Monday, October 19, 2015

Dare Greatly- a Video Blog with Reference to Brene Brown

Edblognz Week 3 Challenge 2  
Create a 1-2 minute video about an education topic that you are passionate about and post it on your blog.

I love Brenes Brown work and presentation on vulnerability. Her leadership manifesto (below) taken from her book "Daring Greatly" is a fantastic read.

Here is a video I made for a presentation at the end of last term- it shows you a walkthrough of TKAS with a section of this manifesto read spoken at the end. Show up, let yourself be seen, and be courageous. DARE GREATLY WITH US.


For an extra watch here is Brene's Ted Talk on vulnerability.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

MLE Conversations

Edblognz Challenge Week 2 Challenge 2

Find a blog post you have written in the past. Consider whether your thinking on the topic is the same or different and blog about why your thinking has changed or expand on your original ideas.

Ive written a couple of pretty passionate posts this year about MLE's or ILE's or whatever you are calling them.

You can read them here (focused on exploring the pedagogies and whether this is just a returning fad) and here (focused on why we need to change and do things differently than in the past).

I wouldn't change anything I've written in those posts.

It still concerns me that I hear and read stuff like its not working- kids are getting lost because they are moving all the time to different teachers because thats what you are "meant to do in a MLE."  There is no MLE/ILE handbook that says this is the way to do it. 

It's all about being responsive to learning needs.

Its about critically reflecting, reviewing and analysing what has actually served kids and effective learning well in the past- all kids not just the highly successful top learners.

And then its about responding to those needs in an innovative way using some thinking that maybe wasn't around in the past. And that means you cant just keep taking reading groups and math groups and writing groups in exactly the same way as in the past if you want different results.

It is definitely NOT about putting 3 or 4 classes of kids together in a big open barn with some different looking furniture and then continuing to teach in the same way- just moving the kids round from teacher to teacher.

It's about preparing learners for a time that is vastly different, and changing every day. 

It is about harnessing the power of technology to make that learning even more effective and relevant.

It's about harnessing the power of multiple adults with differing skills to make learning more authentic and Its about those adults collaborating because they will achieve more tgogether than they can by themselves. Its about professionally challenging each other to do the best thing for each learner.

It's about adults understanding that a classroom is not their personal kingdom- and a place for them to the the queen or king of- it's a place for them to both facilitate and deliver authentic and relevant learning. It's the learners place for learning.

It's about empowering learners to take control of their learning- if we want confident life long learners then we need them to understand and be an active participant in their own thinking and learning.

It's about harnessing that joy of curiosity that our early childhood centres see and empower in kids, and maintaining and growing that as they enter schools.

I know that if you are stuck in a more traditional school it is very difficult to go and visit a school truly operating in a responsive way and  not focus on the lovely spaces, and the bright modular furniture and the big groups of students with multiple teachers and think those things are the most important. But they are not.

Its those teachers ability to reflect on and critically analyse the learning needs of those learners and respond to all of those in a way that continually puts the students at the centre, not the learning programmes that we've been led to believe are the way to teach.

For us in our responsive learning environment (referring to the pedagogy and practice the keys are:
self regulation- learners making active decisions about their learning on a weekly, daily and hourly basis
integration- developing concetps- helping ākonga to form a big picture of connections rather than teaching subjects
inquiryteaching just about always through an inquiry approach
learning choices- our learners having increasingly open choices with regards to their learning
teacher collaboration- constant talking, sharing and advising on what each learner needs to move to the next stage for them
(None of this is dependent on having a modern learning environment in the property sense)

For us in our modern learning environment (referring to the property) we choose to do this through
open spaces- with multiple learners and multiple teachers collaborating and learning together which includes multiple year groups being together 
collaborative teaching- teachers sharing learning spaces and groups of learners
choices about where to learn with restrictions depending on who we've reponsded to each students learning needs in their personal learning plans.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thank God for the Teachers of Our Children

Connected Educator Edblognz Challenge Week 1 Challenge 3 Write a blog post about your favourite movie/song/piece of art including how it relates to your life as an educator.

