Categories
Education

Honoured in the New Year

Okay, okay, I know I said I wouldn’t be around until mid-January, but I felt this warranted a mention.

Anthony Salcito is the vice president of education for Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector organization. He works with education institutions and partners globally to embrace technology to optimize learning environments and student achievement.

Anyhoo… he has a blog in which he identifies Global Heroes in Education (his words – not mine.)

You’re already way ahead of me aren’t you..?

I’m honoured to be able to say I have been identified as one such Global Hero.

You can read the article and my interview with him here. 

Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2013!

Categories
Change Leadership Tech & Social Media

What if every teacher blogged?

Let’s just say for a moment that in teaching, we value concepts such as:

  • Fostering relationships
  • Enhancing resilience & staff wellbeing
  • Encouraging deep reflection
  • Sharing of best practice and vision
  • Engagement in our profession
  • Enhancing teacher quality
  • Cross-curricular links
  • Links to the “real” world*
  • Peer-to-peer coaching
  • The development of a body of work
  • The ability to stay “current” with social & technological trends

Which one of these would blogging NOT address?

I believe that blogging is the simplest, cheapest but also the most effective way to enhance teacher quality in your school… without the need to fire or hire anyone.

I suggest that as a start, school leaders could create a school-based blog and allocate 1hr every one or two weeks for staff to blog. You can keep it completely “in-house” or use it as a window into your learning community – whatever suits your school.

In fact there are probably already a number of bloggers on your staff who could help facilitate the setting up of your blog.

If your school is devoid of bloggers, this link gives you the 101 on what’s needed to get a blog up and running.

Make sure you encourage openness, honesty and consistency. Encourage staff to read and comment on each others posts. Make sure you allocate time for this.

Struggling to think about what to write about? Why not start with:

What went well for me at school this week and why?

Do this for a couple of weeks and see how it develops.

As with most things, it will take time, but persevere and perhaps in 6-12 months, you could write a post about the benefits, challenges and opportunities blogging  in your school has presented.

And please send me the link to your post when you do!

Of course if your school is already doing this please feel free to leave us a comment to share your experiences.

*I’m not sure why school is so often seen as NOT being a part of the “real” world. But that’s another blog post for another time. 🙂

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
Wellbeing

Why meditating is good for more than just your mind…

As a trained Health & Physical Education teacher I’ve always been interested in innovative training methods to enhance heart health. A couple of months ago I learned of scientific research that demonstrated what Buddhist monks have told us for years – that meditation is good for your heart.

The West hasn’t always been keen to embrace meditation. Some see it as a waste of time, or not for them. Most see it as something you might consider doing only if you are stressed – and even then there are those who are resistant.

So it was with great interest that during a workshop with Dr Barbara Fredrickson, a world-renowned positive psychologist that I learned of the impact of Loving Kindness meditation(LKM) on vagal tone.

Put very simply, vagal tone is the difference between your heart rate when you breathe in, compare to your heart rate when you breathe out.

The higher this difference – the higher your vagal tone.

The higher your vagal tone – the more likely you are to recover after a cardiovascular illness or event. In short, the higher your vagal tone – the fitter your heart.

Those with higher vagal tone have also been shown to have better health in general, lower levels of stress and anxiety, as well as better ability to regulate their attention and emotions.

 Dr Fredrickson showed us the research that demonstrated how practicing LKM raises your vagal tone and suggested we advocate for a daily diet of LKM, just as we do a daily diet of fruit and vegetables.

Perhaps as the science continues to roll in, the West will begin to warm to meditation as a pro-active measure to enhance its health and wellbeing.

Categories
Education Engagement & Motivation Wellbeing

The chicken or the egg?

We all know the general message that “Student wellbeing is important as it impacts on their ability to learn and achieve.”

But just as wellbeing affects education, I believe it is crucially important to understand how education affects wellbeing.

How we educate our students can have a direct impact on their wellbeing – and ours!

