“Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.” Paulo Freire
CORE Education’s annual professional learning and development conference for educators took place on 5 -7 October 2016 at Rotorua’s Energy Events Centre. Rotorua was a blaze of colour with the tulips out in all their glory. In addition the centre had beautiful nightlight displays.
I was extremely grateful to Core Education for the earlier presentation time slot because this allowed me to relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.
Sharing is caring — learning is giving back to the community Presenter: Sonya Van Schaijik
I gave a session which was partly narrative and partly a workshop. Here are my slides. I have already received Feedback for my next session. There were some constructive suggestions that are helpful for my learning so thanks to those of you who took the time to give me feedback.
Spotlight session: Leadership for online global collaboration: from pedagogy to cosmogogy
Presenter: Julie Lindsay
I attended a session from one of the spotlight presenters and this was Julie Lindsay. Julie’s and my history go back quite a way and I joined her session partly to acknowledge the massive influence she has had on me personally as an educator especially in focussing on whanaungatanga in everything that I do. You can check out the link to her session here. What is a global leader?
The key message I took from her session was: ‘Leaders must demonstrate and model collaborative practices to support pedagogical change.’
Julie wrote a book titled ‘The Global Educator.‘ If you are looking for me I feature on page 100. (#JustSaying.) A lot of what she writes about me is the #EdBookNZ collaborative teachers’ book that happens each year as part of #CENZ month. If you want to know more, do check out her book and look out for this year’s team .
Research and inquiry Symposium: Play and creativity
Presenter: Christine Alford, Keryn Davis, Caroline Bush
The key takeaway I took from this session was: Collect the stories of our learners.
CoL round table: action planning
Presenter: Derek Wenmoth
I joined several round table discussions and used the opportunity to think about an action plan for implementing ideas in our ACCoS group. We were given an excellent readable document that highlighted areas for discussion for me to share with my CoL.
(Darn, @AionoManu I forgot our selfie when we were working together.)
Play is not fun
Presenter: Caroline Bush
Caro share a narrative of her journey as an efellow16
The key takeaway I took from Caro’s session was: Give the learners permission and freedom to leave. Focus on the progress. Bring in blocks during reading time.
Building capability through future focused learning
Presenter: Marnel van der Spuy, Hancine Samvelyan
We took part in collaboration as a process.
The key message I took away was: Fear and passions come together for discussion. Experts and apprentices balance.
So overall what have I learnt from attending and presenting at Ulearn this year?
Connections continue to drive what I do because I strongly believe that before you can collaborate you must make connections.
I formed deeper connections with two teachers who braved ULearn with me this year. I give them a shout out. They are @HannahDavey01 and @MissSMorrison1. They outdanced me on the dance floor and nearly out tweeted me. I loved the way they took the learning all on board and just got involved. They even featured on the Core Education Blog.
I reconnected with heaps of tweeps both face to face and virtually using #ulearn16 and #notatulearn16. Out of all the exhibitors present I took great delight in visiting Stand 60 which was Essential Resources stand.
I stood back with pride at seeing my book with Pam Hook up there on the stand. (Just in case you are looking for a copy of SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners-here is the link.) Being true to my island heritage I had a quiet chuckle at how fabulously bright it was and wondered if we should have stuck a great big hibiscus on it as part of the background. Maybe we will do that for our next book.
I collaborated with many educators both new and seasoned using digital tools and hands on tools such as Padlet, Google Docs, Twitter, Periscope. I am just conscious of driving the collaboration to a deeper level and push past the coblaboration stage.
I took away some innovative ideas to trial with current CoLs that I work with. One tool is Arinui that I am keen to explore further. Another is the upcoming Flat Connection Project I am project leading under the guidance of Julie Lindsay. A further idea is using the SOLO Taxonomy vocabulary that I created with Pam Hook last year to structure Oral language with our English Language Learners at Newmarket School.
To finish with just a MASSIVE shout out to @newmarketschool and the Board of Trustees for supporting our professional learning with this trip to Ulearn16. Now to our teachers we are coming back with some ideas that we are keen to trial. However ULearn doesn’t change the world, the experience changes #NPSFab teachers and we have come back changed.
I began this post with a quote from John Dewey and end with this whakataukī from my session.
Let us forge a pathway to the future and acknowledge our journey.
Recently I was interviewed as part of a research in the use of digital tools in appraisal practices in primary schools. I was asked some interesting questions that I found myself thinking about the interview long after it was over.
