Thursday, 29 January 2015

It started as a little Tweet: Staff Well Being Bags

Here in New Zealand, we have just come to the end of our six week holiday break. Our new school year begins on Monday and we are raring to go ! Our staff have worked overtime in their holidays creatively preparing modified learning spaces within our traditional school building. Several years spent focusing on quality teaching practices and engaging our students in deep learning for success have culminated in our new collaborative learning hubs. These hubs reflect the passion, creativity, imagination and agency of our students and staff and we can't wait to see them come alive on Monday !!!

As well as redesigning my workspace in the holidays, I spent nine days studying two master's papers in Wellington. One of the papers, 'Values and Leadership' was  taught by Professor @Cbransonwaikato and we learnt about Transrelational Leadership
"The transrelational leader is someone who encourages understanding and empathy amongst others. These leaders create opportunities for people to work together harmoniously and encourage and celebrate people's differences."  (From the University of Waikato website)

While I was studying I was drawn to a link to a Tweet (below) by @abbiemann1982 sharing staff well-being bags. They fitted in so well with the 'relational' theme that I was motivated to recreate these bags for our staff. I retweeted this link on Twitter and there was a flurry of Tweets from our Twitter community. Since then, Abigail Mann has shared an excellent blogpost about her bags on @pedagoo. I committed to making these bags online to our global Twitter community who all asked to see the finished product. Thus my determination to make the bags a reality and to share the experience.

After this, I tweeted from Wellington to one of our wonderful Assistant Principals @sburke7 who had created something similar a few years ago for our teachers. We agreed that it would be an ideal start of the year koha (Maori for gift from the heart ) for our valued team of hardworking staff. We created a google doc and collaboratively shared ideas for the contents of our bags based on @abbiemann1982  and others (@sburke7 has a whole pinterest board devoted to well being bags !). 
Some of the ideas on our google doc
Then we arranged to meet to go shopping for the goodies and returned laden with our wares.
We spent several hours putting the bags together. We recognise that the time we spend focusing on building and maintaining quality relationships can have no limit. We wanted to include reference to our school and staff values as well as our Catholic special character and at the same time include other treasures for the staff.

It's interesting to see how every school reflects their identity in the presentation and make up of their well being bags. I love the NZ flavour (Peanut slabs and mallow puffs) of the Family Me-We bags from @THE0BALD Holy Family School, Wellington. Well done Chris. Very impressive.

We  enjoyed creating our St Joseph's well being bags. 
@sburke7 and @jennyljackson at work putting the bags together.
 @LorraineFRees joined our production line and helped to fill the bags as well. 

Finally they were ready.

Here is the list that explains the contents of our bags:

Thanks to our vibrant, enthusiastic, creative and energetic staff who have worked hard to rearrange learning and working spaces for the new school year. 
  • Staff Values - to remember that we are supportive colleagues who value each other and the unique gifts and talents we bring to our school whanau 
  • Sticky notes- to record those brilliant ideas that sometimes come in the middle of the night. 
  • Crayon- to brighten your day and make a mark on our world.
  • Glue stick- to remind you to stick to your guns 
  • Permanent Marker - to remind you that the smallest things you do can have a lifelong impact on our children Highlighter - to highlight your gifts and talents 
  • Paper clip - to help hold it all together 
  • Rubber band - to remind you how flexible you are 
  • Blue Tack - to remind you to stick at it, even when it seems impossible 
  • Eraser - to remind you that it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.
  •  ANZAC Oaty Slice - to munch on and remember our NZ/Aussie comrades who stood up for what was right during our 100 year celebrations. 
  • Chocolate Button Smarties - to remind you how smart you are and how much you have to contribute Milky Way chocolate bar - to remind you to Reach for the Stars in all that you do 
  • Tissue - to wipe away the sweat and for wiping tears of joy when that child amazes you and themselves with their ideas and success
  •  Water - to sip and remind you to always look at life through a half full bottle (of water !) 
  • Candle - to remind you that you are a shining light in our children’s lives
  • Match - to light your fire when feeling burnt out 
  • $5 Bean cafe voucher - to use when you need a caffeine fix 
  • Prayer- for reflective times and to celebrate our Dominican Charism and share the reason we are here with the children.
  •  Enjoy 2015 and know that we are all here for each other.

It was well worth the love and time that went into our well being bags when we felt and shared the laughter, joy and thanksgiving that they brought to our sensational staff.
Have you tried these in your workplace?

A little Tweet goes a long way.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Are you ready for the new school year ? 5 key reminders

In 2014, we began to share our learning, news and events digitally.  Our blogs became a feature for learners, families and interested visitors from all over the world.

Miss Tangney and her class received over 15,000 views alone.

 We became engaged, motivated writers when we understood that there was an authentic audience interested in our news and views. This was one of the many ways that we began to bring alive our school wide goal ' To engage every student in deep learning for success'.

