Monday, 14 March 2016

Collaboration Professional Development

Last week (week 6) Jo, Sarah and I facilitated a PD session on Collaboration.  We mused for some time on the best way to get the most effect for our short one hour and fifteen min session. We wanted to determine where our base line needed to be, accepting that our staff has a range of experience and knowledge about collaboration.  After some discussion we decided that our priorities were:
1.     Keep working on the ‘why’ without which we won’t get buy in.
2.     We want to establish a common language
3.     We want our staff to know right from the outset that there is a variety of co teaching models and that in any one day, they may employ different models.
4.     We wanted them to visualise how the different models might work in the context of their own collaborative team.
We used a self - reflection from “the co- teaching book of lists” that asked people to identify what it is that they contribute to a team. They then got together with their collaborative team and talked about their similarities and differences.

Next we used the jigsaw expert grouping strategy to get people to unpack the different models of co teaching.  The initial work was done in their PLG’s and the expert sharing was back in their collaborative teams.

In our initial discussions we were going to give the groups their information to unpack, we then decided that as we wanted people to know that there is now a wealth of information on co teaching, we would get people to find their own information.  We set up a shared folder and google docs with prompts for people to contribute to.  This served to be successful, and hopefully they did not feel condescended to. I feel as though we are currently walking a fine line as a SLT. We want to support and not spoon - feed and therefore disempower people. The advantage of having two, eager to help walking DP’s is that we are willing and able to advise, help, find, create in order to help overwhelmed staff get set up in this new school. The disadvantage could be that we are rushing in to help where giving team leaders time to sort things out for themselves might be more empowering for them.  It feels like a fine line.
We ended the session by sharing a google doc on which we had put a selection of links to clips and articles on collaboration. We asked them to view some and reflect on their blogs.
It was and is our intention to scaffold our staff so that every person feels as though collaboration is a school wide, shared pedagogy that provides the best opportunities for our tamariki.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Middle Leaders Programme

The first day of the 2016 Middle Leaders Programme started today. It felt strange to be in a coaching rather than facilitating role. I felt proud of the job that the team did today and had a sense of what it must feel like for Leaders who have to let go of the hold and control that they have of something that they are used to being in control of.  I felt pleased that my own St Francis team was present today. I hope that this training will have the same effect on them that it had on me five years ago. I remember feeling an aha moment back then when I realised that I could raise student outcomes by raising the quality of my own leadership. By having professional conversations as an explicit and intentional part of my team's interactions, by using data, research and collective wisdom, I could lift the quality of our collective practice.  Professional dialogue has become a highly valued and integral part of my life.  I love how professional dialogue enthuses and motivates me. I love the buzz of bouncing ideas around and the expansion that this creates in my brain.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Reflecting on Reflection

I have just read a post by Jo Earl ( about the importance of reflection and the positive effect reflection has on our practice. This post resonated with me as it brought to mind one of the reading resources that we use on the CPPA Middle Leaders Course. It is  co -written by the Habits of the Mind guru Art Costa and Bena Kallick and is called '(Getting into the Habit of Reflection' Educational Leadership 2000 pg 60). In this article, Costa and Kallick set out some very clear reasons why reflecting on our practice is another avenue towards raising student outcomes, by raising the quality of the teacher's practice. Considering how ones own practice strengthens student performance, by committing to continual learning and by considering how ones action relates to the school goals, how can all of this reflection not benefit the students and colleagues in our lives?

Costa and Kallick promote the idea of reflective journals (blogs?) in order to document this self reflection. They assert that by writing down these reflections we engage in the 'internal voice of reflection' or self talk that help us to engage with what we really think, and helps us to remember these thoughts and feelings later. This is a pertinent point for reflecting for personal use as well as for collaborating with others.

Delving deeper into our practice and being consciously reflective practitioners is the underlying principle behind teaching as inquiry. I have now led the introduction to teaching as inquiry at two different schools and  leadership inquiry at two Middle Leaders courses. (Soon to be a third).  At every one of these introductions, I have sensed the change in atmosphere as people contemplate the prospect of another thing to do being landed on them. The internal sighs in the room are almost audible. It is a challenge to find the best way to create a culture of reflection and personal professional development in a way that sparks interest and inspires already stretched people. I am still working on the best way to do this. Each time, I have tried to present the overview in a brief enough way that does not lack information and confuse people, and detailed enough without overwhelming them. I am still looking for the right mix.
One thing I can say though, is that once people get the idea of the professional learning communities, the value of the teaching as inquiry and what the expectations are, they become more appreciative and positive about them. I have had many positive comments in the past about how useful these groups are and how good it is to work with people outside their own teams.  I have also heard how much people appreciate the opportunity to share knowledge and to learn about what their colleagues are doing. They say this looking back.

 However, that is much further down the track from here....  we shall see.