leadership, research, Teaching

Rigour

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This week Education Leaders from across the country are meeting at Australia Council for Educational Leaders Conference 2017 #acelcon2017.

I am on term break, reading, writing, preparing for the final term of the school year and ‘attending’ the conference via my Twitter PLN. Online colleagues are sharing the key take aways from keynote addresses and workshops.

Rigour.This…..caught my attention today.  Barbara Blackburn inspiring and challenging educators to think about rigour. I realised that we often talk about rigour when we sense there is an absence or loss of rigour in our school, our classroom, our key learning. And yet it is somewhat of a buzz word that school’s include in all of their ‘information’. The question is do we really understand what rigour means?

Rigour is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels; each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.

This slide from #acelcon2017 highlights for me that there are key questions that we need to ask about student learning.

Rigour. As it applies to student motivation, engagement, learning and staff leadership. Rigour.

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leadership, Storytelling

The Stories we tell

 

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“We become the stories we tell ourselves.”
– Michael Cunningham

Often the stories we tell ourselves are born out of fear, anxiety and feelings of failure. We see the data, we know it and can hear it but our brain quickly infers meaning that can be unhelpful. We make fast judgments and decisions without thinking clearly.

Stories are powerful. We need to work to ensure we give ourselves reflection time, so that we can slow down and share our stories in a meaningful, engaging manner. Reflection is the key. Journal regularly. Being accountable to a colleague, mentor or coach. All of these simple practices help to safeguard making assumptions and encourage us to craft real, relevant stories that tell the story of us.

 

 

 

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identity, leadership, Women and Leadership

Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson

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We all have a story to share about that one teacher who inspired us to be great. For me it is Mrs Robinson. As a new graduate teacher, I did not fully understand what was taking place in my world and how influential she would become to my future.

Mrs Robinson appeared to be a walking disaster. She would come to school with her hair askew or a smudge of make up in the wrong place, papers everywhere. She spoke in hushed tones and at times her expression was stony as she tried hard not to reveal what was going on in her head. She did not look corporate or polished.

But she was an amazing educator. She led the Senior English department with a flurry of activity, questions and unorthodox innovations. She was a little awkward socially and it took me weeks to know how to approach her professionally. But to my surprise she always said ‘yes’. New idea, yes do that. More resources, yes we will find them for you. Problem solve this issue, yes absolutely.

I was empowered by hearing the word yes. I was encouraged  by the word yes. I was challenged by the word yes. Just like Anne Bancroft’s Mrs Robinson in film The Graduate, she seduced me with the power of one word, yes.

Her story is an interesting one. She came to education after a career as a psychiatric nurse and her entry into teaching and leadership coincided with  juggling a young family.It was this rich life experience that made her astute when it came to decision making and people management; something I had little knowledge of at the time. What I witnessed working with Mrs Robinson was an educational leader whose commitment to  active  learning continually pushed me to see new possibilities in my students and in myself. Her leadership inspired many people and I knew that I was a part of something special being in her team. However, it is only now decades later that I know more clearly what made her special.

This educational leader  was authentic and she had integrity. She understood  that being a teacher was about developing self knowledge and building capacity for self reflection; it was about greater engagement with the internal and external mechanisms of the  profession and it was about continually changing to achieve best practice. (Mockler, 2011).

Creative women who lead and inspire, empower and transform will always make us feel a little uncomfortable because they force us to ask ourselves,‘ can I do that? ‘The answer is yes.  Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson.

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 *This blog post first appeared on staffrm as a part of  International Women’s Day #IWD16 #womened. Many thanks to @misswilsey for an incredible job coordinating international bloggers around the clock.

 

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leadership, Women and Leadership

Looking at Leadership

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image: pexels.com

A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. Lao Tsu

These words attributed to the Father of Taoism, echo the experiences of many women working in education. These are the women who lead every day, managing multiple tasks and responsibilities, quietly and carefully supporting and encouraging others to be their best.

