great quick read which outlines 5 practical ways school leaders might create a more inclusive and positive school climate – something which we should all have in mind as we live our lives and work with our students, parents and staff. I might get a lot of light ribbing from parents who see me at the school gate clutching my ( rapidly cooling ) caffeine fix on cold mornings – but I have to say that I am a convert to the idea of making sure the first school face the kids and parents see each day is a smiling one!
“A positive school environment is one that is welcoming; it’s one where staff, students and parents work together. It’s where the school leaders know many of the students’ names, and people smile instead of frown.”
This is a very provocative quote from Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy which headlines a new project into the development of new pedagogies to promote “deep learning”. It might sound like bog-standard education rhetoric to many teachers who constantly reel from one initiative to another.
But digging deeper into this new project has gotten me very excited. The cluster of schools which my current school is part of has been lucky enough to find a place on the exciting new global project which aims to bring experience and research across diverse education systems to build global collective capacity to pursue “deep learning goals”. The more I read about the project the more excited I am at leading this initiative in our school.
The New Pedagogies for Deep Learning project takes as its focal point the implementation of deep learning goals enabled by new pedagogies and accelerated by technology.
In many ways the deep learning goals will be familiar to many involved in the development of vision for 21st Century learning. Indeed they skills described mirror aspects of such frameworks as the PYP Learner Profile, The Key Competencies in the NZ Curriculum and the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum. This will allow educators across a diverse range of learning contexts to be able to see connections between their own vision for students and the vision of the project.
As a team our school is already exploring new ways of working and discovering how the changing roles of teachers are evolving as we grow our understanding of modern learning practices. We are in the middle of developing a personalised vision for modern learning. In this time of change I can see a window of opportunity to not only rethink our learning programme but radically reshape our vision for our students and place them at the centre of everything we do as a school. Working together as a team both at our school, across our cluster and as part of a global project – what an exciting, rewarding and challenging learning journey!
Many schools around New Zealand still struggle to align the strange dichotomy of a curriculum that embraces our understanding of the developmental growth of children and National Standards which are completely arbitrary. The New Zealand Principal’s Federation have produced a substantial amount of information to try and make our concerns known since 2009 when they were first introduced. Now the results of a major research project have raised considerable concerns over the effect that the initiative have had on teachers and schools. With the current government pursuing the use of data as a way of evaluating schools ( and probably teachers in the future ) there are grave concerns for how this process will further complicate and alienate the education community from the political powers.
“National Standards are having some favourable impacts in areas that include teacher understanding of curriculum levels, motivation of some teachers and children and some improved targeting of interventions. Nevertheless such gains are overshadowed by damage being done through the intensification of staff workloads, curriculum narrowing and the reinforcement of a two-tier curriculum, the positioning and labelling of children and unproductive new tensions amongst school staff.”
A very astute quote from the Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) Project, Waikato University. The paper is aptly titled “National Standards and the damage done…”
For more info you can visit the Wilf Malcom Institue of Educational Research website.
As schools increase their engagement with Modern Learning Practices and pedagogies which not only leverage, but are founded on technological systems the decisions about which technology to purchase and which is best for learning rages across classrooms, schools, districts, nations and the globe. Costs are definitely falling but undoubtedly one of the biggest factors for many schools is still the economic bottom line.. Which device ( that we can afford ) gives the best performance and impact on student outcomes at the right price point? This conundrum is also confounding parents as they struggle to figure out what will be the best fit for any particular BYOD initiative being rolled out.
In my own professional role as a school leader I use three devices regularly throughout my day – a tablet, smartphone and a laptop. All are mobile and all have advantages which make them the most appropriate device to use in different situations. If economics wasn’t a major factor then this would probably be the way most students might choose to work, too.
The article linked below gives an interesting point of view from school districts in the US that are bucking a major trend – to follow another major trend. It also identifies some of the challenges faced by school and district technology leaders as they struggle to keep up with changing trends and ever-changing models and feature-rich iterations of devices.
Many schools face complex challenges as they work to adjust and adapt to new ways of working and thinking – sometimes hindered by the traditional curriculum frameworks they work within. Many national curricula are developed with a mindset that still focuses on content, although many are moving towards more conceptual frameworks to allow flexibility in locally-shaped school-based curricula which respond directly to the learning needs of any particular learning community ( e.g. New Zealand curriculum, International Baccalaureate’s PYP to name two that spring to mind )
Just as advances in technology enabled the growth of science, the extremely rapid growth of technology we’re experiencing today is impacting our perspectives, tools, and priorities now. But beyond some mild clamor for a focus on “STEM,” there have been only minor changes in how we think of content–this is spite of extraordinary changes in how students connect, access data, and function on a daily basis.
This article on te@chthought poses some interesting questions and suggests a new framework for what students will learn in the future:
Big Idea: Reading and writing in physical & digital spaces
Big Idea: How and why patterns emerge everywhere under careful study
Big Idea: The universe—and every single thing in it–is made of systems, and systems are made of parts.
Big Idea: Marrying creative and analytical thought
Big Idea: Responding to interdependence
Big Idea: Recognizing & using information in traditional & non-traditional forms
Big Idea: Identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing diverse ideas
Big Idea: The nuance of thought
The teacher-training institutions are at risk of falling behind innovative technology practices being adopted in schools… but is this any different from any area of teaching and learning that trainees are exposed to at colleges? Are we guilty of again presuming that the “new generation” knows how to use technology to transform teaching and learning simply because we suspect they might be “digital natives”?