It’s a classic case of the chicken or the egg – what comes first? Wellbeing or Educational outcomes? This is at the heart of my Virtuous Cycle model and relies on truly understanding engagement.

Think about your own or your children’s experience in school. Are wellbeing and educational outcomes held in equal regard?

What about your experience in the workplace?

Is staff wellbeing something that is genuinely promoted. And yes I am talking about wellbeing as opposed to welfare!

A “welfare” approach tends only to focus on ensuring individuals or organisations aren’t struggling. Whereas a wellbeing approach aims to ensure individuals and organisations are positively flourishing.

This Sydney Morning Herald article tells of some of the approaches Google take to ensure staff are flourishing… note the reference to philanthropy!

It’s easy to dismiss this as being too difficult to implement in the school setting, but with a little creativity in school leadership and curriculum design it is possible to incorporate many of these ideas into your school.

The question is, how could your school do it?

Categories
Education Wellbeing

What comes first?

Over the last four weeks I’ve been all over Australia presenting at a variety of conferences. I have spoken to over 3000 teachers, nurses, social workers and other adults who work with young people.

In general the message at these events seems to be, “Student wellbeing is important as it impacts on their ability to learn and achieve.”

But just as wellbeing affects education, I believe it is crucially important to understand how education affects wellbeing.

How we educate our students can have a direct impact on their wellbeing – and ours!

It’s a classic case of the chicken or the egg – what comes first? Wellbeing or Educational outcomes? This is at the heart of my Virtuous Cycle model and relies on truly understanding engagement.

Think about your own experience in school. Are wellbeing and educational outcomes held in equal regard?

What about your experiences in the workplace?

Is staff wellbeing something that is genuinely promoted. And yes I am talking about wellbeing as opposed to welfare!

This Sydney Morning Herald article tells of some of the approaches Google take to ensure staff are flourishing… note the reference to philanthropy!

After a couple of weeks break (as well as working in my own school) I’ll be off round the country working with individual schools and education offices on strategies to enhance engagement and wellbeing in their respective organisations.

Categories
Education Engagement & Motivation Wellbeing

The Virtuous Cycle

(Genuine) Engagement & Wellbeing enhance achievement, yet how many schools pursue achievement at the expense of engagement and wellbeing?

The following is an extract from my manifesto, “Still Trying to Find X”. 

 The Virtuous Cycle

It is essential that we create a Virtuous Cycle for all students in our schools.

The Virtuous Cycle relies on having positive relationships at its heart or hub.

Think of your own experience at school. It’s likely your favourite teacher taught one of your favourite subjects. It’s likely you engaged with the subject matter because of the teacher, rather than vice versa.

As well as interpersonal relationships, the relationships between achievement and purpose, the past, present and future, student goals and the relationship between school and the wider world are all crucially important to establishing the Virtuous Cycle.

Froh et al. (2010) found that adolescents who had a sense of engagement reported higher levels of wellbeing.

Andrew Howell (2009) states:

“Students who are flourishing are less likely to adopt an entity view of ability [ie they had “Growth” mindsets], more likely to endorse mastery approach goals, report higher levels of self-control and higher grades.”

Your own experience will tell you: when students achieve and see the wider relevance of their achievement, they engage on an even deeper level.

I believe schools need to pursue the Virtuous Cycle above and beyond all else. In doing so we’ll have students who:

  • feel good about themselves
  • have a sense of ownership over their education
  • feel valued in the school community
  • pursue learning for the sake of learning – not grades alone
  • are creative thinkers
  • are resilient
  • are physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually healthy
  • are aware of their strengths and how to use them to contribute to society
  • aren’t afraid to fail
  • are flourishing

You don’t need a doctorate to see that these kids are the kind we would benefit from having in our schools, families and communities:

Yes we get it right for some of our students.

But we need to get it right for all of them.

To do that, we need to think critically and creatively in order to Find X in our own individual schools.

Still Trying to Find X is available online please share it with your colleagues!