I was drawn back to a series of presentations I shared at Eduignite. My second in a series of three was Digital Tattoos. At Eduignite, I shared about the importance of leaving evidence of what we do as educators and to be cautious of having folders on desks. Personally I have never understood the point of having an appraisal paper folder. I struggle even more with the notion of creating PDFs of what I do. I chuckle at the PDF notion just like I chuckle at stories of educators being asked to print off digital planning. I am aware of needing evidence for compliance, but believe like Ewan, that online sharing is much more powerful. You can check out my slides from that Eduignite session below. Even then I scoffed at the paper folders.
I have writing several times about the importance of transparent sharing.
When I reread my 2015 goal of having all teachers at Newmarket School with an online reflective blog, I am excited to say that I have achieved that goal. Currently most blogs look like the early push onto twitter. Sporadic writing like the earlier sporadic tweeting. Two have set theirs up but have not yet taken that first step. But hey after curating #EdBlogNZ with two online colleagues, I know, as a school we are in a good space.
I am always thinking about the importance of our teachers sharing. I do remind them about using twitter like online note taking so that they can get into the habit of microblogging and our teachers have supported the use of our school hashtag #NPSFab.
This year I have been particularly excited to see our teachers examples of sharing. These include
Running Staff Meetings
Running school wide events
Presenting outside of school at education events
Sharing at Educamp
Sharing at an online course and at face2face courses
Sharing on twitter chats
However the most powerful of these are when I can see a follow up reflection on their blogs because again it is the sharing online that creates an artefact for the education community.
I am really excited at across school sharing. We have the ACCoS initiative, the ALLiS and the Mutukaroa projects. In addition I co ordinate our Eastern Area ESOL cluster group.
Community of Learners
Soon I will be sharing our school’s journey at Ulearn. I will be sharing about how Newmarket School contributes to many networks such as:
I will be sharing how changes and structures in the school day have evolved from being teacher driven to being student driven and enable innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Also how task-based learning activities are curated for students and how communication evolves as both teachers and students learn to give and receive feedback. I will also share how informal and formal learning creates opportunities for sharing knowledge and skills among the learning community. The above spaces will be used as examples as well as what we are doing in Newmarket School with our children and teachers.
Where to next?
Reminding teachers about keeping content current is an important part of online sharing. I have a project that has developed into something quite close to my heart and that is the #EdBookNZ project. This is where I have identified current education jargons and invited educators to contribute a piece of writing. I take all the writing and publish a digital book for the education community. The #TeachMeetNZ google hangouts that I have run quarterly have been shelved because I have taken on two other roles this year and that has been about building communities of learners.
So as schools how open are your examples of teachers creating and sharing? Do your teachers see online sharing as on top of what they do or is online sharing part of their practice? I would love to hear your thoughts.
This piece of writing is to fulfil the #EdBlogNZ challenge that has been set.
A)Whānaungatanga is my #OneWord2016. I find it interesting how my efellow11 inquiry unpacked Hyperconnectivity. The space between the nodes. The stuff that cannot be seen yet is vital for learning. Last year as part of EdBookNZ I undertook Team #Whānaungatanga. From the blog posts of my team the following list of words surfaced using Wordle. I added Va Fealofani as this also explains Whānaungatanga. I chose Whānaungatanga as my #OneWord2016 because I am the educator who connects, collaborates, co creates and supports others to be vocal digitally. I thrive in the digital environment so much so that my digital life blurs with my real life. By keeping a focus on Whānaungatanga I will recap the importance of hyperconnectivity. I will sit through meetings face to face, eye to eye, breath to breath to get a full understanding of the people I am working with. ( Me hui kanohi ki te kanohi kia rongo i te mauri o te tangata!’ )
As my understanding of Whānaungatanga grows so does my understanding of sustainability. Therefore I will also be focusing more on Travelwise at Newmarket School and the part we play on Global Warming.
I look after my parents and so have added them to my goal as a focus that I had promised to make their golden years, just that, golden. I am writing both their stories starting with dad.
C) Learn Mandarin
I have been accepted into the Language TeachingConsolidation Programme. One criteria is to learn and teach a new language. I have chosen Mandarin. At the same time this is Whānaungatanga because predominantly the children I work with are Mandarin speakers and one positive way of building relationships is speaking the language of the children I teach. I also know the challenges of learning a new language so that I may better emphasise with them. This year I am also the lead teacher for the ALLIS cluster for Newmarket School. This is a ministry initiative ‘Asian Language Learning in Schools.‘ Our school is part of the Epsom/Remuera group.
Keep focusing on a community of learners. I now have several I am leading or involved with at administration levels.
