Change Leadership

When’s the right time for change?

I was asked a great question on Twitter this week in response to a tweet I put out as part of research for a piece I’m writing.

I’m not sure there is a simple answer to Kimberley’s question.

But for what it’s worth here’s my two cents…

I don’t believe there is any gain to be made from change for change’s sake, but we do need to guard against adopting the “if it’s not broke – don’t fix it” mentality, as too often this breeds complacency or apathy.

There’s no doubt that an injection of “fresh” or new ideas can invigorate a school. And if a school is struggling (in any capacity) this can provide the impetus for positive change to occur.

However on the flip side of this, teachers are the experts on their school. Every school has its own idiosyncrasies and culture that only staff who have been there a long time genuinely appreciate.

So I certainly wouldn’t advocate mandatory “circulation” of staff or principals.

We need to constantly evaluate what we are doing in our schools from a wider perspective than just enrolments, attendance rates and examination results, whilst at the same time critically evaluating the latest trend being touted as the saviour of education. To do this teachers need to be empowered to make such evaluations.

I believe every school should have an “innovation” unit. Staff who are empowered to research and implement fresh ideas. This group could be staffed on a rotational basis to ensure that teachers had equal opportunities to contribute to innovation in their school. @Steve_Collis or @Stephen_H would be good people to chat to about this if you’re keen to explore this idea.

Peer-coaching is another model we could look at to invigorate or share ideas without the need for staff turnover rates to soar. @cpaterso or @benpaddlejones would be my go-to people here.

I’d recommend sharing ideas with colleagues from other schools as well as with your own staff – it’s not often we get to see what is going on in classrooms or schools other than our own – Teachmeets are a great way of doing this of course.

Other than that, Twitter is a great source of ideas, thoughts and accounts of literally 100s of thousands of teachers’ experiences. (As well as offering you the opportunity to find out what Kim Kardashian has for breakfast).

Change Engagement & Motivation Leadership

Who are the experts & what do they do?

There are people who are, rightly, referred to as experts. I’m sure you can reel off any number of names in your field who are regarded as the gurus.

However, I also believe there are too many people who are not regarded as experts, and it’s the very people who should be seeing these people as experts, who don’t.

Too many bosses fail to recognise the expertise on their staff, and the ramifications of this are far-reaching, eg. lack of employee engagement, loss of productivity or budget blow-outs (due to team building days or an inspirational keynote from a well-regarded expert in the field).

How often have you sat listening to an expert who’s been parachuted in to deliver the same Powerpoint presentation that fifty other schools or organisations have seen?

How often has the meaningful engagement and follow-up from such a presentation been exactly zero? Even despite the good intentions of the bosses and guru-for-hire?

I believe this comes from people misunderstanding their roles in the expert/audience/consumer interaction.

To those of you who read my blog, or listen to me speak – I’m not the expert. You are.

It is not my role to provide solutions – as every school, family or organisation has its own individual issues that need to be factored in. And those of you who have worked with me will know that a One Size Fits All approach is the antithesis of what I’m about.

My role is to ask questions, challenge what you take for granted, provide links to academic research in order to recognise and enhance the capacity of the audience. To build bridges between academia and practice.

The power isn’t in the words I say or write.

The power comes from your challenging, discussing, maybe ignoring, playing with or acting on these ideas with your colleagues – Your fellow experts. 

So, use your expertise to work with this idea…

In the next six months, why not have an entire staff development day run entirely by your own staff – 

By staff I mean not those in executive or leadership positions. If you like you could base it on the TeachMeet model that I’m sure you’ve heard of by now!

I’d place money on their being more meaningful engagement and follow-up after such a day.

Change Education Leadership

Why, why why… don’t we ask the right questions?

Those involved with education reform  in Australia, the UK and US seem to focus on what we should teach students, when we should teach our students & how we should teach, assess and compare our students with their international counterparts.

To me, it appears that those leading educational change* neglect the most important questions of all.

Why should we teach our students that?

Why should we teach our students then?

