Thursday, 19 October 2017

Lead Like a Pirate Blog Hop Week 9. Using Stories to Personalise Data.

Prompt #1
How do you strip down your data and make a connection to it to improve outcomes for students? How do you get dialogue happening around your data.?

There is a lot of research stating that data is important because it shows progress or movement and it informs next steps. It shows trends across the school or cluster and informs resourcing and professional development. This is of course all true, but the real value in the data for our children, are the conversations that come out of it. 

I have what I call 'data meetings' each term.  They are not so much about interrogating the data which is important, but about knowing each child and using our collective wisdom to address their needs. The bringing together of the data into a physical space is about confronting the facts and seeing for ourselves, as a collectively responsible team, who these children are and what we all know about them. 

At the first meeting I discuss the research that I have already shared with the team  prior to the meeting. I may use something from "Student Centred Leadership" (Robinson, 2011), or from BES. At this first meeting I  use a physical data board with the names of the children and their OTJ level taken from the baseline data (end of year previous OTJ). The percentages or raw numbers are looked at against expectations. I then read out loud the names of each child in the well below and below expectation and allow those names to sink in before beginning discussions. 

After that I ask some questions:

  1. Are there any surprises?
  2. Is there anyone who you think is in the wrong place?
  3. Do you know why this child (N) is here?  

Next I ask what we know about the children individually. 

  1. Have they performed better in the past?
  2. Is there anything we should know that will help us to cater better for this child's needs?
  3. What has the previous teacher told you about these children? In lots of cases someone on the team has taught those children in the past. This year, two of the four teachers had.
Then in a more general sense:
  1. What have you tried in the past that has had a good impact on learning/engagement/ relationships with children?
  2. How involved have you been with their families? siblings? parents?
  3. What have you tried that hasn't worked?  
I then compile a list of all of the strategies that the teachers in the room have tried before that they feel made a difference. This is a positive feeling brainstorm as teachers start to unlock and share strategies/ideas that they have used in the past. There are lots of "That's right! I used to do that and the kids loved it! as they remember things that had slipped into the background. When the list is at about thirty shared strategies, I then invite the teachers to choose one strategy that they will take away and try for the next 5 weeks. The teachers commit to this (especially helpful if it contributes to their Teaching as Inquiry).

At the end of the 5 week trial, we have another 'data' meeting. There is no data presented, other than anecdotal feedback about how the trial has gone. At this meeting, I will present some more research supporting the trial. This year I used the ERO document on "Raising student Achievement Through Targeted Actions" (2015). I write up the findings so far, as the teachers discuss what has happened. They then commit to either continuing on with the same strategy with changes, or they select another strategy to try. This process usually re energises the teachers and leads them away from the 'same old')

The final 'data' meeting of the year includes the updated data board. This (hopefully!) is another feel good meeting. "Look at the effects of your specific, targeted actions!" We revert to the percentages to see how much difference has been made. Of course we don't have a control group so we don't know if doing nothing would made an impact, but we choose, based on the great improvements, to believe that we have made a difference.  

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Lead Like A Pirate Blog Hop Week 8 - Find The Magic In The People.

Find the Magic in People
Prompt #1
The solution to any school challenge or issue is never just a new program. It is a commitment to the people who are doing the work. It is building a sense of self efficacy in the individuals on your team and convincing them that the magic isn’t in the latest initiative or curriculum mandate - the magic is in them. (pg 94)

​Believe in them, invest in them, build in time for learning and growth, and watch the magic happen.

How do you convey to your staff that the magic lies within them?
We try very hard to value every contribution made by every staff member in the team. We always seek input into new initiatives and often get contributions that may have an effect on the way we proceed, or the system that we are  introducing. We in the Senior Leadership team do not profess to know all of the answers. We are modelling collaboration and collective wisdom just as we expect our teams to do. What we do endeavour to promise though is that together we will work out the answers to the tricky questions.
We are very fortunate that for now we are able to release two teams for three hours every week to enable them to find the magic together. In this three hours we have some time for: professional development; some for looking at practice and systems and how to improve; and also time for planning together as a team.
I am continually impressed by the quality of the professional dialogue that is at the forefront of innovative practices. In the last week of the term I sat with the year 5/6 team on planning day and I was so impressed with the open to learning conversations that were going on. As the team pondered over the driving question for the next project, they demonstrated good will, humour and flexibility throughout our discussions. They examined the driving question from all angles and looked deeply at what it was they wanted the children to understand, and how they would get there. They really did wrangle with the question. As one of the team commented "Who would have thought we would end up here from when we started to look at this idea?" There is definitely magic in these people...

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Lead Like A Pirate Blog Hop. Week 6 - Enthusiasm

“Pirate leaders know that they have to bring energy and excitement to each day, no matter what”(LeadLAP pg 69)
How do you ‘fake it until you make it? What strategies do you use that enable you to make a positive choice about your own attitude?

