Sunday, 28 June 2015

Are you willing to create disturbance and be disturbed? Reflections via @MelAinscow

Are you willing to create disturbance and be disturbed yourself ? This challenge to educators by Professor Mel Ainscow, turns those gentle ripples alluded to in my sabbatical video into waves. Ainscow calls it the "trickle effect".
Message from sabbatical video. You can access the 4 minute video here.
What captured my attention and drew me to register for a seminar at the University of Otago, entitled Moving Knowledge Around: A strategy for fostering equity in education by Professor Mel Ainscow CBE, University of Manchester, UK ?

On reflection it was the promotional material about Ainscow's latest book that ignited my curiosity. Renowned educators Hargraves and Fullan were both quoted as recommending this "..extraordinarily powerful book'' (Hargraves) "..that captures with great clarity how to lead change.." (Fullan).
Towards self-improving school systems presents a strategic framework that can help to foster new, more fruitful working relationships: between national and local government; within and between schools; and between schools and their local communities. What is distinctive in the approach is that this is mainly led from within schools, with senior staff having a central role as system leaders.

Two points that truly resonated with me were:
1. Self - improving school systems - this is a particular passion of mine. How can we keep our finger on the pulse and continually improve and offer a high quality of education ?
2. Led from within schools, with senior staff having a central role as system leaders - what can we learn from the success of the Greater Manchester Challenge ( an initiative to improve educational outcomes 2007-2011) ?

In addition to this, having been a principal for almost eight years and now studying leadership at master's level, I find that I am continually exploring a wider, strategic view around ways to initiate positive educational change not only within but beyond our school system.

Here is my interpretation of some of the key points from Ainscow's succinct and thought provoking seminar :
  • We need to be willing to disturb and be disturbed - to make people stop and think aloud, talk and innovate at all levels. Use difference to challenge and stimulate reflection that can grow practice for teachers and leaders.
  • "Moving the knowledge around" within, between and beyond schools leads to equity of success for all involved. The "knowledge" refers to expertise of existing human resources. It's about making better use of "untapped potential".
  • The key to the Manchester success story was the effective matching up of schools. When these partnerships worked, they were mutually beneficial. Sharing stimulated experimentation and new ways of working.
  • Slide attributed to Ainscow
  • Humankind has much to gain from drawing on the immense cultural, religious and linguistic diversity within schools.
  • Effective collaboration uses a range of data as a stimulus. Such evidence brings a critical dimension to the table that can be used to challenge expectations. "Numbers are dead and only come to life when you talk about them and ask questions. So what next?"
  • We need to make space and allow time for family and community groups "beyond the school" to be involved. They are all invested in educational success.
  • Sustainability. How do we stop things fading once the initiative and the funding finishes? An entity "by schools for schools" was set up and is internally driven by school leaders.
  • A bottom up movement gained momentum and traction with local authorities enabling and facilitating rather than commanding and controlling.
  • Children's zones based on the Harlem's Children's Zone  help improve the lives and education of children in disadvantaged areas.
  • Allow time for teachers to observe one another and reflect and stimulate talk on their practice. The Lesson Study method from Japan is very powerful and pays off for the children. Build on the latent expertise in the staffroom.
  • Involve the voice of learners. What is it like to be a learner in this class, in this school ?
So much is "technically simple but socially complex" - find the best people and get on with it. Ainscow concluded by stating, "The most important factor is the collaborative will to make it happen".

What have we achieved in North Otago in relation to some of the features of Ainscow's model ?

We have made elements of this happen through the Whitestone LCN (Learning and Change Network). You can learn more about the power of collaborative practice from this video about the nature and value of learning and change networks for engagement in deep learning for success.

We firmly believe that the LCN is the catalyst for the energising learning communities that abound in our Whitestone schools. We are living proof that school environments and communities, steeped in tradition can evolve into authentic student led entities that are open to embracing motivational forward thinking learning and change.This passion must exist to drive the network forward and sustain future growth and innovation. You can learn more by watching this prezi below.

Yet..there is still so much more that we can do.