Why do we assess kids in manner we do?

Why are we comparing our students to kids (particularly in Asia) who are being educated to staff factories and call centres?

I believe we really need to get to the WHY of education.

I was fortunate to be in a room the other day when Susan Groundwater Smith posed a great question (in the style of TV quiz show Jeopardy):

“To what question is School the answer?”

I don’t know if there is one particular question that fits the bill here, but I do know that most politicians aren’t courageous enough to even think about it.

*In this post, the word change is used with a great deal of poetic license.

Change Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership

Vive le Revolution!

On Friday 2nd March, the teaching community of Sydney got together for an incredible event.

Starting at 5pm (yes… after School), 300+ teachers from across all the educational sectors got together to share concepts, collaborate, start new projects, discuss technology and generally explore the nature, purpose and possibilities of education.

I’ve written of the TeachMeet phenomenon before and this event format was similar to previous TeachMeets, albeit on a larger scale, with teachers presenting either 2min or 7min presentations, while others facilitated 15min workshops to explore all manner of things from apps to worldwide collaborative projects – all for free, of their own volition and in their own time.

The evening wrapped up at about 8.30pm with everyone inspired to do what they originally came into the profession… To Make a Difference.

So what were my takeaways from the evening?

Apart from some interesting ideas to try out in my own teaching and a goal to host a TeachMeet at my school:

  • I further strengthened my connections with some of my Twitter Heroes. Some of whom I have “known” for well over 12 months, shared ideas with and even disagreed with, but until tonight had never met them face-to-face.
  • To listen the media’s coverage of education, you’d be forgiven for thinking education can be reduced to simply competition. League tables, NAPLAN, MySchool, international comparisons and the Gonski Report are all interpreted in a manner that ensures a headline – often at the expense of the facts in context. Tonight there was no sense competition, no consideration for the fact that by sharing your own practice, the school down the road could improve their MySchool ranking. Tonight there was an overwhelming sense of collaboration.
  • Politicians to not start revolutions. The people do. And last Friday, the people spoke, the people listened, the people cared and the revolution has momentum.

Forget politicians’ glib references to Educational Revolutions and start collaborating with the staff in your own school to ensure the kind of education you envisaged when you applied for teacher training. I am yet to meet a single teacher who went into teaching simply to impress their principal with their class’ NAPLAN or HSC scores.

Start collaborating with the school down the road, see what they’re doing – forget MySchool.

Start collaborating with teachers interstate or internationally via any number of online platforms.

Attend a TeachMeet, or if there isn’t one near you… host your own and Vive le Revolution!

Big thanks to @mesterman, @simoncrook, @henriettami, @benpaddlejones, @edusum, @liamdunphy, @pipcleaves, @7MrsJames, @malynmawby, @cpaterso, @mickprest, @townesy77, @jpilearn & @pehogg for their hard work in putting this event together on the night, and in the months leading up to it!

You can see a shortened (3m30s) version of my 7min talk on Facing Up to The Fear of Failure by clicking here. 

Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership

(Un)Professional Development

Yesterday I attended my first Teach Meet event. Along with about 40 other teachers I listened as teachers presented either 2 or 7 minute presentations of things they do with their classes. I gave this 7 minute presentation. 

Teach Meets take place regularly all over Sydney, with some on the North Shore attracting over 70 teachers with many more watching online.

I first heard of Teach Meets via Twitter. A group of inspiring teachers who regularly share their thoughts and practices (for free!) via Twitter are also instrumental in the continued growth of the Teach Meet movement in Sydney.

Which brings me to the title of this post… (Un)Professional Development.

All of these Teach Meets take place outside of normal school hours. No-one receives a payment to present and they are free for teachers to attend.

And yet, despite not having a conference committee, a series of overpaid key-note speakers, or a prohibitive registration fee, teachers leave feeling enthused, empowered and with a few more connections in their professional learning network.

In particular from last night, I have already acted on @cullo2230’s suggestion of using these YouTube clips as stimuli in HSIE classes and @mickprest’s brilliant idea of using Google Translate in LOTE classes to engage kids in reading things they’re genuinely interested in.

