Thursday, July 20, 2017

Digital apps to support teaching and learning

Even though I have moved back into school life and am no longer a digital technologies advisor, I still have the absolute pleasure of being asked to co-facilitate the Ako Panuku 'Technology for teachers' hui each year with my good friend and co-facilitator Dee Reid.

Naturally at these types of hui, we get asked about what the 'best' apps/websites are for the classroom.  And Dee and I always respond with the same answer - the technology is just a waka/vehicle or tool, you need to firstly understand what you trying to achieve, what is the learning task?

Ako Panuku created this very cool resource for teachers showcasing some possible apps that can be used as the waka/vehicle for different learning tasks e.g. researching, summarising, presenting etc.  This was created in Thinglink - a powerful tool in itself!

If you hover over the app, a description will pop up.  You can also hover over the different strategies and get a pop up description and if you click on the down arrow you can even download a word doc copy of the description and step by step how it can be used, including a link to a template.

Ngā mihi nui ki a Ako Panuku!!!

And if those apps don't satisfy your thirst for new and engaging ways to integrate tech tools into your classroom, then I am sure these will...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Coaching Leadership

Beginning Principals Regional Hui #1

Coaching Leadership - Jan Robertson

Group coaching can be self-sustaining.  Follow the G.R.O.W model...

G - What do you want? What are you aiming to achieve? What would the ideal look like? Why is it important? What would happen if you did not focus on this?

R - What is happening now? What are you doing now? What obstacles have you encountered? What works?

0 - What alternatives are there? Which options interest you? Have you thought of...?

W - What are the next steps? What might get in the way? What support/planning is required? Is the goal still important? What are the barriers, enablers, time frame?

What does Stephen Covey have to say about active listening?

"Seek first to understand, then be understood"

If communication is the most important skill in life, how much training have you had in effective communication?

Most people seek first to be understood, wanting to put their opinion across, share their story. Most people listen with the intent of replying, not to listen and understand the other person.  You are filtering their story through your own paradigm.  We decide prematurely what the other person means, often before they have even finished speaking.

Empathetic listening - invest in their story, listen for their details, not applying it to your own experiences.  What happens when you truly listen to another person? The whole relationship changes.  You don't agree or disagree - you try to see it through their eyes/perspective.  You make that person feel valued.

The root cause of almost all human problems is poor communication. People do not listen with empathy. What does this look like...

Give the person your full attention
Don't ask questions or give advice
Don't share your own 'war stories'
Focus on what is said
Listen for what is not said and for what is important to the speaker

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Reflecting on who I am

Manukura Hui - workshop 1, day 2


Part of our learning today has been about looking at what we value and what our values are.  As a group we had a deck of cards with different values on them and we had to collective get the deck down to just 10 cards of what we value the most - a very challenging task!  Hearing the discussions between our group about what we value and why was great for opening my eyes to the different perspectives and beliefs of others while at the same time identifying and clarifying what is important to me and why.

After this task, we had to draw a 'Tree of ME' ( I chose to do mine digitally so you can already see what I value shining through in that decision!).

In the leaves of the tree we were asked to write a few things that describe us and our roles.  Across the trunk, we had to write 3 things that describe the type of leader we are or want to be and in the roots we had to identify approximately 6 or so things we value.

You can see on the left side I have also bullet pointed some of my perceived strengths and on the right side, some of the things I have identified that are needs, next steps or skills I would like to strengthen.

So what?

Reflecting on who I am, what is important to me and why and how this influences the strengths I bring to the table is important in developing and growing my leadership as an effective leader. It is critical for leaders to know who they are so they can understand why others should be led by them.  

If I don't believe in myself as a leader, then why should anyone else?

We need to see and accept the differences we all bring to the table - different skills, knowledge, values and experiences.  

"We hire people for their skills but the whole person turns up".    Denise R Green

What now?

Some actions for me to achieve...
I will re-visit my appraisal/leadership goals and determine where I can add some actions to start to address the areas of myself I have identified in the Tree of Me that I would like to strengthen.  I would also like to seek some feedback from staff, whānau, BoT and students around what they perceive to be my strengths and areas to strengthen so I can see if they align or something else bubbles to the surface.  Finally I would like to model that I am too a learner and have goals that I am working towards, so I will share my appraisal goals with my staff and community.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Principalship - the next evolution in my leadership journey

Ako Panuku - First Time Tumuaki workshop - 'Manukura'

At the end of last year, I was successful in being appointed Principal of a fantastic rural primary school in Canterbury, starting in Term 1, 2017.  With my first term now under my belt, I have finally returned to my blog in order to be true to my desire to be open, honest and transparent with my personal learning journey and to share the ride with others, in the hope that it might help others out while also helping me make sense of my own growth and development.

