Innovators are not necessarily change-makers…but they can be.

When change is introduced as an idea, early adopters are happy to dive in and run with it.

Not everyone is an early adopter.
Some people prefer to have more time to think it over and preempt problems and find possible solutions.
Some people fear change and resist.
Some people can’t decide and can sit on the fence for ages until pushed.
Some people jump on board once it’s up and running successfully.

Sometimes the people driving the change are not the people implementing the change. The danger here is that drivers can get so caught up in their idea and believe so passionately in it’s success that they can be pushy about implementing it ASAP. Let’s remember to hear the the voices of the people involved and trust them to let us know when they are ready.

Change has more chance of being implemented successfully when the people doing it feel a degree of confidence and set up for success.

We are fortunate to work in a truly inspirational learning environment and we value our learning principles. Everything we consider is for the benefit of learning. Teachers feeling like they have not been set up for success when introducing a change can therefore be counter productive and increase resistance to future changes. If innovators want change to happen, we need to listen to the people who make the change happen in the classroom. The people involved also need to genuinely feel safe to voice their reservations and their decisions respected. Then change can happen more readily.

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Managing the tipping point (part 2) without losing sight of what’s important…

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It gives me great pleasure to support our curriculum leaders and teachers to achieve our goal of “Using data to inform teaching and enhance learning”. Our latest PD looked at ways to gather data using the “now literacies” of twitter, back channeling and blogs, to name a few. Our curriculum leaders are big ideas people and know other big ideas people so our PD was of exceptional quality. Thanks, @whatedsaid and @langwitches. Each teacher will have got something out of the sessions- depending on their entry point. And based on their responses over the week, I feel they will be able to take the next steps through the sharing and collaboration process that has started to happen from this PD. But more so if leaders in our school manage the tipping point by looking out for and recognising the signs. Even better would be to avoid going over the tipping point altogether by giving the time needed.

I feel that teachers now need time to process and practice what they have learned in this recent PD where for some a big shift in their thinking has started. In our various leadership roles we now need to give teachers the time, space and support to do so without tipping the scales to the point where they feel overwhelmed and stressed and stretched too thin. Sam Sherrat (and others) have stressed the practise of giving time to the things we value. We have got much better at this at our school, but sometimes we can get so enthusiastically caught up in what’s happening that we lose sight of the what else is happening for our teachers. The last two weeks of term are going to be super busy with annual school events in addition to the regular meaningful stuff that needs to get done.

Looking ahead what does our time budget need to allow for?:
*Next term there are Parent Teacher Conference nights at the start of term.
*We are also introducing a new report format to all and this needs some facilitation.
*And we are in the final step of shifting to creating digital portfolios for and of student learning, which for some teachers means big changes.
*Every unit in maths and units of inquiry is new to our new teachers and our inquiry pedagogy is brand new to some.
*Each year level team has at least one new staff member and so are still adjusting to the new dynamics that come with that.
*In addition, teachers are supporting the social and emotional well-being of their students and needing to communicate with parents and do the usual daily essentials.
*In their efforts to lead balanced lives we encourage our teachers to look after their own well-being and our Learning Team Leaders to also look out for their teams’ well-being.

This week I felt it was timely to remind our leaders that if we create the time for ongoing discussions and sharing, more people will be more inclined to take action and embed great practise as a result.

How can we create time to maintain the momentum started in our PD?
*Maybe LTLs can set aside 10 minutes regularly for reading and maybe leaving a comment on our shared teachers “Pictures of Practice” blog or http://www.langwitches.org/blog or whatedsaid.wordpress.com or any other blog teachers have found relevant and engaging.
*I could set aside times in a morning briefing for teachers to briefly share the next step in their journey or a blogpost they have read which has influenced their practice.
*The “now literacies” and the skills needed for embedding them in our teaching and learning practise could be revisited in future PD sessions.
*I welcome more suggestions.

Our teachers want to be the best they can be but we need to set them up for success. By the end of last week some felt close to their tipping point. Excited but also pressured. Tension is good but too much and it can become counter productive.