If you haven’t been to a Teach Meet – Go to one.

If getting to a Teach Meet requires you to be covered for last period ask your Principal or Deputy to cover you. In regard to you and your school getting bang for your buck , this is a no brainer!

If you haven’t joined Twitter – Do so! I’ve learnt heaps from Twitter in the last few months alone, in my own time, following people, themes and threads that genuinely interest me.

Need convincing? Read my last piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on the topic.

And to get you started (as well as Justin Bieber) – follow these people. (Tell ’em Dan sent you, and they may even follow you back!)

@edusum, @steve_collis, @benpaddlejones, @liamdunphy, @clarindabrown, @simoncrook, @mesterman, @pipcleaves, @7mrsjames and literally 130+ more here

Hope to see you in the Twitterverse… or at a Teach Meet in 2012!

Education Leadership

It Just Clicks – Latest SMH Piece

At the start of this year, 7000  school students in Miami took a maths course delivered entirely by computer. Instead of a teacher, the only adult in the room was a “facilitator” who dealt with technical problems and ensured students remained on task.  Labor’s Digital Education Revolution (DER) ensures that every Year 9 student in Australia receives a laptop – so could Australian classrooms one day resemble those in Miami? And are teachers now an endangered species?

 Read my full article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Below are how you can connect with some of those mentioned in the article.

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Education Leadership

What is the Role of a 21st Century School Principal?

On Sunday I read a report by the Sunday Telegraph’s education editor Laura Speranza which highlighted the technological habits of school principals. I tweeted the following:!/danhaesler/status/117800130081587200

Unsurprisingly, many of the responses suggested they thought principals needed to be across all the latest technology, and if they weren’t it would hamper their students’ learning in the 21st Century.

However, whilst it may be preferable for a school principal to be across all the latest technology, it is both unrealistic and unfair to expect this to be the case.

Instead I suggest principals must satisfy the following four criteria.

1. First and foremost a school prinicpal must be a visionary. They must have a clear and well communicated mission for their school, its staff and wider community.

2. Principals must be expert communicators and facilators in order to deliver their vision.

3. Principals must be experts in their field – teaching. They must understand the implications of, and rationales behind various pedagogical techniques in the 21st Century.

Principals need not be experts in all areas of curriculum design, e-learning, finances, maintenance, wellbeing and psychology etc… Rather schools need leadership teams comprising of experts in each of these fields.

Using Richard Branson as an example. He has the vision of Virgin offering the first commercial space flight in the near future. However, I doubt he is an expert on the latest and most efficient material for space craft design.

What do you think? Is this too simplistic?

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Education Leadership

What’s wrong with Performance Related Pay? – Latest SMH Piece

It is generally accepted in most professions that the better you are, the more money you can command.  Many teachers would agree the top in their field should be rewarded accordingly. So why is it that the Gillard government’s proposed performance-related payment scheme is not being welcomed with open arms? Read my full article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

For another take on the psychology behind motivation, and an insight into why the Gillard model of PRP may not achieve its aims, watch this short talk by internationally renowned author and speaker Dan Pink.

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Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership

My Latest Sydney Morning Herald Article

Page 17 of today’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald carries an article I wrote regarding the development of the new Australian Curriculum. Read it online here

Entitled “Old Ways Curb Young” Minds and featuring comment from Daniel Pink, Richard Gerver, Brian Caldwell and Professor Robyn Ewing, I will  be interested to see what reaction it gets, not only from the Education sector, but the public in general.

Please let me know what you think!

In other news…

My colleague, Ray Francis and I will be presenting at this weeks Association of Independent Schools Pastoral Care Conference. We are running a 60 min workshop on “Strengths-based approaches to Student Wellbeing.”

I’m also pleased to confirm that I have been invited to speak at the highly regarded Generation Next Youth Wellbeing Seminar in Perth in September.

Click here for more info on both of these events.