I have used the 'fake it until you make it' mantra for many years. Both as a classroom teacher and  later as a senior leader. I have always been careful in which company I say this because at first impression, it sounds like a duplicitous way to behave. I am delighted to read in LeadLAP (Pg 69) that 'fake it until you make it is an overt strategy.  When I was a classroom teacher, 'faking it' may have meant that I was putting on an "I know exactly what I'm doing" face when dealing with a behaviour issue. It may have meant that I volunteered for something that I wasn't all that keen on doing and then discovered that I was rising to the challenge and enjoying it. The main strength of faking it was when there was 'that' child, who was difficult to like. I have found that 'faking' liking (who is the adult being paid to do a job here after all?) always leads to actually liking. I have never had a situation that hasn't resulted in a turnaround in my own attitude. 

This has been especially useful in my senior leadership role, when some staff, parents, children are harder to bring on board with the way we do things at St. Francis. I don't always feel enthusiastic; I may have started the day feeling tired, but I know that my enthusiastic attitude can make a difference. "Enthusiasm is often the missing element to engagement" (#LeadLAP pg 70)

 I can get caught up in the rush of my job and forget to smile and look enthusiastic. It is amazing what an impact this has on the people around me. I have left some staff or team meetings thinking, "Well that fell a bit flat!" I do know that energy and enthusiasm do make a difference, as hard as it can be some days.

 I try and smile at every parent as I am walking around the school at the beginning and end of the school day. We all know how important it is to feel valued and noticed in our lives. Paying it forward is hopefully the outcome of treating people with respect and ideas with enthusiasm; they then change their attitude into a more positive supportive one. 

The SLT were recently discussing the advantages of being on road duty at the beginning and end of the day. Saying each child's name, asking how their day went and exchanging a few words with their parents. This all helps to build community. 

George Corous has a great blog post about the fact that Every Interaction Matters  As part of that blog post, he has added a powerful youtube video clip about the way that every interaction sets the tone for the day. It is well worth viewing. Every interaction students experience sets a tone for the day.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Lead Like A Pirate Blog Hop Week Five - Transformation

Transform an event

On pg 57 Beth Houf describes how she and her leadership team transformed Parent Teacher Conferences at their school. Choose an event or practice at your school that you have transformed or that you would like to transform. Discuss how you went about it or how you will go about this transformation.

Our Senior Leadership Team has been talking about how we can transform the transition to school experience for our five year olds. It is forefront on our minds at the moment because we are so aware of the research carried out by Kathleen Liberty. We have become one of her 'second wave' of schools to adopt her research based calming and coping strategies.

We are aware that we need to do things differently for many of our school beginners, who do not seem ready for school. It is an issue that has been around for many years for some new students, but the numbers seem to have increased in recent years.

So how can we make this transition smoother? Perhaps we stop expecting the children to do the same thing at the same time. After roll and prayers, does everyone need to be in their phonics groups/maths groups/reading groups at the same time? Does everyone need to do their writing at the same time and in the same way? A few short days/weeks ago they were at kindy or pre school making choices and being creative. Surely we can make the transition more like what they have come from as they settle in? At least for a time?

 At the Catholic Principal's Conference this year, I was inspired by the presentation of a teacher from a Southland school about her Year 0 - 1 play based learning approach. I was heartened by the fact that she had data to support the fact that these children who still had small group teaching in all of the usual subjects, were as ready for year 2 as they would have been under a more traditional approach.

I have been doing some reading on the subject. Here is one article that supports play based learning.
It lines up really well with our school's ethos around project based learning. You could say it is the first step in project based learning for these little ones.

We want our New Entrants to be as excited about coming to school in week six as they were on day one. We want them to be inquisitive and creative.  I have more questions than answers at the moment, but I am working on it.  Ideas welcome...

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Lead Like a Pirate Blog Hop Week Four - Ask and Analyse

One of the most important things that we should do as leaders is challenge the status quo. What questions do you use to do this when working with your teams?

We have some wonderful opportunities at our new school. We opened in February 2016 with the exciting and somewhat daunting task of bringing two very different schools together. We have been (and still are) working to create a new St Francis culture and ethos. We are also developing our St Francis way of delivering the curriculum in our fabulous new Innovative Learning spaces.

 One of the ways we as a Senior Leadership Team have facilitated this change, has been to provide regular release time to teams. This has meant that our teams have had the head space during the school day for half a day, two out of every three weeks, to have professional discussions. These discussions are around their practice in collaboration and their practice in problem based learning. We realised early on that this thinking and discussion time needed in part to be facilitated. This is because it was hard for our new team leaders to know what their team's next steps were. The team leaders were just as new to the collaboration and PBL concepts as their teams. They didn't know what they didn't know.