I have ordered Ainscow's book and look forward to learning about how to contribute to fostering equity in education locally, nationally and globally.
I am willing to create disturbance and to be disturbed. Are you ?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Transition : Time for our graduates to speak to their future high school teachers

Staff and students from schools in our Whitestone Learning and Change Network came together to watch this prezi. This prezi encompasses the learning and change that has taken place in the schools during the past two years. It is a celebration of the innovative learning and development that has featured at all of our schools. 

Then the Year 8 students from Weston school and St Joseph's school shared a slideshow that they had prepared with the high school staff. The students from both schools collaborated on a google slide show and adapted it to reflect their learning needs and their school cultures. The idea was to reflect on what worked well for their learning at primary school and share that with the high school staff. Here is our St Joseph's school presentation. The students collaborated on the design, images and text used.

Year 8 students, Trish and Mannix, can be seen sharing their learning in this video with high school teachers. The high school teachers asked them questions and spoke about learning (the way they do things) at high school.

Principal of St Kevin's College, Paul Olsen, reflects and sums up the messages from the Year 8 students and what this means for transition to high school.

Here are all of the students who bravely shared their learning to the Whitestone Learning and Change network.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Are you aspiring to be authentic teachers and leaders ?

Authenticity is something we should all be aspiring towards. It is summed up very well in this leadership definition from

How do we promote openness in our workplace and build honest relationships with everyone we are connected too ?
I was privileged to be able to present a seminar with Lorraine Francis Rees (Principal of St Joseph's, Pleasant Point) at the recent Catholic Convention in Wellington. Although the presentation is based around authentic Catholic leadership, much of the content is applicable to all teachers and leaders aspiring towards authenticity.
Lorraine and I planned the synopses for the presentation in 2014 when Lorraine was Deputy Principal at our school in Oamaru. 

Lorraine started her her new principalship eight weeks ago. Yet we still managed to make time to meet and prepare our presentation. Special thanks to Anne Pratt, the principal of St Patrick's school, Waimate (half way between Oamaru and Pleasant Point) for letting us use her office for one of our planning sessions.
Initially sixty-five people had registered to attend our seminar. On the day, our venue filled to about one hundred attendees.
Here is the google presentation. Just click on the arrows and you should be able to view the slides. There are some You Tube videos embedded as well. 
This presentation encompasses as much as we could fit within our sixty minute timeframe. It is just a taster of what happens at St Joseph's in Oamaru. For those of you wanting more detail, I have shared my notes from a selection of the slides below.

Slide 1: Aspiring towards authentic Catholic leadership. This presentation brings together our understandings based on our practice and studies as leaders in our Catholic system focussed on Christ centred growth. Our studies have made us reflect deeply on our authenticity as leaders in Catholic schools. Pope Francis says,“I am a living mission”, so are we. We are Jesus’ hands, mouths and feet in our Catholic schools. We must WALK the TALK and bring the scripture to life through our everyday actions and relationships.
Good  leaders helps build vibrant faith communities that help build the Kingdom of God by using Jesus as the ultimate model of leadership.
Slide 2:
It's our responsibility to keep Christ at the centre, we need to hold on to the Holy Spirit that is within our hearts. As Catholic leaders we work within the framework of :
Bible - Message from Vatican synod 2008…Bring the joy of the gospel into the lives of families.….so that parents and children read it, pray with it….listen with love and faith.
Handbook for Catholic Integrated Schools - our legal requirements and integration agreements.
Catholic Review Indicators - “...that the Catholic character is protected and promoted” - continual self-review (eg. refers to restorative practices for behavioural management ).
The Catholic Education of School Age Children - The introduction from the bishops “indispensable reference point… highlights challenges for all of us...".
No-one else in our schools will be checking these documents - it is our responsibility as leaders to bring them to life and work within their framework, keeping Christ at the centre.
Slide 3:
We must also have a 'growth mindset' towards our Catholicity and develop our theological knowledge and spiritual leadership skills
We have high expectations of success for our learners, we must be role models and set the same high standards for ourselves as part of our commitment as educators in Catholic schools.
This requires strong Catholic leadership and is especially challenging when New Zealand is one of the most secular countries in the world. A vital part of a Catholic principal’s ministry is to ensure that there are potentially qualified future Catholic leaders nurtured in an environment that truly reflects the church’s mission (Swanson, 2012).
Slide 4 - 8 Images of Jesus the perfect role model for aspiring leaders.
Slide 9:
Active evangelisation is the essence of what we are called to do, as an “out-reaching church”. It is a sacred responsibility explicit in the purpose of our Catholic Schools. It is a task that is both richly rewarding and demanding. It is about “planting seeds”, recognising opportunities, nurturing possibilities, transforming lives, rekindling fervour and the privilege of “walking with” as we each journey in our human quest for wholeness.
In the day to day today busyness and business, we must come back to our Christ-centred framework. We must continually push ourselves out of our comfort zones within our faith.
Make a sacred space, create the silence to let go and let God in.
Slide 10:
We need to “connect to the minds, hearts and souls (spirits) of others” (Duignan, 2008).  
Walking into school in week eleven of a term after a ten week sabbatical, I connected with the end of term tiredness, stress and busyness. It was time to calm the seas. I gave staff a sabbatical space from all meetings in Term 2, 2014. I wanted staff to feel the passion, enthusiasm, engagement and creativity that I discovered during my sabbatical. I wanted to expose the gifts and talents of students, staff and whanau. Allowing space and time for these to flourish, lead to innovation.
Lorraine wrote in an article we published in the Aoraki magazine, “From what has happened on our sabbatical so far, the religious sense of creating a holy space for renewal is now so much stronger. Not only have we rested but it feels like we have re-connected with our source – God, the Holy Spirit, inspiring us”.
Slide 11:
Our charter curriculum goal developed from every child in 2011 to encompass every learner (staff and parents) in 2012 and included engagement in DEEP learning (2014) as well as a reminder to embrace our Catholic Faith (2015). We need to live our vision. How do we bring deep engagement in learning alive through Religious Education (RE) and our Catholic 
faith ?