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Education Leadership Media

Testing Times for NAPLAN

For the benefit of my overseas readers, all Australian school students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are assessed using national tests in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation) and Numeracy.

These are known as NAPLAN tests. They are the equivalent to the SATs in the UK or the NEAPs in the US.

Every year standardised tests come under the microscope. Everyone with an opinion (educated or otherwise) throws in their two cents…

So here’s mine (you can decide whether it’s educated or otherwise.)

In the last couple of weeks, with regard to NAPLAN, the media has been awash with allegations of teachers cheating, parents refusing to allow their kids to take the test, and principals selecting new enrolments based on NAPLAN scores.

With stories like this it’s not surprising that anyone who wanted to condemn NAPLAN got their obligatory 3 minute soundbite onto Morning TV. Bold statements like “NAPLAN harms our kids for life” at breakfast time, make for essential viewing for the mums and dads of every 8 – 14 year old in the country!

But here’s the thing…

Standardised tests do have a role to play in today’s education. They can serve as a diagnostic tool to highlight areas in a child’s learning that may need attention – indeed that is the purpose NAPLAN was intended to serve.

On the NAPLAN website it says:

  • Students and parents may use individual results to discuss achievements and progress with teachers.
  • Teachers use results to help them better identify students who require greater challenges or additional support.
  • Schools use results to identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching programs and to set goals in literacy and numeracy.
  • School systems use results to review programs and support offered to schools.

The tests themselves are not the problem.

The issues such as those reported in the media this week arise because the data is abused by people who should know better.

The problems associated with standardised tests are due to the seemingly innate human desire to compare oneself (or children) to others.

This has been exacerbated by the fact that the governments MySchool website uses NAPLAN results as its main source of comparison data.

In early 2010, Prime Minister, Julia Gillard whilst still Education Minister stated, “Before MySchool, parents would do everything they could to find out as much information as possible about the schools in their suburb – maybe they’ve moved suburb, moved cities, moved states, want to know which is the school that their child should go to and that’s been a hard battle for them to get the information. Now, as one source of information they will be able to get on MySchool and see more comprehensive information than they’ve ever had access to before.”

As soon as we have a notion of choice – we get competition between the potential choices (in this case, schools) and in every competition in the world – there is cheating and corruption. So should the stories in the media these last two weeks be surprising? I don’t think so.

This has the potential to get much worse with Ms Gillard’s government announcing at its budget this month, their intention to introduce incentive based pay for teachers.

You guessed it – NAPLAN test scores would be part of the assessment criteria!

So, stay with me here…  scores from a test – that we are told, you cannot teach to or prepare for – will form the basis of whether or not a teacher nets an extra $8000 a year or not…

If NAPLAN wasn’t high stakes before… it certainly will be now – for the teacher at least! Never mind the raft of research that tells us performance related pay actually DECREASES performance! (But that’s another blog post yet to come…)

As well as principals keen to ensure that their schools league ranking doesn’t slip on their watch, individual teachers will have the thought of an extra $8000 in their mind when it comes to planning the next week’s work.

In the quest to net the extra cash, what will be the first to go from the child’s learning experience? Art, Music, Drama, PE? Perhaps creative writing will be pushed the side so classes can work from books that look to maximise your NAPLAN performance.

But that’s all to come… back to the issues of the day.

Principals and teachers have to be the leaders in the education revolution. They have to stand up for what is right and spell out to the politicians and misguided masses, what is blatantly wrong about using these standardised tests in a way they were never intended.

The media will report whatever makes the headlines that day… so whilst one day they’ll be condemning NAPLAN, you can be assured that in a month or two, the same outlets will be publishing league tables or promoting the idea of Performance Related Pay based on NAPLAN data.

As I said before. I have no problems with standardised tests per se; but the way in which we use them is fundamentally flawed.

If a principal uses NAPLAN test scores as a means to select students into their school (and for the record – I don’t believe there is a single principal in the country that would only use test scores to do this) then the sooner they retire, the better. And you can quote me on that.

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