In the last few weeks I have heard many women say they are not leaders or do not dream of becoming a ‘great’ leader. The paradox is that each one of these women are leading. Leading their families and circle of influence; leading colleagues, their students and their organization.

Leadership doesn’t always come with a job title, a role description and remuneration package. Leadership can manifest itself in many ways and I am still exploring what this looks like for women in education.

Tell me, what does it look like for you?

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Education, fixed mindset, growth mindset, leadership

Growth versus Fixed Mindset

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Growth versus Fixed Mindset.

My children are part of a great school and like many others of its ilk, Carol Dweck’s ideas about growth mindset and positive impact on student learning  has become a part of the culture. Why then do students struggle with growth mindset? Why is there so much misunderstanding about this approach to learning?

Peter De Witt’s article on Mindset reflects on John Hatties’s analysis of what is going on with our student learning. Hattie attributes fixed student mindset to fixed teacher mindset. Teachers are the problem. Hhmmm.

De Witt outlines several ways teachers can counter this mini phenomenon. These include relying less on testing, using more feedback, being flexible, attentive to the environment and culture. And my favourite, teachers need to stop talking.

For many teachers talking = learning. Talking = productivity. But this constant noise, with no gaps, pauses or silences does not allow students to engage, formulate responses, questions and progress their learning. Students need time to reflect and discuss with each other.

Perhaps so many teachers have a fixed mindset because we have a deep need for control. The organic, flexible characteristics of a classroom that supports a growth mindset is confronting for some educators. My guess is that this approach to learning  is a challenge to our understanding of leadership and developing our role as well. Are you a leader with a  growth mindset?

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Education, gender, identity, leadership

More Paradox from Ms Tamboukou

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I have written about Maria Tamboukou’s article before here. Today as I skimmed my readings again these quotes sat heavily with me.

I was a teacher. I never wanted to be, and now that I’ve stopped, I never will be again, but for several years it took my heart. I entered a place of darkness, a long tunnel of days: retreat from the world. I want to explain, to tell what it is I know. Teaching young children must always be, in some way or other, a retreat from general social life and from fully adult relationships, a way of becoming Lucy Snowe’s dormouse, rolled up in the prisonhouse, the schoolroom. (Steedman, 1992, p. 52)
The staffroom is full of women eating cottage cheese or grapefruit. Each of them knows about diet and eating and sexuality. They are willing and happy to talk about these, caught inside what they are: the unique combination of worker and woman, dependent and independent, free and trapped.(Walkerdine, 1990, p. 28)

My heart is heavy reviewing these reflections that are dark, trapped; but I am also excited about the possibility of giving voice to women in leadership in education. Making stories, creating meaning and giving identity and life. Light in the darkness, as they connect, reflect and open.

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Education, leadership, Teacher Indentity

Connections

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According to Relational Cultural Theory (RCT), individuals grow through their connections with others. That is, we become more relationally competent as we represent ourselves authentically in our relationships and as we negotiate the relational ruptures we experience.” Duffey, 2008,p. 50
We do not learn in isolation. Some of the  teacher professional learning we undertake requires us to work alone – to read, write, research, reflect and think. But it is how we apply the reading, how discuss our ideas with others, how we share our research and insights  face to face or online with our Professional Learning Network ,that captures the real learning.
As educators we will only grow and develop in our knowledge and skills when we connect with others. It is common sense isn’t it? We were made to relate, interact, involve ourselves with others. Human connection, validation and affirmation is a real need. If we are to build our leadership capacity and develop our teaching and learning we need to be intentional about our networks, the colleagues we share with, the role models and mentors we are drawn to.
So, why then do so many educators work behind closed doors? As I compile a list of potential candidates for my research interviews I do wonder how many of them know each other. Is there a professional or personal connection? What prevents these women leaders in education from connecting, reaching out to one another, ‘representing (them)selves authentically’?
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