Why do some teachers feel leaders have favourites?

It’s not just students who feel teachers have favourites – teachers can feel this too.

Rightly or wrongly, this is what some teachers conclude. I have been wondering why and think it could be because of:

* lack of transparency in decision making,
* teachers not being included in big picture thinking,
* lack of timely communication and education about new initiatives,
* lack of consultation between leaders and teachers,
* stronger connections between leaders and some teachers,
* a perception that leaders approve more of teaching styles / thinking that mirror their own,
* time is unfairly allocated for face to face discussions due to logistics and existing structures,
* some teachers feel “corporate memory” predetermines their chances of being seen in a new light,
* different needs and personalities of teachers make some seek leaders’ attention more than others,
* a lack of understanding amongst leaders of what is really happening in teams,
* a lack of understanding amongst teachers of what leaders really understand,
* leadership styles versus teacher needs,
* time poor leaders can mean hasty decision making,
* previous experience with a leader or leaders,
* assumptions about how one will be perceived,
* personal issues,
* perceived differences in expectations for different people.

As leaders we can spend more time with some teachers than others – this is partly due to the structures set up to facilitate communication between different levels.
As humans we tend to spend more time with people we have things in common with professionally- like a shared passion for encouraging student ownership of their learning- and personally.

Whose responsibility is it to fix this perception of favouritism?

The responsibility for addressing this perception of favouritism lies with both leaders and teachers, but more so with leaders as we are the ones who can be seen to be doing more about it.

What can I do?
* Build relationships with everyone – this is an important step in building a culture where people feel they are being treated equally.
* Push aside any preconceived ideas I may have – people experience changes in circumstances, shifts in their thinking and do change as a result.
* Listen to understand- everyone needs to feel they have a voice and it is being heard.
* Create a safe and welcoming environment to open the lines of communication in all directions.
* Create opportunities for differences of opinion to be aired and clarified.
* Invest the time to get to know every teacher and leader – at our school, we believe every teacher should make every effort to know their learners. Likewise, leaders should make every effort to KNOW their teachers – interests, aspirations, passions, dreams, goals, challenges, etc.
* I can aim for informed and considered decision making and this means including all stake holders.
* Ensure all teachers feel valued.
* Role model fairness.
* Reflect daily on how I treated all who came my way.

What do other leaders do?

What I learned from Nelson Mandela…

I vividly remember the day Nelson Mandela was set
free and the rejoicing throughout South Africa. I also vividly remember
participating with excitement in the first democratic elections and the sense
of awe and hope that filled the air as all South Africans queued side by side
to cast their vote for the first time.

Nelson Mandela has achieved so much with grace, humility, love and compassion.
He worked tirelessly and selflessly for the benefit of all. He embodied
tolerance and forgiveness. His humanity is a gift to us all.

His actions and words are an inspiration to millions of people including
myself. I will take consolation and inspiration from these words as I reflect
on my accomplishments and shortcomings for this year and look to the year ahead
and what I want to achieve.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the
world.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising
every time we fail.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life
that is less that the one you are capable of living.”

RIP Madiba

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.

I used to be the kind of teacher who…

Over the last two years I have changed and grown professionally…

I used to be the kind of teacher who…

knew exactly where my lesson was going from start to finish, from introduction to plenary, from activity to activity, did most of the talking, was the conduit for student talking, controlled who sat where and who spoke when, made all the decisions, expected students to respond to the engagements in the same way, controlled the time and space for learning, made a lot of assumptions about student learning and owned the learning.

Fortunately, I am also reflective and have always wanted to do what’s best for my students’ learning. I just didn’t always fully understand how to teach so kids can learn. My understanding has grown exponentially and I have undergone a substantial paradigm shift.

Now, when I’m at my best, I’m the kind of teacher who…

knows where I want us to focus conceptually, plans thoughtful and purposeful engagements to this end, notices and listens to my students’ thinking and follows their lead, caters for differences in learning styles and abilities, values and is mindful of making the time and space for learning, talks less and listens more, encourages students to make their own decisions, focuses on developing skills and attitudes to enable student decision making and independence, looks for evidence, makes student thinking explicit, actively encourages collaboration and student ownership of learning.

I have some way to go and I’m excited to go there. I look forward to who I will be in a year’s time…

Big understandings realised in my own learning…

Since the last time I posted, which was nearly two months ago, I have been tuned into my own learning like never before. My learning during this time can be compared to being on a roll when building a puzzle and several pieces fall into place in a short space of time and a bigger picture emerges. 