What ways do you have for managing the tipping point and creating time for your teachers?

Managing the tipping point (part 1) without losing sight of what’s important…

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The end of Term 1 is nearing and there is a lot happening for our teachers. All teachers are time poor. Managing the tipping point between flourishing and being overwhelmed is tricky because the tipping point is different for everyone. Sometimes the timing of priorities collide and this can tip the scales. We reached this point late this week and I ended up going against my better judgement in an effort to keep the scales balanced. I realised immediately that although I was keeping the scales balanced, it would only be a short term gain. The cost could end up being too high for some teachers and in my role, I need to ensure this is not the case where possible.

Let me set the scene…

This week our teachers have been immersed in professional learning under the guidance of Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches), a visiting expert. It’s been an inspirational few days and a busy time too as teachers have moved between teaching, meetings, professional development and wanting to implement their learning, blogging, duties, enrichment activities, replying to emails, etc. The tension has in fact been building over the last couple of weeks. By mid week, I realised (as did others) that the tipping point had been reached for some and was drawing nearer for others. I wondered what I could do to support teachers without disempowering them. In briefing on Thursday (and in one on one conversations with a few teachers), I expressed my understanding of the additional time pressure they are all under at the moment. I offered to teach their classes to free up time for them to communicate with their students’ parents and catch up on other professional responsibilities without feeling they were losing teaching and learning time with their students.

This was well received by some. A few felt this was placing additional pressure on them to fit this all in before the end of term.

Later on Thursday, I followed my Deputy Principal’s advice (who, in turn, recognised that some teachers were feeling overwhelmed) and I sent an email explaining that teachers do not need to contact all parents and to use their discretion as to who needs to be called. This did not sit comfortably with me and (as I explained to our Deputy Principal later:-)) I should not have done this as this is not setting teachers up for success in their ongoing relationship with all parents. He agreed with me. Following two separate conversations re this matter with parents on Friday (one was sharing how happy she was with her child’s teacher’s communication and the other was voicing exactly the opposite as she had not heard directly from her child’s General Studies teacher since Parent Orientation night) I decided it was in our best interests to explain why it is to their benefit to contact all parents this term. I did this via email to ensure clear communication to all concerned and time for teachers to process its content.

I reminded them of the following in what I hope is perceived as a supportive tone: Contacting all parents in our home class and number classes once (unless needs require more contact) every term is an expectation and something we do practise in our primary school. Parents expect to find out how their child has transitioned from one year level to another or one number group to another- they want to know if their child is happy and is learning. Parents want to know that their child’s class teacher cares about and understands the needs of their child. This is a reasonable expectation. Making contact via a phone call or email once a term, evidence shows, is positively received and goes a long way to earning parents’ trust and respect. This will also set teachers up for positive interactions with parents at school events and long term.

I do also know from experience that some phone calls can go on for a while and sometimes the teachers and parents end up playing phone tennis before successful contact is even made. This is time consuming. In addition, I recognise that during the previous two weeks all teachers have been time poor due to ongoing professional development, excursions, duties, enrichment, achrayim responsibilities, learning to use your MacBooks, setting up class blogs, planning, etc. The next two weeks is also going to be busy with seders, galas, PD and planning. I am genuinely happy to teach their classes to free them up to make their phone calls without worrying about losing teaching/learning time with their students. I have also offered to cover their duties or enrichment activity where possible. This is something I am willing to do throughout the year.

I apologised for sending mixed messages re. communication with parents.

One teacher contacted me within the hour to make arrangements for me to teach her class on Monday morning.

Prioritising – another way to create time…

In regards to our monthly newsletter requirement, I decided that in an eight week term, and taking into consideration all of the above, there is no time to send out a second newsletter at the end of this term as writing these and inserting photographs takes hours. In the same email I have simply asked teachers to ensure they have sent out one newsletter this term.

I do genuinely appreciate everything our teachers do and have huge respect for what they accomplish every day, week, month and year. I have not forgotten what it’s like.

What ways do you have for managing the tipping point and creating time for your teachers?

