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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research, Rural Women Educators, Teacher Indentity

Music as Metaphor

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One of the questions I asked participants in the data gathering phase of my research project was to share a piece of music that best described the ‘soundtrack’ for their working week. The responses were enthuasistic. A piece of music to capture the mood and pace of the working life.

Amongst the responses, there was this one –  Helen Reddy’s I am woman. Whether it was a challenge to the world around her, a testimony to her true feelings about her working life and colleagues or a shared shout out to the sisterhood I am unsure. Whatever was intended it is a great song that roars with potential and possibility.

I am woman, hear me roar.

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English teaching, Place, Professional Learning Networks, research

Reading? Listening ? Following?

b-newboyukWhy blog? Why keep a journal? Why tweet? Why subscribe to podcasts?Why read?

One of the features of my data gathering was asking participants what they were reading, who they were listening to and who they were following. The questions were posed as part of ongoing email exhcanges over the course of a school term. There were no restrictions or rules; no expectations. But the underlying idea was to uncover the extent to which individuals were able to negotiate their own professional learning and connect to a wider learning network, beyond their immediate school and a local community.

I wonder how you would respond. Do the words read, listen and follow resonate?

My research demonstrated that some participants were not in the habit of using social media or alternative forms of connecting with people and reaching out to them. Some participants interpreted the ‘listening’ component as quite literally what they hear in their everyday world – the family, friends, and colleagues that inhabit their space. Similarly, the nuanced meaning of following that reflects the broad world of social media was lost.

August 2017

  • I am reading New Boy by Tracey Chevalier. It is an adaptation of Othello and I am enjoying reading this alongside teaching the play to year 11 students.
  • I am listening to Hamilton, the Musical. Whilst I do subscribe to podcasts I don’t find I have long stretches of time in the car or on walks alone at the moment to take in a whole podcast. Music inspires me just the same.
  • I am following #educoachOC and #womenEd #womenEdAus. These groups on Twitter inspire and challenge my thinking every day. The ideas discussed via tweets, chats, blog posts and articles shared inform my teaching and learning, take my own research in new directions and consolidate an online PLN. I have great respect for some of my new ” colleagues” online. And my working week would not be the same without ‘hearing’ their voice and following their debates and discussions.

So why? Why read and listen and follow the world that is wider than the one I literally, physically occupy? Because it enables me to flourish. And at the end of the day, I am responsible for my own professional and personal development.

Tell me, what are you reading, listening to and who are you following?

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research, Rural Women Educators, Writing, Storytelling

Data: a gathering with friends

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How to you read your data? How do you analyse and dissect the information you have gathered doing your research?

I have spent the morning ‘hanging’ out with the data today and it has been a joy.

It is as though I have been to a gathering of friends, meeting to have a meal at the end of semester. Each one is keen to share what has been happening in their world. There are voices interjecting as someone new comes along; another person shifts seats. There is laughter and clapping, as dishes are passed down the table. There are some quieter voices at one end of a table and hushed tones of reassurance. Someone wipes a tear from her cheek.

The data is after all stories of real people in real situations. Each woman interviewed has presented her story as an educator and leader in a rural context.  The story of the personal and the professional. The’ story as an identity’. And my role is to create a story out of the disparate and interconnected stories that are before me.

Just as I would in a gathering of friends, I acknowledge that I cannot talk to everyone at once. I may have several meaningful exchanges but the reality is I may only touch base with one or two of the people. I may need to do more listening and reflecting on the body language and facial expressions than ‘take in’ a whole conversation. I must listen to the silences, the gaps. I can sit and observe, watching carefully.

I apply this to how I approach my data, the words on the page, the transcripts that bring to life the interviews, the conversations.

I have listened to each interview in real time and as a recording. I have transcribed each interview, pulled out extracts, coded each according to themes, tracked common ideas and words, identified metaphors and highlighted questions. The whole ‘gathering’ then becomes smaller groups as I break down the data into bite size, digestible chunks.

Each new approach offers new insight, as I play with the data.

As I cast my eye along the table and the gathering of participants, I know that getting to know each one and the group as a whole will take time. But this is how I am reading and making sense of my data today. As a gathering with friends.