One of my favourite "teacher" pieces of music is In The Garden- Terry Kelly. I've used it with a couple of different staff over the year. (And maybe I should not admit to this but i first became aware of this piece of music through an episode of Dawsons Creek!)

At TKAS we do an induction week on a different marae each year before the students start school. And at the end of that induction timeI give staff something as an inspiration for the year. One year it was a framed poem relating to something of importance for the year. Or a set of quotes for the year etc. 

In 2013 I gave everyone a small houseplant to care for, for the year. The plant was a metaphor for growing our learners. And we listened to this piece of music. We reflected on our progress at the end of each term by bringing our plant in to share its growth and listening to this music again.

Think of all the people in your life that have left impressions on you
The ones who never let you down and those who were there each time you lost you way
All through your lifetime do remember the ones who really cared
Coz they were always there in the garden, where the flowers grow in the garden
The future will unfold
Thank god for the rivers and mountains and the valleys down below
Thank god for the teachers of our children so the garden can grow

Without a firm and guiding hand a tender sprout is lost among the weeds
Until your roots were firm and strong in the garden
Where the precious flowers grow in the garden
Where a better future will unfold

Thank god for the rivers and mountains and the valleys down below
Thank god for the teachers of our children so the garden can grow

It was a great challenge for the year. 
This what we learnt about our plants:
  • That they all grow at different rates and speeds- as do our learners
  • That they all need different things fed to them and to be cared for in different ways in order to grow- as do our learners
  • That we need to think about our mindsets- whether we are growing plants or people 
  • That we can utilise the power and magic of technology to help support our plants....and our learners 
  • That although it is sad when people move on and gaps are left, others will step in and up to provide the care and support needed for those left behind- whether its plants or groups of young people 
  • That is order to care for other things, we need to look after ourselves and our nearest and dearest first- we need to be healthy in body and mind to nurture and support others

You can read the whole post here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How Has My Leadership Evolved over Time?

Edblognz Challenge Week 1 Challenge 1  (Originally written for a University leadership paper.)

Think about your teaching practice. How has it evolved over time? What are you currently working on developing in your practice? What tools have you used during this inquiry time? Blog about it.

Distributive leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on spreading the leadership in a wider way than some of the more traditional hierarchical models of leadership. It can also be called a range of different terms like shared leadership and collaborative leadership. This essay will describe the main characteristics of distributive leadership, the conditions needed for distributive leadership to flourish, consider the significant advantages and drawbacks of distributive leadership as a model, explore my own history as a leader and draw comparisons between distributive leadership characteristics and my leadership style. 

When distributive leadership is in action the members within the team lead and organise each other, without clearly defined hierarchies. It is when people all take turns leading. Leadership comes from any of the members not just the appointed leader. Team members are fully accountable to each other and do not abdicate all responsibility to the appointed leader. Or there is no appointed leader and all members of the team influence each other with power and decision making being spread rather than held by one person who wields that power over the group. Bush, Bell & Middlewood refer to distributed leadership as- “Drawing upon social psychology, a distributed perspective on leadership concentrates on the interactions rather than the actions of leaders.” (p56)

For distributive leadership to be effective healthy interdependent relationships need to be developed. There needs to be an understanding that conflict is healthy and a commitment to constructive and positive conflict resolution. Crawford states: “....headteachers have to perform a delicate emotional balancing act much of the time. They have to build a climate of genuine emotion where trust and acceptance are the key, and others not only want to follow them as leaders, but feel able to become leaders themselves. Positive emotional context then becomes a necessary condition of distributed leadership.” (p 155) Distributed leadership is a relatively complex leadership style and leaders need to develop a good understanding of how to influence rather than boss. 

A major advantage of distributive leadership is the scope it gives to spread the load of energy and effort required across all members of the team. From the commonly known Goose Story-“When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs, whether with people or with geese flying south.” Anon.
Distributed leadership also allows one to give more opportunities for growing the leadership of less experienced or young staff. 

