Why you shouldn’t work with me

stop signIf I had a business coach – which I don’t, but if I did – they would probably smack me around the chops for writing a post like this. But hey… what the heck, here goes!

You, or your school shouldn’t work with me if:

1. You’re just ticking a box.

I was approached by a principal a couple of months back who asked, “What do you talk about?” Which I found strange given I assume that people who approach me do – at least – have some idea of what I’m about. When I said I specialise in areas of engagement and wellbeing, his response was, “Oh that’s a shame, we covered wellbeing in Term 1.”

2. You want your teachers to be able to implement strategies “first thing Monday morning”.

This – in my opinion – is the biggest problem with professional learning in education. I discuss this in depth in this post. But in short the First Thing Monday Mindset – as I call it – implies:

  • The teachers in your school are empty vessels waiting to be filled – have you heard that somewhere before?
  • That an individual who has never worked with your kids, colleagues, parents or wider community can in some way offer an insight of immediate value that no-one on your staff has thought of before.
  • Your teachers are so unprofessional in their practice that the two points above hold true.
3. You want all the answers

I’ll be honest, in my sessions I ask more questions than I give answers.

In my sessions we’re discussing engagement, wellbeing & leadership. Three things that look quite different in your organisation compared to the organisation of the next person who reads this blog. I’ve never worked with you, your colleagues, your kids, your kids’ parents or your wider learning community. I’m not the expert- YOU AND YOUR STAFF ARE.

This is the kind of reaction to my sessions that make me love what I do! I love the fact that it took a few days for this teacher to make the connections with what she already knew and what was possible. And I must add this quote to my testimonials:

It might not have had any new ingredients compared to anyone else but by golly, Dan put the ingredients together in way that came up with a fair trade artisan made chocolate truffle instead of the canteen’s stale rock cakes.

When I’m working with professionals, my goal is to stimulate discussion and thinking so as to empower those present to design strategies that will enhance the experiences of everyone in their school or organisation. I seek to recognise and build on the capacity of those in the room, and in turn, their colleagues when they return to their schools, staffrooms and classrooms.

If that doesn’t resonate with you, we’ll add that to the list of reasons you should work with me too! :-P

Speaking of which, 2015 is just around the corner, and I have a handful of spots left on my Executive Partnership Program, as well as limited dates for standalone staff, parent and student workshops.

I’m looking forward to working with likeminded educators in 2015! :)

A cool little project for your school

I came across this really cool little project that your class may (or may not, of course) be interested in taking part in.

It’s absolutely noting to do with me, it’s being facilitated by Steve Box from Queensland, Australia.

He says…

WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE INVOLVED IN THE GLOBAL POSTCARD CONNECTION

This term, as part of our Year 5 Unit of Inquiry ‘How We Organise Ourselves’, students are inquiring into the structure and organisation of groups in our society and their interactions. As part of this, we are engaging in a Global Postcard Connection that will bring a trans-disciplinary approach (maths, geography, literacy) to our inquiry.  

If you have another teacher at your school interested, they would be welcome. Year 5 is our age, but it isn’t essential for our connections.

What our boys will do:

Each student in Year 5 will send two postcards to classes around the globe. In the message of this postcard will be a simple question that the boys are asking as part of a data collection and to inform their understanding of family structures as a particular group in society.  

They will also share their answer to this same question. The boys will use an online mapping tool to ‘pin’ the destination of their postcards. Collectively we will map and track the distances that these postcards will travel. Using a google spreadsheet, our students will also note the date that the postcards are sent and look at the time that it takes for the postal system to connect us.

What we need from you:

Firstly, please complete the google form here –   that allows us to have accurate details for postage.

One entry per class would be fantastic. Secondly, upon the arrival of the postcard, please note in this google spreadsheet the date of arrival.

Next, we would love to have someone in your class, or the whole class collectively, send a postcard back to us, including the answer to the question posed by our students. Please note the date you send this postcard in the spreadsheet.

We realise that email is such a quick and easy communication medium, but there is something exciting about receiving something in the mail and we hope this helps to build an appreciation of more ‘traditional’ communication modes.

So over to you! Get involved, you never know where something like this could take your kids!

In other news

I’m looking forward to keynoting the Asia Pacific Conference for Adolescent Success in Singapore and working hard to finalise the make up of my 2015 Executive Partnership Program, which next year will include an online option for schools located outside of Australia.

Engaging the Student Voice

The basis for student voice is to be found in Article 12 of the United Nation Convention of the Rights of the Child, which sets out the right of children and young people to express an opinion and to have that opinion taken into account when decisions are being made on any matter that affects them.

How many decisions at your school take into account the opinions of students?

I mean really take students’ opinions into account.

If we’re honest many of our efforts around student voice pay lip service at best.

What I mean is, who are the students we listen to? Do we act on the feedback they give us? Do we even need to, or are they the kids we know will say what we want to hear? Have a look at this from the Freechild project to check in with where you’re at in your school.

Having said that, I’ve come up with a simple survey that you could use as a starting point to engage the student voice.

1. What’s the best thing about being at this school?

Asking this question is taking a leaf straight out of the Appreciative Inquiry model of change. By knowing what we do well, we can use this to inform any changes we’d like to make. We can ask why does this work well. How can we leverage this to enhance other areas of our school?

2. What would you like to do more of at school?

This could throw up all manner of interesting ideas. It could be more kids would like to game. Or perhaps they’d like to explore personal interest project, maybe they’d like to chill out more… who knows… Whether you see any value in their suggestions? Well that’s up to you.

3. If you were in charge of the school what one thing would you like to change? – What makes you say this?

Ditto for this one, but crucially the reasons – the What makes you say this? – will prove more fertile ground for change

4. Do you feel able to be yourself at school? – If no, why not?

5. Is there at least one adult at school to whom you can go if you have a serious issue?

These two questions are vital questions to ask in any school. They are paramount for a student to feel connected to school. The importance of school connectedness is the subject of this 6min podcast. SPOILER ALERT – IT’S CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT

I would urge you to only engage the student voice, if you are genuinely willing to act upon the feedback.

You have to ask every kid. It could be anonymous, it could be done via pen & paper and put in a shoe box, or done via Google forms or Survey monkey.

Yes there are more in-depth surveys out there but as a start you could do worse than ask these questions.

If your school as a whole doesn’t want to buy in, as a classroom teacher you could ask your kids:

What was the best thing about this unit/lesson/subject? What would you have liked to do more of? What would you have changed?

I’ve done this with some very witty kids, where the answers have come back, ‘Nothing,’ ‘Chilled’ and ‘The teacher’. But give it time… publicly acknowledge and act on feedback and you’ll start to see a shift in the ownership kids take of their learning.

What else do you do to engage and empower the student voice in your communities?

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