 

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research, Storytelling, Writing

Justification

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image:pexels.com

Many of us seek justification, to explain and support our decision making. Some good and some not so good.How do I justify the fact that I make time for this blog when there is so much to do? When teaching and learning demands overwhelm, when research deadlines loom?

Naomi Barnes has articulated my concerns in her blog post on EduResearch Matters for AARE. Her blog post was a breath of fresh air, a reminder of writing for writing’s sake. Barnes argues that writing is an important part of her scholarship and research.

I would suggest that I write to refine my ideas. I am constantly surprised how much I discover about my own thinking as I write. It is a space to reflect, to connect the dots, to question and highlight. My inspiration may be academic, it may be data but more often than not it is a random encounter with an image, a tweet, a piece of music, something I saw on my walk, something a student has said. It is this beautiful connection between the personal and the professional, the very identity that my research is interrogating.

So thank you Naomi Barnes. May many more PhD students come to revel in the pure delight of blogging and unearthing new ideas.

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identity, research, Women and Leadership

Reflective Practice

img_8170Many women educators who aspire to be leaders struggle with self doubt and an imposter syndrome. A recent study by Zoe Kinias and Jessica Sim suggests that there is a simple exercise that may support women and actually help them tackle the doubt that plagues their entry beyond the ‘glass ceiling’.

Kinias and Sim argue that a simple reflection exercise on core values can transform performance in a competitive setting.

My response to this data is to connect this idea to my own research and question whether reflection would support a women building her leadership capacity in education.

According to Kinias:

The transition into a new organization or role can be critical for people’s identities, which can substantively shift the trajectory of their experience…… Thus reflecting on values bolstered participants’ resiliency against the potential threat to their self-worth that resulted from being a woman.

As educators we know that reflective practice is powerful and a vital part of our professional learning. We can enjoy that practice via a coaching conversation, team collaboration or individual reflection in a journal or the like. So why are we surprised?

In the busyness of this teaching life we often fail to make time to reflect on our core values and return to the essential tenants of our beliefs. We need people to encourage us to have reflective conversations, to drive our thinking back to what matters most. In the absence of a coach or critical friend I would argue that a blog can be a therapeutic means to reflect and make sense of my own professional and personal identity.

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identity, Phd Candidature, Professional Learning Networks, research, Women and Leadership

Hope

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This teacher life is a crazy one. Each day we turn up to school, put on our teacher face and work hard to inspire our students. We juggle multiple balls each lesson, as we attempt to convey a clear learning focus, communicate the big learning idea, manage complex class dynamics, motivate reluctant learners, differentiate our program and all the while smiling. Because we love it.

My recent re-entry into the classroom has reminded me of the hope that each teacher nurtures, quietly inside. Hope that we can  make a difference. Hope to support young people on their learning journey. Hope that they will understand. Hope that they will grow in independence and knowledge. Hope that will unlock something and that it will usher in a lifetime of learning.

But this hope that each teacher holds onto is fragile. We are vulnerable to sickness, loss and grief. Our personal life continually  drags this hope through the muddy trenches. We dust off hope and wipe it down, as we front up to a new class, a new day.

I am experiencing that delicate balance between personal and professional identity on a daily basis. I am observing colleagues around me who are clearly fighting their own disappointments and battles while simultaneously working hard to help the battles of numerous young people.

More than once I have recalled my PhD research and the nature of my data collection. Earlier this year I interviewed 12 women who hold leaderships positions in education. These conversations sparked deeper, ongoing reflection. This was then followed up by a series of email exchanges over the course of a term. Each email invited the women to reflect again about their leadership style, experiences and how professional learning has shaped their journey. I now ask the question – how did they do it? How did they find the energy, the time and the focus in the midst of a very busy school term to stop, reflect and ‘talk’ to me.

How did the interview questions impact that hope that each of us holds close?

I am now considering the impact of relationships, structures of support and connection and the way they influence our sense of self, shape our identity and grow our hope in our profession. The question is do you have those relationships, that professional learning network, the personal support of partner, family or friend to walk you through the trenches of this teaching life?

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