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?

Leaders, learners and learning…

image

AT the start of this term, I stepped into the Campus Coordinator role and I am living proof that being in one’s element is liberating, energising and promotes learning and personal and professional growth. More about that in another post.

In my new role, over the last few weeks I have been part of many different discussions (some for the first time) with different combinations of leaders at our campus. At first I was processing the content within the context of that discussion only. But as I participated in more discussions I was able to make connections conceptually (as had others) and these became part of our discussions. Much of what we have been talking about is connected to the same outcome – assessment for and of teaching and learning.

These are the conversations I am referring to:
positive psychology, student well being and the role it plays in promoting thinking and learning,
data wise – a process for measuring the effectiveness of our teaching, learning and assessment,
SREAMS PD, an online program for recording assessment and the possibilities available through it for accurately informing our teaching,
assessing mathematical thinking accurately with our Numeracy coordinator,
our recent (to be continued) LTL investigation into our writing rubrics,
Parent Teacher Interviews, 3 Way Interviews and Student Led Conferences – the differences between them and the benefits of giving feedback on learning in each of these formats
changes to our official reporting documents to parents,
Y6 into 7 handover information and process: what is important for Y7 teachers to know about each learner and how best to do it
improving teaching and learning through improving IT facilities in our shared learning environment

As a group of leaders, we are always learning about best practise and are now much better at:

identifying the different components of the big picture,
prioritising and addressing each component so as to aim for the best outcomes,
synthesis,
reflection and evaluation,
dedicating the time needed to bring about effective change for improving teaching and learning.
investing in our leaders and teachers

This can only happen when your leaders (at all levels of leadership):
are passionate about teaching and learning,
keep the learner at the centre of learning (learners being both student and teacher and self),
are open minded and risk takers,
can work collaboratively,
know when to apply pressure and when to back off,
can admit mistakes and learn from them,
can identify and work within the zone of proximal development for each member of a team,
drive ongoing development of their own understanding of teaching and learning,
drive ongoing development of the teachers understanding of teaching and learning,
build a culture that values learning in all its styles and differentiates for the ongoing interests and needs of all learners,
builds a culture that values the learner,
have a sense of humour.

Driving ongoing development of teaching and learning from within will require strategy, collaboration, inclusion, knowledge and understanding, big picture thinking, grit, patience, paradigm shifts, enthusiasm, calculated trial and error, evidence, reflection and time, time, time.

I for one, am honoured and excited to be a member of this amazing learning community.

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.

Asking the right kinds of questions…

I love inquiry. I truly believe that inquiry pedagogy (along with other vital ingredients) promotes learning and have embraced it.

I came across an interesting blog post “Do you have the personality to be an inquiry teacher?” and it got me thinking about what I do well and what I still find challenging.

This year I have been noticing, reflecting and acting particularly on ownership of learning. I am trying to become conscious at all times of who owns the learning and shift the ownershift onto my students as much as possible. I sabotage myself sometimes because one of the things I don’t always do so well is respond to some student questions in a way that will encourage students to want to own their learning.

I need to be more encouraging as sometimes I can be a bit dismissive of the “simple” questions – but I am realising more and more that students ask simple questions for different reasons:
– they genuinely want to know the answer
– they don’t know how to articulate their thinking and it comes out as a simple question
– they are unsure what to think
– they don’t have a question and go with the first one that comes to mind
– they need more time
– they need more provocation
– reasons yet to be discovered.

Next year I want to respond more openly to the simple questions and become more encouraging by developing my questioning skills. By this I mean that I want to learn to ask the right kinds of questions to scaffold student thinking and help them to grow their simple questions that have a yes/no/ amount/ name answer to ones that involve more conceptual thinking and build a deeper understanding. Most importantly, I want to ask questions that helps them to articluate what it is that they are really curious about.

I could ask questions like:
What did you see/ read/ hear that made you wonder this?
Once you find this information – is there more to your question that you are curious about?
Does your wondering connect to other wonderings that you may have?
What are you passionate about – is there a connection between your passion and this wondering? Or this unit? How could we make a connection between your passion and our learning in the classroom?

I need to do more reading and thinking. I need to observe others who are skilled at this.
Feel free to give suggestions for questions, blog posts, etc.

Letting go!

Shift control!

This year I have been doing my own inquiry into letting go of controlling students’ learning.

(By letting go I mean handing over ownership of the learning to the student – where it belongs. I have blogged about this a few times and you can get a sense of my efforts to do so by reading about them here, here, here and here, if you wish.)

A few weeks ago I had another epiphany about letting go. There are many reasons why I have been able to let go but what’s has made it easier to let go THIS year is that I moved into a new year level and so have had no prior ownership of our units of inquiry. Instead, I went on a journey with my students and was open to discovering things along the way. My head wasn’t already full of ideas for where I wanted to lead them and what I wanted them to do, etc. I was free to listen to where they wanted to go and how they wanted to get there. I was not attached to anything and so I followed their lead. This year, I have purposefully made the time and space for their thinking to take form. Because I had very little in the way of preconceived ideas, I have been more open to noticing my student’s thinking and wonderings. I have been getting better at listening very carefully to understand what my students were trying to tell me.

The more I let go, the better I am getting at letting go.

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.