Categories
Leadership

Is “by teachers for teachers” always a good thing?

This is an excerpt from my latest Australian Teacher Magazine column.

In schools it is not uncommon for outside agencies to be brought in to consult on initiatives, but should the consultant lack a background in education they can be quickly dismissed by a less than enthusiastic staffroom. After all, what would they know?

Yet in other sectors and industries it is often seen as advantageous to bring people in from other domains as they are free of the common assumptions that sometimes hold innovation back.

‘Outsiders’ can see a universally accepted practice that would usually go unchallenged and ask, ‘Why do you do that?’ and in doing so can spark a conversation that otherwise would not have taken place.

You can read the full article here.

Categories
Change Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership Tech & Social Media

3 Common Myths About Innovation in Education

1. We’re innovative. The kids all have iPads. It's About Pedagogy, Not Technology

To do what? To do what you already did quicker, more efficiently or on a larger scale?

In many schools the power of the iFad or whatever technology has been wheeled into the school is compromised by the way in which they’re allowed or – more importantly – not allowed to be used.

Even if we adopt the higher order thinking of the SAMR Model, how innovative are we really being?

Innovating in schools is often equated to just increasing the amount of technology in the classroom – and this I think is to miss the point.

What if innovation in education sought to (genuinely) empower rather than control students?

Instead of behaviour management, what if we spoke of unleashing students.

What would innovation look like then?

Of course technology would play a part but so would where, when, who, what and how would you teach.

I’m of the opinion that many alternative education programs that work with kids for whom the mainstream education system hasn’t are some of the most innovative. I touch on this in my latest segment for the TER Podcast.

2. I’m too old to innovate – the young teachers have got it covered anyway

A knock-on effect of believing that the key to innovation is the increased integration of technology in class is that some staff feel they have little to offer.

Imagine if told you that you were too old to offer anything of value? You’d be offended right? And rightly so.

Yet there are many who tell themselves this very thing every chance they get. Every PD day, every staff meeting, professionals actively opt out these kinds of discussions as they see it as the realm of the younger teacher.

But here’s the thing, while new – or soon to be new – teachers may well be able to post a selfie on Instagram or fire off a quick self-destructing (in every sense of the term) video clip on SnapChat, many are not the ‘experts’ that some schools expect them to be around the use of technology and the Internet – and even less so with regards to embedding technology into an effective pedagogy.

So the very premise on which some choose to opt out of the innovation discussion is flawed.

Regardless of your teaching experience, you can be innovative. And yes perhaps having a crack at new technologies, combined with your knowledge and experience of different pedagogies, may just produce a light bulb moment for you, your faculty and your school but do it steadily… and if someone tells you to just jump in the deep end with technology- have them take a look at this post I wrote last year.

But be sure, innovation pays no mind to your age.

Regardless of where you are in your career you have a choice to contribute, push the boundaries or ask “Why?” or “What if…?” 

3. We need to innovate for the sake of our children’s future

Ok, this one isn’t necessarily a myth, but stay with me…

One of the most popular ideas I hear at conferences is that, “We are educating kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet,” or an offshoot from that is blog posts like the  Top 10 Job Titles that didn’t exist 5 years ago genre of commentary.

It gets the juices flowing but you have to be careful, because well-intentioned types will take that to mean the most popular jobs today didn’t exist 5 years ago, rather than it merely being a list of jobs today that didn’t exist 5 years ago. 

A subtle but important different – and even then, most of these jobs you can see have morphed from an existing job. They’ve hardly sprung up from nowhere.

As a little test, ask your students, or kids in your life what career they’d like – how many come up with a job that didn’t exist 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ago? (SPOILER ALERT: I’m guessing not many)

So rather than using ‘the future’ as a reason to innovate – because things get a bit ethereal here and some can switch off – let’s start using the PRESENT.

Last year, Gallup surveyed 7000 students in Years 5-12 in 36 schools across six states and found that, roughly 30% of kids have disengaged from school by the time they are 11.