What has caused this avalanche of learning? A combination of things: my own intrinsic motivation driving me to get better at noticing and naming what was happening, reflecting on and refining my teaching pedagogy, professional learning with Sam and Chad, positive responses from both my students and Charlie’s students to our team teaching efforts, positive responses from my own students to the changes I have implemented in my teaching, talking to colleagues, professional reading and probably other things I haven’t yet identified.

So much has happened…

Essentially I have been trying to live the following quote as I realised the importance of doing so more than a year a go but it’s taken me this long to understand what that looks like and how that feels – and I’m still learning… “Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you understand well, perhaps teaching will be different from before. “ Lori Malaguzzi

Some of the things I have learned from the changes I am implementing in my teaching practice…

  • team teaching opens up opportunities for me to notice things about my students’ learning while they are learning and allows me to meet individual needs more effectively
  • creating purposeful engagements and asking pertinent questions saves me time as I can support my students to make connections to knowledge and skills they have acquired which they can transfer and use in that context
  • creating simple learning engagements that tap into the essence of the learning and doing so in a way that students can connect to the concepts on a personal level, sets students up for powerful learning
  • taking the time to set the mood for learning saves time as students begin the task with the right intentions (sustaining the mood is not always easy though 🙂 )
  • knowing my students interests, strengths and insecurities enables me to takes the steps necessary to engage them in their learning
  • creating space for other options and possibilities that I may not have considered opens up learning for my students and for me
  • only teach students what they don’t know and can’t teach themselves
  • investing time in reflection empowers students to understand themselves as learners

Some of these understandings I have known and lived for a while, but in the last two months they have all  come together and as a result I have gained a different kind of clarity and my understanding of the familiar has grown.

On Friday we held a mini exhibition in Year 4 for the first time. To me it seemed like a logical culmination to our latest unit which falls under the transdisciplinary theme “How We Express Ourselves” (PYP).  Fortunately for me, my colleagues were open to the idea and prepared to go with the flow. Even more fortunately, our students loved the idea.

In the creative process leading up to this day, and in every opportunity that presented itself in other curriculum areas, I tried and tested (not always intentionally)  the changes I shared above.  I learned so much (as much from my mistakes as my successes) and have been so excited.

I felt it was time to write this post so that I could clarify my learning and capture the big understandings for my own benefit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students teaching students – Part 2

How can I get my students to revisit their writing in a purposeful way and rework it to make it even more engaging?

I had been sitting with this question for a long while.

It then occured to me (again!!!) that if I valued this, I would need to set aside the time for this to happen.

I decided to use the students own work to promote good writing techniques as this would engage them more than examples from authors who are usually adults anyway. I wanted them to see that each student’s writing had elements in it that could be celebrated. I was also hoping that they would then see what they were capable of.

We started by referring back to their journal rubric. (My colleagues and I had put one together to give clear guidelines for what is required for a good journal text in Year 4.) Each student had been given their own copy of the rubric from the first journal writing session. When the rubric referred to descriptve words and imagery, we then looked for examples of this in their writing. Next we shared these and discussed the power of their descriptive words and images. When the rubric referred to writer’s voice (and defined what this meant) we then looked for examples of this in their writing and discussed their effect on the reader. And so on.

I was so excited by their response… they felt proud to share their efforts and were very appreciative of examples taken from their peers’ writing. And what’s even more exciting is – they enthusiastically asked for time to have another go at working on their piece to make it more engaging for the reader.

I can’t wait to read what they write…

Start with the positive…

Video

Start where each learner is at every time! Start with the positive.

Today I watched Rita Pierson’s TED Talk: Every child needs a champion I drew great pleasure from her very important message to build relationships with all of your students. In my role as teacher, one of my responsibilities as I see it, is to advocate for each and every child under my care. (Sadly, not every teacher agrees.)

2+ versus -18
I don’t always succeed at focusing on the 2+. I can become frustrated and focus on the -18 instead. I can forget to understand what’s happening and focus instead on not being understood.
I totally agree with Rita, focusing on what the child can do and using that as a starting point for the conversation about where to go next is crucial to that child’s self belief. To quote from the TED talk, “-18 sucks all the life out of you. +2 says I ain’t all bad!” Starting from the positive tells that child you believe in them and in their potential.

You won’t like every child…
I also agree with Rita when she states that you will not like every child that comes under your care, BUT it is important that they never know this. For obvious reasons. I work hard at building positive relationships with my children, but being human, I don’t always get it right. Negative reactions (even small ones) can undo a lot of positive groundwork when students are feeling vulnerable.

2+
Tomorrow, as a reminder to myself to focus on the positive first, I am going to put up a few signs around my learning area which simply says 2+ . No doubt my kids will ask why and I will share this story with them. Maybe they will want to use the 2+ as a reminder to focus on the positive first in their interactions with others.