Ako Panuku - First Time Tumuaki workshop - 'Manukura'

Day 1 of workshop 1 - Fierce Focus
Ko te kaupapa o tēnei rā tuatahi - Fierce Focus

Facilitators - Lynette Bradham and Keriana Tāwhiwhirangi

Leadership journey - sharing who we are and how we arrived here today, as first time principals

Care...collaboration...clarity - all working harmoniously together

Authentic leadership - don't compromise who you are.  Promote the type of leader you want to be, own it.

Share and declare: it keeps you accountable, once you share it you are opening the door for people to judge whether you are succeeding or not in being true to your leadership style.

To much compliance and not enough performance is tragic!

Appreciative inquiry works through 3 steps = A.A.A - Acknowledge, Apologise, Assurance

Q. What would people who meet you in your role as the school principal say about you?
Q. How do you know?

Know the effect and impact your leadership has on others.  Be the best that you can be!

Appraisal goals - its vital that we include a goal around developing/growing/strengthening your leadership knowledge and skills.  Many goals are focused on achieving a task e.g. show effective leadership to ensure we meet our annual targets.  If it's not in your goals - work it into the action in your plan, HOW are you going to lead it e.g. I will mentor the teachers who have the target groups of students by meeting with them fortnightly to listen, learn and challenge.

Silence = tolerance - if you see, hear or know that there is an issue e.g. poor leadership, governance, practice, relationships etc you must address it.  If no-one pulls it up, then you are giving permission for it to continue and grow.  M.Fullan - move towards the danger.  Courageous leadership means to identify and address the issues.

End of the day reflection...

Having the opportunity to come together with other first time Māori tumuaki/principals has been invaluable.  When some of us were asked to give 1 word that sums up our day I heard - safe, synergy and support.  Being with other principals with Māori connections, beliefs and experiences made this a safe environment to talk about our unique experiences as Māori leaders in our first principal role. Synergy came through in the ways we all talked about similar ways of working, how we were feeling, successes and challenges we have been faced with and how we are experiencing our new positions.  Support was given and received by all - we all empathised with each others stories and shared ideas and tips for helping us solve challenges we face, or being able to work smarter, not harder.

Click here if you want to know more about Manukura and Ako Panuku

Friday, October 28, 2016

New waiata possibility for next year

As part of our mihi whakatau process and work on a school graduate profile, we have been discussing what we feel is important for our Cobham graduates to have in their kete when they leave us to move onto high school.

We have now embedded tikanga and te reo practices across our whole school that means our kids know two karakia tīmatanga (starting blessings) and two karakia whakamutunga (ending blessings) as well as waiata Manu Tiria, a Ngāi Tahu waiata, who are mana whenua here.

I saw this waiata shared on Youtube by a fellow teacher colleague that is part of my Twitter and Flipped Classroom practitioners network and thought it might be a great one for our kids to learn too - he aha ou koutou whakaaro e hoa mā? (What are your thoughts my friends?)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Reflecting honestly on my leadership practices...

Forgive me blog for I have sinned - it has been several months since my last post, eeek.

