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.

Some flames scar and others allow me to bask in their warmth.

Lana often reminds us that “from fire comes light” and I find this reassuring when voicing an opinion that is different to some of the dominant voices. Knowing it’s okay to question and disagree is like having a fire extinguisher on hand when the flames get too fierce. But sometimes I feel burned by that fire and this makes me question my role and my ideas in both positive and negative ways. Sometimes the burn is a first degree and I recover quickly. But some burns are third degree which leave lifelong scars. Some scars have changed me for the better. Some scars have made me feel unsafe around fire.

Some fires are so fast moving they leave little time to prepare and respond, consuming everything in it’s path, from which some never fully recover.
Other fires are slow burning and productive, clearing out the undergrowth, making space for regeneration.

My wonderings this week are:
How do I respond to the flames that give 3rd degree burns?
How do I respond to the toxic smoke that I feel is choking me at times?
Do I distance myself from the fire completely?
How do I develop fire resistant skin?
Am I too sensitive? Should I care less?
What’s my role when the fires are burning?

Some fire-starters think I’m trying to put the fire out. That’s not my intention at all. My instinct is to assess the ferocity of the flames and prevent third degree burns for myself and others. I know sometimes I do bring too big an extinguisher and then I realise the fire is being contained in other ways and put it away.

Some flames scar and others allow me to bask in their warmth.

Giving teacher’s a voice without overloading them – how do leaders do this?

Teachers want to and should be heard – how do leaders do this without overloading teachers with priorities to address? On Thursday morning three people on the Report Committee facilitated a report review session. Reporting is a hot topic that generates many opinions and stress for many teachers and leaders. Reports take a lot of time to write for not so much reward some feel. No format is perfect, parents don’t always appreciate the truth, capturing the essence of a learner in writing is not easy are other observations.At our school we have wanted to improve reporting for a long time and have heard great ideas. But it turns out that our options are limited. At our school, we have got much better at collaborating – so why didn’t we collaborate sooner with teachers? Due to the following, we decided not to hold discussions with all staff to gather input in an organised way (we did get input from a few):

  • The technical system we use to generate reports limits the changes we can make;
  • Our aim is to not make the report writing process even more complicated and time consuming for teachers than it already is;
  • We had already put into practice shifting the focus from work to learning and the learner;
  • Everything we say/write about a student has to be evidence based not opinion;
  • The requirements to use a 5 point A to E scale and include comparative reports are not negotiable.

Furthermore, Term 1 was 8 weeks long and priorities and PD left insufficient time for collaborating about reports. Creating the time and space to give teachers a voice becomes a choice between collaboration and preserving sanity.
With all of the above valid points in mind, we realised as a leadership group, there was not much wriggle room for change and the kinds of changes teachers and leaders were desiring (evidenced from informal discussions with some teachers who feel strongly about reporting), would not be possible to make or would not be practical to implement.

Questions I have been pondering:

  • As a leader, does one try one’s best to avoid pushing teachers over the tipping point by looking out for teachers’ workload and well being or do you consult on everything to ensure everyone has a voice?
  • Realising only minor changes can be made to reports, should leaders do the best job they can under the circumstances without whole school collaboration?
  • Does one consult with a few or all when the timing doesn’t allow further consultation without risking burn out by holding another before school meeting to give teachers a voice, only to tell them their suggestions can’t be taken into consideration?
  • Even with attempting to consciously limit priorities, teachers and leaders feel pressured as there is never enough time to do these justice, so do you add to the priorities so that all stakeholders can have a say?

I remember clearly the feeling of frustration at not being consulted on decisions that directly impacted me as a classroom teacher. I also remember at times realizing afterwards that being included although it would have felt fair, was not going to change the outcome in those instances.

Sometimes it’s not feasible to give everyone a voice. Knowing when to and knowing how to, makes all the difference to the outcome.

Additional questions i have been pondering on include: With our reports it turns out that a total of three changes were made to the report format. Only one of these is a completely new addition. Did this make it worth it to hold a discussion with all staff in Term 1? We thought not. Did we do the right thing in not formally including enough teacher voices in our discussion earlier on? Probably not. Should we have added this to the agenda for year level teams to discuss in their meetings when they already had enough to discuss and decide upon? Definitely but when? Is it too late for teachers to have a voice? No.

Following our report review session with teachers, the three facilitators of the Report Review session met and debriefed. We analysed concerns teachers raised and figured out what our next steps could be.

A summary of all the points teachers made was sent to Learning Team Leaders to review and add to in preparation for their weekly meeting with the Director of Teaching and Learning. At the meeting potential issues were debated, team leaders were given a voice and next steps were decided. They felt they should have been consulted sooner. Certain aspects of the report will be taken back to their team. They will then be the voice for their team at the next LTL meeting and be a part of the decision to include or exclude the proposed new addition.

The second biggest issue to come out of the review session was teachers feel that the changes (introduced three years ago but implemented across the school at the end of last year) makes some comments feel generic and that their writers voice has been lost. We have heard you and as a moderator/ editor I make a commitment to you to do my best to preserve your writers’ voice should I suggest any changes to your comments.

One solution we have tried to ensure teachers voices are heard is to collaborate with Learning Team Leaders on what our priorities should be for the term and year ahead. Somehow reports were left off the list of priorities.
We robbed teachers of their voices – this brings me back to my original question: how else could one ensure teachers have a voice when there are already enough priorities on the agenda and PD schedule?

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?

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?

A creative way for my learners to reflect…

On Thursday, we had our last lesson in our number groups. I wanted to find a fresh, creative and purposeful way to get my students to reflect upon themselves as math learners – what had they learned about themselves in the context of learners in our number lessons? So I asked my students to make a prop that they thought represented themselves as learners in our number lessons. I asked them to explain why they created their particular prop and what it said about them.

Something quite simple turned out to be informative and fun. This turned out to be a great way to reflect.

And a great way to end out year together.

The impact of choosing the right images for a provocation!

I, see, think, feel and wonder...

I, see, think, feel and wonder…

provocation 3

My thinking…
When looking for images for our opening provocation for our unit, it occurred to me that the images we had used in our previous unit’s opening provocation were not as successful in provoking deep thinking. This time round I suggested to my team that we purposefully include images and info-graphics that showed contrasting situations and that would be challenging and require analysis. This time round we had about 50 images.

I was excited to see how our students would respond. We asked them to use the thinking routine ” I see, think, feel and wonder…” and record these on an index card. We gave them 10 minutes to study the images which were spread out on a long strip of paper stretching across the room. We expected them to work independently and in silence to give each student the time and space for thinking.

What happened?Students were so engaged by the images that they didn’t talk (apart from a few who occasionally were wondering allowed about the images). Students were so engaged that they needed an extra couple of minutes. Students didn’t just see the obvious, they made connections and comparisons. There was a depth to their thinking and wonderings they demonstrated that a deeper conceptual understanding had happened for most students. Their responses indicated that our choice of images were spot on for provoking thinking and wonderings directly related to our unit’s central idea and transdisciplinary theme.

What I learned …
Choosing the right images empowers students to become engaged and challenged grapple with ideas, make connections, make comparisons, connect personally and respond emotionally, build conceptual understanding and go beyond the obvious when wondering.

When the other two teachers repeated this provocation with their students, they had the same response from their group of students. Jina came to me excited about the impact the images had had on their students and we chatted excitedly about all we had learned from this experience.