Slides 12-14: Student driven open-ended curriculum, effective pedagogy and SOLO taxonomy used in RE.
Slide 15:
Going OPEN - We are open to sharing with other schools. This is a way for outreach. I learnt about going open during my sabbatical through reading "Open, how we will work, live and learn in the future" by David Price. I have written several reviews of chapters from this book on my blog. We are OPEN. There is total transparency with no hidden agendas. This enables us to reach out and connect with the school and wider community. We model transparency through our own actions as leaders with our own blogs, videos and prezis. If we expect our students to engage in these modes of learning then we must be prepared to do the same. We connect with our community in ways that reflect our goal to engage in deep learning for success.
Slide 16:
The teaching and learning site is our one stop public teaching and learning site. Everyone has access to everything connected to learning at St Joseph's. We are truly open. Teachers have their weekly planning on the site by 5pm on a Sunday ready for the new week. Families can access weekly goals and prepare for the week.

Slide 21:
We are also OPEN to our own personal faith development. We created a sacred space for personal and spiritual growth and development. In Term 2, 2015 in response to staff study needs we postponed staff meetings. We gave staff time to work on their RE study papers as well as gave them RE Study Time (REST). They have one day release per paper to enable quality time towards completing their assessment and to recognise their existing workload. We must continually push ourselves out of our comfort zones within our own faith development. "Good leadership develops and transforms those who are being led " (Swanson 2012).
Slide 22: Images of inclusivity. Slide 23: Parish Involvement
Slide 24: Learner agency - students and staff designed engaging learning spaces. Family Learning huis - families are immersed in an informal, social environment to engage with modern learning practices.
Slide 25: Images of an authentic leader in action today - Pope Francis. Acknowledgement goes to Christopher M. Branson, Professor of Educational Leadership Faculty of Education University of Waikato Hamilton New Zealand for use of these images from EDLE 641 Values and Leadership.
Slide 26: Final slide was a reflection - John 15:12-17 Love one another as I love you.
Extra slides-
Slides 27-31: Links to SOLO, e-learning, inquiry links modern pedagogy and RE
Slide 32:

A video that explains how the students have agency and collaborate. This was part of a presentation by the Year 8 students to St Kevin's College high school staff.

Slide 33: Links to parent education and agency examples. A video sharing engagement in deep learning as students share their learning with the community.

Authentic leaders create transparent, trusting environments where everyone is supported to share their gifts and talents and shine. 
In our Catholic schools, this happens within the sacred space of an agentic, inclusive and collaborative culture with Christ at the centre of all that we do.