I wanted to write that and formally own that because I know how challenging it can be for our teachers to ensure they are reflecting regularly and analysing their practice on top of the day to day grind of teaching, managing, coaching, personal life etc and I am no different. I believe it's important for a leader to understand other peoples roles, their workload and what it takes to juggle everything and prioritise their tasks and that a good leader will role model this themselves. So, although my role changed last term from DP to Acting Principal, I didn't want to drop the ball and ignore my responsibilities to reflect on my own practice when and where possible.
This reflection is about my change of role. I wanted to reflect back after having been in the hot seat for several weeks and look firstly at what the change of role was like, what difference it made to my professional growth and development and what might eventuate out of this change.
To be quite honest, the change to acting principal was quite seamless in some ways. I was lucky enough to work alongside my last principal more than for them and so there was very little that I didn't have involvement in already as the DP. In saying that, there have been some small but noticeable differences. I felt more withdrawn from staff and students. A huge amount of the principal's work at our school seems to revolve around meetings. My role as DP was all about administration and relationships - staff, students and whānau. As acting, it was less of all of those things but a huge increase in meetings - CAIMS, cluster, CPPA, Ministry, Board, transition meetings and planning for the new principal and 1-1 family visits for new students looking to enrol. My admin dropped a lot which is nice but I seriously missed the daily connection to staff and students. Reflecting on what this means and what I have learned is that I feel that the principals role in a large school is often just as the face of the school. The person who fronts and speaks on behalf of the school. The only way you can be successful in this role e.g. being able to make the right decisions in the best interest of your staff, students and community, is if you know their strengths and needs really well. Herein lies the paradox - how do you know this crucial information really well if you are always off/busy in meetings? I can see how the disconnect could have serious repercussions for a school if the principal becomes quite distanced from the heart and soul of a school (kids and staff) that they then become the face and voice/decision maker about school issues they may not know enough about. This of course will lead to disillusioned staff, poor resourcing, lack of communication etc. The challenge is maintaining the vital balance of being available to and engaging with your school community while upholding your responsibilities to the external groups. How I dealt with that challenge was through calendar scheduling (critical in this role) and blocking out time for anyone who asked for it. I also continued to keep my door open at all times when I wasn't in a meeting which is what I have always done as a DP. I don't know how feasible that would be if I was in the role full-time but for 1 term I was determined to keep that tikanga going.
In relation to what difference this change has meant for me professionally and personally and next steps, I am grateful to have had the opportunity. It did open my eyes to some of the challenges and possibilities of being a school principal and it has made me carefully consider if this is something I want going forward. Being the principal of my current school was appealing because I know and love our kids and staff. But what would it be like at another school? I also know that the demands on your time can leave very little for your own family and personal health/fitness if you allow the balance to be one-sided. So yes applying for principals positions make sense in terms of a next career step but that would depend heavily on the school, the location and the school community. People are important to me and make it either really worthwhile or really hard work! I won't be rushing into anything but am a firm believer I will make the right decision about my next career move when the right opportunity comes knocking. Although I have only been here at my current school for almost 2 years, both as DP and then as acting principal for 1 term, I aim to add some value to the school in some way and that is my priority and goal for now.
Another key reflection around my leadership practices occurred earlier this year while I was away at a leadership hui in Auckland and I was able to reflect on some of the areas of my leadership I feel need to be developed.
While attending the hui we were working on some activities to identify our leadership style. One of the key breakthrough a-ha moments for me was when I was becoming frustrated that there were some issues happening back at school. I was being emailed or rung about about how to solve an issue or just being kept in the loop. This is a good thing in some ways e.g. open communication etc, but I also reflected that I seemed to be often needed and contacted whenever I am off site. The facilitator of the hui did a great job of challenging me about why staff were emailing, ringing me and made me turn it back to myself and have me consider whether this was about the confidence and competence of staff or more about my leadership style. Have I set up systems and organised things so that I am the one needed to make decisions or act, rather than empowering others to be able to do that?
I have always known I like to get things done and can sometimes think 'I will do this myself because I want it done a certain way or by a specific time'. Although I of course want to be consulted and informed of key issues, I need to build the skills and capabilities of others to be able to address issues effectively, whenever I am unavailable or they are in the right position and capable of doing it themselves.
We have structured the leadership team for this to happen specifically around behaviour, but I can see the need to ensure this becomes more widespread. Even the example of our Monday morning admin meetings, where I am always the one to set the TV up, run through the agenda and lead the discussion. I noticed that if I am late and I assume when I am not there, no-one really takes the initiative to lead this themselves. Not because they cant, but perhaps because they see me doing it and assume it needs/should be me, when in reality, it doesn't.
I like to think I can help everyone and want to reduce the workload for teachers as I know they are so busy and appreciate any support they can get, but often this means that I rush to step in and 'fix' things for them, rather than with them. I need to ensure my inner control freak is kept under control!
One of my next steps is to hunt out opportunities to openly encourage other people to step up and problem solve, take on small but key leadership responsibilities or make important decisions themselves. When staff come to me and ask me to 'fix' something, a key statement I will use from now on will be "Thanks for sharing this issue with me, how can I help you to resolve it".