Finding my (blogging) voice again…

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For a variety of reasons I won’t go into here, I lost my blogging voice for a while. Our recent professional development on the “now literacies” facilitated by Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches) reinvigorated my belief in the benefits of blogging for me. And the benefits of sharing my learning with others and inviting feedback. For the last two months I have created part and whole blog posts without posting them. Having experienced how valuable blog posts can be for my own learning through the writing process itself and from comments others may leave, I feel energised to post again. Blogging is a way to document for learning – my learning, my students’ learning and anyone who reads my posts. Reading other people’s blogs is informative, sometimes intimidating or infuriating and often inspiring. Putting my thoughts out there for others to ponder, debate (or ignore) is a way to contribute. I grew up in a culture where my role was to be that of a traditional consumer of information. Times have changed and are changing. Our students are growing up in a culture where they are producers and contributors and we need to embrace this change too- as Silvia Tolisano pointed out to us repeatedly. While participating in the PD, I felt empowered to write again. I also feel grateful to other bloggers who produce and contribute. How can I read and consume their contributions without giving back every now and then? SO I am going to leave comments on their blog posts and I’m going to post again. I might even finish a couple of my unfinished posts and post them. How about you?

Valuing your staff and investing in their well-being.

Tonight is our Staff Association Gala Dinner and I, for one, am really looking forward to the opportunity to socialise, relax, laugh, (hopefully dance) and enjoy great food and the company of my dedicated colleagues. Opportunities to do this are scarce in the working week as everyone is focused on teaching, learning and well-being which makes us all incredibly busy.

At Scopus I admire the effort leaders make to let their staff know their commitment to teaching, learning and student well-being is greatly appreciated. This appreciation is also expressed by teachers towards leaders and teachers towards teachers. Valuing each other is one of the key factors which makes our school the caring and supportive environment that it is. This appreciation is demonstrated in different ways by different individuals and groups.

Our Learning Team Leaders
notice and acknowledge the efforts of the members of their team
make an effort to create a collegial, caring, inclusive atmosphere where every individual’s strengths are utilised and needs are considered
create opportunities for and encourage people to share what they are learning
take an interest in what’s happening and notice peoples’ efforts
and more.

Our Curriculum Leaders:
publicly (and privately) commend people’s efforts to innovate and implement good practice via emails, discussions at meetings, blogs, twitter, sharing people’s efforts at professional development and professional chat groups, over a coffee, learning groups
create opportunities for and encourage people to share what they are learning
take an interest in what’s happening and notice peoples’ efforts
are reflective and innovative and always looking to enhance learning
give people the freedom to innovate and implement change,
and more.

Our Deputy Principal of Primary:
privately and publicly acknowledges people and their achievements,
allocates money to make fresh fruit available every day and a weekly winter lunch of soup and baguette,
generously makes it possible for teachers to plan collaboratively in school time and participate in professional development before and during school time
takes an interest in what’s happening and notices peoples’ efforts
is reflective and innovative and always looking for ways to support his staff
gives people the freedom to innovate and implement change,
and more.

Our Staff Association also invests in staff wellbeing by:
negotiating best work place agreements
ensuring fair treatment for all its members
providing free advice for members and non-members
conducting surveys to stay informed and give each staff member a voice
taking action on issues
organising social events such as massages, bowling, BBQs, breakfasts and, this year, a Gala dinner,
and more.

Our College values the efforts of all staff and shows this by:
acknowledging and rewarding years of service,
contributing money to social events like our Gala dinner, BBQs and brunches
meeting regularly with Staff Association members and adopting proposals considered to benefit teaching and learning
generously investing in professional development for all staff
giving staff the freedom to choose professional development that best meets their goals, needs and interests
generously investing in resources to enhance teaching and learning including iPads for each teacher
creating “Personal Necessity Leave” – especially created so staff can attend to personal needs
and more.

Our teachers:
notice and acknowledge the efforts their colleagues, leaders and admin staff go to to make our school a welcoming, inspiring and enjoyable place to work
and more.

Who wouldn’t want to work here!