Distributed leadership is complex and requires deep understanding. However it can be interpreted in simplistic and ineffective ways that do not result in any leadership really occurring. Robertson and Timperley say: “Both scholars and practitioners have invoked distributed leadership as an improvement strategy for schools, often with simplistic and unwarranted mantras such as ‘everyone is a leader’ or ‘the more leaders the better’.” (p159) Another disadvantage can be a less clear career pathway for people as the traditional pathways of team and middle leadership heading into senior leadership could be seen to be ‘watered down.’

For schools, which have traditionally been operated on a traditional heads down leadership approach, there are two different things to think about if you move to a different leadership style. There is all the organisational leadership required in a school, and then the leading learning aspect of school leadership. This is often referred to as managing versus leading as if the first is a negative and leaders should spend all their time on the latter. However my experience has shown me that without some degree of structural organisational leadership the opportunity for leading learning can become lessened as a leader ends up being reactive to perceived crises rather than being proactive around leading learning.
For a school to move to a more distributive model requires a basic underlying structure and organisation to be in place to allow creativity in practice to flourish. And to allow creativity to flourish means a leader moving from a position of having power over their staff to sharing that power with their staff. Hargreaves and Fullan refer to this by saying “The movement from power over to power with is still a struggle. But it is a struggle for a greater social good, not for self interest or supremacy. It is a struggle for a greater social good, not for self-interest or supremacy. It is a struggle that should not be a win-lose battle, but that will still require initial positive pushes and pulls from small groups at both the bottom and the top-pushes and pulls that you can be part of and that you might even start.” (p9)

In my personal history I came into school leadership as a relatively  young teacher, influenced by the fact that I worked in very top down hierarchical schools where as a young teacher it was expected  I “did my time, without questioning,” and “played the game.” It was expected as a young teacher that you spent many years being the lower totem on pole before you earned the right to lead in any way or even to speak up. When I didn’t agree with the type of teaching I was being asked to do the only way I could see for teaching the way I believed I should be in my classroom and influencing teaching pedagogies across a school was to get into leadership. In my eighth year of teaching I became an Assistant Principal and in my ninth a Principal. This hasn’t always been easy. As a young teacher still learning my teaching craft I was also in the position of leader. And in those days (mid 1990’s) there were very few opportunities for school leadership training. (Or a perceived need from many corners.) So naturally my first forays into leadership tended to be modelled on the leadership I had had modelled myself, although it was exactly that kind of leadership that had driven me into seeking  leadership in the first place.

However over years I became more sure of myself both, in what I believed as an educator and as a leader. I have a firm belief in the importance of relationships, and in a positive environment in a classroom and a school that both allows for positive warm relationships and is at the same time demanding of accountability. I have come to believe that accountability systems that come from peers are those that are most effective. Interdependence in learning and in leading learning is integral to my beliefs of running effective learning in a classroom, or in leading an effective staff to run effective learning in a classroom. Henry Ford said it clearly when he said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” 

I have endeavoured to develop systems and relationships that allow all staff to share power and have a strong voice, not feel they have to “do their time,” first. This has though, caused problems for some staff members used to operating in this way who have moved to other systems with a more traditional approach and found that speaking their mind and trying to share power- as has been modelled to them in our systems, is not acceptable in some schools. Robertson and Timperley state: “Organisational routines more or less structure interactions among school leaders and teachers, influencing who talks to whom about what.” (p166)

Furthermore my experience in collaborative teaching, and in leading others to develop collaborative teaching over the last fifteen years has influenced further interest in development of a shared distributive model of leadership. It is, I believe, a natural outcome of successful collaborative teaching. I will explore this more in the following essay.

As a leader I am committed to working alongside my staff to coach the best out of them. I do not like being referred to as the boss. I am a leader, and I will coach others in both pedagogical practice and in leadership, but I want and do share the power. I do not want to tell, I want to influence others so that they strongly develop their own philosophies, practices and pedagogies.


Bush, Tony, Les Bell, and David Middlewood. The Principles Of Educational Leadership And Management. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2010. Print.

Crawford, Megan. Getting To The Heart Of Leadership. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2009. Print.

Hargreaves, Andy, and Michael Fullan. Professional Capital. New York: Teachers College Press, 2012. Print.