This year my traditional welcome letter has been flipped into a blog. Why? Since returning from my sabbatical at the end of Term 1 last year, blogging has become a reflective pastime for me. I have been able to share our school wide learning and change as well as my own leadership developments and practices. I have been motivated and inspired by comments and feedback and plan to continue to reflect and share further learning and growth in 2015.

Here are 5 key reminders for the new school year:

1. School starts back on Monday 2nd February. The uniform shop will be open on Friday 30th January from 11:30-2:00 pm and Monday 2nd February from 8:30-9:30.

2. Our hardworking staff have been very busy preparing the new learning hubs. Here is a sneak preview of some of the spaces around the school including our new community meeting space. It's still work in progress but we will be ready to go on Monday. Here is a reminder about the learning changes and developments for parents.

3. The dedicated 2015 'Teaching and Learning Site' will go live this coming weekend. This is where everyone will be able to access all learning information including important links. Special thanks to Mrs Frances-Rees for developing this site for us. All of us are now using it on a daily basis to make our teaching and learning transparent.

4. On Thursday 5th February there will be a welcome back liturgy followed by the presentation of badges to our Year 8 leaders at 2:15pm in St Patrick's Basilica. All parents and friends are welcome to join us.

5. Please contact us if you have any questions, worries or concerns by emailing or jjackson or by ringing 03 4348856
Please like us on our school Facebook page St Joseph's Oamaru, Twitter @stjoesoamaru and Instagram #Stjoesoamaru You can also check up on any information on our newsblog or school website

We look forward to welcoming you all back to St Joseph's for the 2015 school year as we continue to Reach for the Stars as Lifelong Learners in the Catholic Faith.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Out with the desk: changing the principal's office into a collaborative meeting hub

This was the introduction to a recent post about supporting parents through school wide learning and changeIn 2015 every teacher at St Joseph's will teach in partnership with one or more teachers in collaborative learning hubs. Teaching and learning across the school from Year One to Year Eight will go live and be fully accessible to everyone inside and outside the school via a dedicated teaching and learning site.

What does this mean for me as a leader? 
While the staff are frantically rearranging and redesigning learning spaces preparing for the new school year, I have been proactively revamping my traditional principal's office.

First action - OUT WITH DESK !!
I have never felt comfortable talking to anyone including students from behind a desk. I have always made a point of coming forward and standing beside or sitting with a visitor at a meeting table. While I was teaching at the De Blijberg Jenaplan School in Rotterdam in the 90's, I learnt to sit alongside learners. We would create a morning sharing circle 'cring' with our chairs rather than the archetypal junior classroom practice of the teacher on a chair talking to the students on the floor.
The Jenaplan schools operate according to 20 basic principles with the first being that each human being is unique. Therefore, each child and each adult has an irreplaceable value and a special dignity .

I also recall several years ago as a first time principal, my eagerness to visit and learn from an experienced principal. Unfortunately my enthusiasm was dampened before we even met. First of all, I was asked to wait for quite some time in the visitor's part of the office. This is understandable in the life of a 'busy' principal. Then I was invited into the principal's office to sit on a very small chair some distance from the principal who proceeded to speak to me from behind a very large desk. I felt disconnected and disesteemed. Needless to say, I went away feeling disillusioned yet determined to ensure I didn't duplicate that experience for any of my future visitors. 

Fast forward to 2014 when I arranged to visit @MarkMoorhouseMM principal of  Rochdale, United Kingdom. Mark took time out of his busy day to sit alongside me and share some of the inspirational practices happening at Matthew Moss High School. It was a sheer pleasure to travel to the other side of the world and be treated like royalty. I am still sharing my learning from this visit.

What has all of this got to do with removing my office desk? As a leader, I need to be a role model for my team. Part of our school wide change for 2015 means that we are moving away from single cell teaching spaces to team teaching learning hubs. Inspired by @DavidPriceOBE author of the powerful book  OPEN: How we'll work, live and learn in the future, we will become a much more open and collaborative school this year. In order to make this happen, we agreed to leave behind symbols of traditional classroom settings in our quest to develop agentic learning spaces. Along with other environmental changes, teacher's desks will be removed from learning spaces in order to create equally shared spaces - no individual student's desks, therefore no teacher's desk!

I have now decluttered and depersonalized my conventional principal's office and aim for it to be a creative, collaborative meeting hub for all learners: staff, parents and students. This means that I aim to spend more of my time in other learning hubs around the school.
BEFORE: 'Principal's office'  - with desk removed

AFTER: Redesignated 'Collaborative Meeting Hub'
We are about to revisit our job descriptions to reflect our team teaching roles in the new learning hubs. This is also a chance to revisit our role as senior leaders as we redefine our place as educators and leaders in a school culture focused on engagement in deep learning and success in this digital age. As leaders, we also need to ensure that these environments are equally as engaging and empowering for our adult learners too.

Next on the to do list: order a new sign to replace the existing 'principal' sign on the office door.

Have you redefined your office space and your job description? I am interested in learning more from you. Please share your experiences.