How about using that as an argument to innovate?

To compound things, over 50% of Year 12’s – and yes these are the ones that have STAYED on at school – are disengaged.

How about innovating to address this?

Categories
Leadership

TOP SECRET: For Principals’ Eyes Only

Are you a Principal?

Yes? Read on. No? Walk away from the screen. You were never here.

——-

Last year I posed a question in a blog post.

Why did the principal cross the corridor? Why would the principal of your school come into your classroom?

As principals, I thought it might be useful to share the results with you.

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 4.21.29 PM

Three results really stand out for me.

i. Nearly 30% of teachers think that their principal would cross the corridor to hang out with the kids and see what they’re up to. 

I think this is great, because after all this is what we’re all about! But I wonder why this figure isn’t higher…

ii. 31% of teachers wouldn’t expect to see their principal in their classroom.

I wonder why principals aren’t popping into these classrooms? What would you say to these principals?

iii. Not a single respondent thought their principal would come into their classroom to learn from them.

It’s a shame that teachers feel this way, as I’m confident most principals are well aware that they could learn a great deal from their staff.

I wonder what you can do in your school or those schools in your networks that would positively influence these figures?

I’d love to hear some of your ideas below in the comments section.

Categories
Engagement & Motivation Leadership

Do other schools think more of you than your own?

When I’m in schools, I always recognise that the teachers I’m working with are the experts on their school.expert

As well as being expert educators, they understand the idiosyncrasies of their colleagues, leaders, students and wider community.

However, what I’m finding more and more is that within schools, teacher “expertise” is often not recognised outside of their perceived domain.

In other words, teachers limit ourselves and each other by our job title. We are there to teach our subject(s), do playground duty and write reports. There is little attention paid to actively recognising and nurturing innovation, collaboration or creativity.

Up until a few years ago this meant that people just got on with what they were paid to do and thought little more of it.

However, with the advent of social media, and Twitter in particular, this has changed.

Online, I regularly see PE teachers from one school collaborating with English or Drama teachers from another. Sharing their ideas, experiences etc. Maths teachers developing innovative ideas with art teacher.

Yet when I ask about such collaborations taking place within the walls of their own school, very often there’s not much doing.

Which led me to ask this question (on Twitter obviously!):

Which led to some interesting debate on Twitter over the weekend… here are the picks…

So with these thoughts in mind, I sought the opinion of school leaders who I KNOW value and actively encourage autonomy, creativity and innovation in their staff.

Ben Jones – Head of Teaching & Learning in Public School in Western Sydney

Stephen Harris – Principal of Northern Beaches Christian School

And to finish with, I couldn’t go past this one… I LOVE the sentiments expressed by John his tweet.

John Goh – Principal of a Public Primary School in Western Sydney

Amen…

Categories
Education Leadership Wellbeing

Your invitation to join the discussion

On Wednesday 14th November at 7pm AEDT (6pm in Brisbane, 4pm in Perth & 8am in London) I will be on the panel for the PLANE LeadMeet Education and Wellbeing Q&A Live Webinar.

I’m really looking forward to it as alongside me on the panel will be 2009 Young Australian of the Year for Tasmania Sam Cawthorn, Daily Telegraph Education Columnist Maralyn Parker and Middle School Teacher extraordinaire Summer Howarth.

Watch the 60sec promo for it below.

You can register to be in the audience here.

Depending how you’re feeling, you can ask a question, make comments, tweet away or just sit back and listen.

Obviously a Q&A show needs questions so please submit a question for the panel.

Can’t make it? You can follow the show on Twitter by following #lmplane

Categories
Education Leadership

Why did the Principal cross the corridor?

This post is not intended as a dig at principals, but I do wonder if the system sometimes stops our schools’ leaders from doing what they’d really like to be doing…

Does this happen in other workplace settings too?

Categories
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).