We have developed a system whereby the SLT facilitates discussion;  provides readings, asks questions, seeks clarity, gives feedback and celebrates work done or new thinking shared since the last release time. This usually takes up about 45 mins of the three hour release. The teams then go ahead and act on their new thinking or critique their systems to make improvements.

"Asking, Listening, analysing, reflecting, and learning are all essential to your role as a leader." #LeadLAP. (Pg 50)

We try to be very sensitive to the work that has already been done when we have our "collaboration meetings" and always stress the fact that we are all learning together and that when we ask questions we are not criticising but working together collaboratively to make our collaboration and PBL even better.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Lead Like A Pirate Blog Hop Week Three: Rapport

Earning Trust as a Leader
"As a leader, every action you take (or don't take), every interaction you have, every decision you make or leave unmade, every expression on your face, the tone in your voice, or the body language you convey - everything about you - either earns or erodes trust". #LEADLAP 

It is amazing how much impact the way that the members of the SLT team speak to people, has on the welfare of staff and ultimately on the school community.  I have been making a conscious effort since the beginning of term two last year to end conversations with staff in a positive light. I am also very aware of the need to greet parents everyday with a cheerful smile and a confident manner.  (This of course goes for children as well, but I think that teachers probably do that towards children more instinctively). Being friendly and positive inspires trust.

 I am not talking about the "difficult conversations" where cutting to the chase is necessary, but about the professional discussions we have with our staff around pedagogical shifts. I can still remember the sinking feeling that I had, the day that I realised that my passion alone was not enough to inspire people to change their practice. I realised that I had done some damage in the way that I implied that the efforts of the team I was working with (collaborative practice) were not good  enough. While I knew at the time that my "next steps" advice was falling like a lead balloon, it was too late at that time to redeem the situation.

 It didn't take much reflection to realise that I had failed in my half hearted attempt to congratulate them on what they had achieved so far in their efforts to get their heads around collaboration. Since that  day, the one when I knew that I had completely taken the wind out their sails, I have been much more focused on moving forwards with less speed and more encouragement. I make sure that I include something positive in every professional conversation. When working with my crew, I try to "make it a priority to build rapport and relationships". (pg 30 #LEADLAP). I try to listen and show that I value their input. " Pirate leaders embrace opportunities to hear multiple opportunities to hear multiple perspectives, and they value the contributions each person makes to the organisation - and they tell them so" (pg. 30)

In 'Leading in a Culture of Change" Michael Fullan in his study of District Two, one of his study districts in Ontario, shares his findings and describes the four conditions for developing trust and the positive outcomes of establishing a culture of trust.  (Fullan, 2003).

Fullan 2003

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Lead Like a Pirate Blog Hop. Week 2: Immersion

In our SLT office, we talk about the need to prioritise what is important over what is not. I laughed out loud when I read the part in Immersion where Shelley, the Principal went out to buy coffee, during optimum literacy time in her school.  She did this in order to save other people the need to do so. That was exactly what two members of our SLT did recently. We went  to Pac n Save to buy spreads so that the classes didn't run out! (carb break in our play, eat, learn schedule). The irony of it, is that we felt that if we both went, it would be a good opportunity to talk. We felt that if we went ourselves, we would be taking the pressure off others. It has been a bit of a wakeup call for us, because we are now asking ourselves questions like; "Who else shall we get to do this?" about a lot of day to day things.
We know that we want to be immersed in classes, so that we can be focusing on the most important job of all, teaching and learning. It can be hard to find the time to do this, as we so easily get bogged down in the necessary running of the school, or being in a reactive role; on hand for teachers asking for support.

This term we have booked ourselves out for time in classes. We work around our teaching commitments (Maths, Te Reo, Socially Speaking) and just 'get in amongst it' at set times of the week.
The other thing we have introduced this term is placing more value on the need to protect some thinking and planning time together as the SLT.  We place high value on professional dialogue and planning for the best opportunities to be available at our school. Developing our emerging ethos is important work. We have blocked out time each week in order to do some of the big picture thinking.

As the SLT, we are very aware that something taking up an inordinate amount of time, is the management of one particular pupil. The LEAD acronym is a useful way to apply thinking to this issue.  We are constantly trying to Leverage Systems that will enable this student to succeed. We are constantly working on our relationships with this student in order to Elevate the impact of our efforts. We can often help him to be calm because he trusts us. Our next steps are to Activate the Team.  It takes a village to raise a child. We need to ensure that all of our staff have the skills and confidence to help this student to have better outcomes. We hope to be able to Delete the inordinate amount of time spent on managing this child's behaviour, by equipping him with the necessary skills to function effectively with his cohort. To be successful in this endeavour will afford us more time to spend on the important things like coaching and mentoring in classes.