Categories
Education Wellbeing

Positive Education spreading across Australia…

This is my latest Generation Next blog post…

I read with interest this week an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald by John Weekes, the headmaster of Knox Grammar.

He was discussing the concept of Positive Education. Essentially, Positive Education embeds the tenets of Positive Psychology into the curriculum, both explicitly and implicitly.*

Weekes says, “Our focus on academic outcomes such as the Higher School Certificate and NAPLAN results threatens to make us factories for one-dimensional students.” He continues, “Our goal should be to produce resilient young people with broad talents and life skills.”

Positive Education activities focus on building relationships, identifying one’s strengths, goal setting, mentoring, teamwork, overcoming challenges, perseverance and how to deal with success and disappointment with the aim of increasing mental resilience and wellbeing.

And it’s not only for the students. According to Weekes, teachers at Knox are also benefitting from the program being run by Dr Suzy Green and Paula Robinson from the Positive Psychology Institute and the program’s efficacy is being studied by the University of Wollongong.

Geelong Grammar in VIC and St Pauls in SA are also leading the way in Positive Education in Australia, with the former hosting Martin Seligman a couple of years ago in order to train the Geelong staff in the philosophies of Positive Education. Many other schools and even childcare centres are following suit in and around Australia. Is yours?

*Full Disclaimer: I presented a workshop at Knox early this year as part of their staff training in Positive Education.

Categories
Education Wellbeing

Calling for Corporal Punishment in the 21st Century – yes really (!?!?)

I write a weekly column for Generation Next’s Newsletter and Blog. This is my piece from this week’s newsletter.

This week I read a story out of – where else – the USA. It was the story of a girl aged six, who was handcuffed by police after she had thrown a tantrum in school. Apparently the school decided to call in the law when she began tearing things off the wall and throwing books and toys. It is also reported that the principal was struck in the leg with a small shelf.

Whether or not you agree with the school calling the police to deal with a six year-old girl, it does beg the question how should we discipline disruptive children in school.

Listening to talk-back radio this week, listeners and shock-jocks alike were frothing at the mouth at the prospect of bring back corporal punishment – the majority of whom were in favour of a return to the draconian measures.

This was on the back of Pastor Daniel Nalliah saying his new political party, Rise Up Australia would advocate for a change in legislation in order to allow a principal to administer a “paddling” to a badly behaved student.

It’s probably worth noting that Pastor Nalliah is the same guy who blamed the Queensland floods on Kevin Rudd’s stance on Israel, and according to him the deadly Victorian bushfires of 2009 were because the State had decriminalised abortion. So I’m not sure how seriously we should take him. (But I’m guessing – not very!)

Nevertheless, callers to Radio 2GB in Sydney were reminiscing of the “good old days” when children respected their elders, and they were quick to point out that, “It never did us any harm.”

But in fact, I’d argue it has done a fair amount of harm as we now have a generation who believe the best way to get children to listen in school is to threaten them with physical pain. Hitting them with sticks or paddles…

As Chu-ang Tzu said, “Rewards an punishment are the lowest form of education.”

Surely there has to be a better way?

We could start by ensuring school is an inspiring place where kids want to be.

Just a thought.

You can read more of my Generation Next articles here.

Categories
Education Social Justice Wellbeing Youth

Is Education The Way Out of Poverty?

In light of the Gonski Review of school funding in Australia, I revisited and updated a piece I wrote whilst sitting in a New Orleans Hotel room. I’d initially written this piece as a response to what I’d witnesses in the virtually non-existent or corrupt education system in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. What is clear from my time in New Orleans, is that it will take a whole lot more than just money to address the gap between our richest and poorest kids.

For those born into poverty, every day is a natural disaster. Yet in this case, society often appears to turn a blind eye. The very same people who shed tears watching the aftermath of the Japanese Tsunami are the ones who cross the road to avoid the homeless. Those who ran around the office with a bucket to help the Haitian people in the wake of the earthquake that claimed 220,000 lives, are the same ones who avoid eye contact with those, who really should just go get a job.

You can read the full piece on The Huffington Post