Robertson, Jan, and Helen Timperley. Leadership And Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2011. Print.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why I Blog & Those Legendary Bloggers and Educators that helped

Edblognz Connected Educator Week 1 Challenge 2

Write a blog post about why you blog professionally and some of the things you blog about.Write about some legendary bloggers, educators, inspiring leaders that help you to dream bigger.

I don’t think of myself as a blogging legend. I go in phases of big bursts of blogs, and then breaks when everything else takes priority for a while, so I think casual blogger fits the bill nicely. But as I was away, and “unplugged” for the first week of the blogging challenges I thought I’d combine the casual and legend challenge 2 together to catch up! 

In 2013 I began following and reading- with some envy, but also with huge professional interest, admiration and agreement the journey of Maurie and his team at Hobsonville Point Secondary School as they prepared to take in their first intake of learners. Starting with Maurie and Claire and their blogs, and then moving onto the blogs of now well known educators like Sally and Steve as the school began employing more people. I still avidly read anything they all write. They are the blogs I subscribe to, so if I happen to miss the tweet about them, they come into my email anyway.  (@maurieabraham, @ClaireAmosNZ et al)

I spent a bit of time talking to Lesley- the Principal at Amesbury in Wellington and she encouraged me to start blogging and tweeting about what was happening at TKAS. I think all of us need someone like Lesley- someone you respect as an educator, who encourages you and affirms for you that your story is worth sharing. (@LMurrihy)

By 2013 we had spent three years starting up a new school, but one with a difference in that we had all our students (and more than expected) on Day 1, and we were still on a temporary site while our new buildings were being built.
So new school, but old buildings, older resources, and a full school with not enough staffing.
We are a rural area school and we cater for some learners who are vulnerable and have not always been best served by the systems- nation-wide as well as educational.

For me I wanted to share the story of the learning happening at TKAS, and particularly to share the stories around my thinking that its not just privileged learners in new Decile 10 growth corridor communities that new and different learning programmes are good for.  They are also necessary, and in fact maybe vital for the learners in more vulnerable communities. In short I wanted to ensure the Decile 1 story is shared alongside the Decile 10 stories. 
Sam Gibson has recently begun sharing about the journeys at Tapawera High School and it’s great to have another low decile secondary voice out there sharing similar kinds of stories. (@samgibson1983)

I also thought that although new schools tend to be in larger urban areas, different kinds of learning programmes can work in rural schools as well. In fact as I have become more involved with the area schools network over the last few years, my common catchphrase is area schools are some of he best situated to be making some of the transformative changes in learning programmes being talked about today.

Lots of people have written over the last week about how blogging helped them to put their thinking together. How it helps them to reflect and find a way forward. And I absolutely agree. Reflective practice a great outcome of blogging.

But I also blog to share. Living, learning and leading in an isolated part of the country the power of online communication allows us to share our story and the learning we are doing alongside our learners in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 10-20 years ago.

And through blogs, and then twitter I have made so many more connections than I’ve had- even when teaching in a major city. I’m definitely  little addicted to Twitter and the Blog links that get published on there. There’s something a little bit magic about reading other peoples blogs- it allows you inside their minds, and it allows you to connect at a different level than a twitter chat does- both really valuable connection tools. I think we get the most out of combining the magic of both.

It hasn't always been easy, and I struggled with the way to write things at times, because you re always aware that what you re writing is going out into the public domain. And you are always plagued by thoughts of why would anyone want to read this? As well as have I written this in an understandable way that is engaging for the reader? There were certainly drafts that were respectfully critiqued by educators that I respect and re edited a number of times. There were others that didn’t ever make it to publish stage. But that all helped develop more of an idea about how to write for a blog and keep it useful for myself, and for anyone who might be interested in reading it. As I began post graduate study this year I have noticed a massive increase in my confidence to write in an academic setting- and i think thats partly due to all the blog writing of the last couple of years.

So anyone thinking about starting blogging- go for it. It helps you reflect, it helps you develop a writing style and it shares a story and some thinking that someone somewhere is probably also thinking about it. 

You learn you are not alone. Because blogging definitely helps you connect with the wider education world.