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.