E) Health & Well Being
Keep my eye on my FitBit Dial and aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. Keep walking to and from school. At the moment I have recently shifted back home after having renovations and my steps are not where they were.
And you what will you keep as target practice for 2016?
Hellen Keller said, ‘The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.’
In Samoa we have a saying: “O Manu o le lauamanu e felelei mamao” meaning ‘Birds that fly together go far.’
I have selected to evaluate distributed leadership. As I researched background information when I supported a principal friend of mine on his assignment, the works of Gronn, Splianne and Elmore confirmed my beliefs of leadership experience within my current and previous positions. Previously, I have held a variety of teacher leadership roles. These have included:
School Lead Teacher for the 2001 and 2010 Information and Communication Technology Professional Development (ICTPD) contracts
Director of Religious Studies in a Catholic school
Steering committee member for national conferences
Webmaster for two educational associations
Executive member for ULIMASAO Bilingual Teacher’s Association
Steering committee for the Edchatnz Conference
Member of the advisory board for the National Diploma of TESSOL
Led a Samoan Bilingual Team and run the school library.
Host a national virtual TeachMeetNZ each quarter and have had 80 educators share their story.
Develop and maintain the school’s hidden infrastructure for digital learning
With many of these positions, monetary gains, in terms of a Retention unit or a Management unit, are often and have been non-existent. However, the teacher leadership experience has enabled me to learn about distributed leadership. The lack of monetary recognition is minor compared to my vast ongoing personal growth, critical reflection with professional development, community experience, networking, mentoring and being mentored, and having access to a range of knowledge, skills, mentors and leadership practices which have been part of my learning journey.
With this reflection I intend to look at the leadership practices associated with the concept of distributed leadership. I will examine both the educational and the practical utility of this approach to leadership. The reason I have undertaken this task is to further my own understanding about developing leadership in teachers as I believe teachers also need support, guidance and encouragement to undertake many tasks that sit outside their normal classroom practice and yet is an indication of leadership. My personal inquiry is to continue to explore the greatest variance that makes a difference to student learning and that is the teacher. Leadership also plays a role in making a difference to student learning and in particular distributive leadership.
The concept of distributed leadership.
In my readings, I found varying concepts of what distributed leadership is. Key ideas associated with distributed leadership, such as sharing, growing leaders within an organisation, recognising skills and knowledge, mentoring, group responsibility, group accountability, critical reflection and self efficacy appealed to me. I found defining distributed leadership in a way that made sense to me, increasingly challenging.
Probably the closest term to describe what I believe distributed leadership to be, is an organism that grows and changes depending on the environment it is in. It is constantly changing, living and adapting. MacBeath (2003) defines distributed leadership as ‘something in the gift of a head teacher, allocating leadership roles magnanimously while holding on to power.’ Hence the term distributive which implies a holding, or taking initiative as a right, rather than it being bestowed as a gift. In other words, it is a value or ethic, residing in the organisational culture. Harris (2008) defines distributive leadership as leadership shared and extended within and between organisations.
He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata
I strongly believe that distributed leadership also has heroes. Bass (1997) describes them as ‘transformational leaders with highly developed moral and ethical values that reflect the culture and community that they work in’. However, they are far from the ‘super hero’ concept. They stand out because the decisions made within an organization are based around their ‘inner voice’ input. They have people at the heart of all decision making.
Elements of Distributive Leadership
Senge (1990) suggests designer leader, teacher leader and steward leader are essential in distributed leadership. I will discuss teacher leader and steward leader further on in the writing as I have had personal experiences with these concepts of leadership. However within my current growing understanding, I have hesitations with designer leader as I feel that this leadership concept does not align with the concept of distributed leadership. In further searching for a concept to clarify my understanding of distributed leadership, I came across the National College for School Leadership Spring Report, (Bennett, Wise, Woods and Harvey, 2003). The report elaborates on the elements of distributed leadership. These elements are:
1) An emergent property or network of interacting individuals.
2) Openness of the boundaries of leadership.
3) Varieties of expertise distributed across the many, not the few.
I intend to take these elements and explore them further under practices associated with the concept of distributed leadership.
The leadership practices associated with the concept of distributed leadership.
Using the above elements, I will clarify what they are in leadership practices and because I am a teacher, I will reflect back on practices I have observed.
Element 1) An emergent property or network of interacting individuals.
In the research I read, the term Teacher leadership appeared regularly. This first came to my attention with the work of Senge (1990). I thought that this term clarified the first element discussed. In describing practices associated with teacher leader, I found it exciting to use the word Teacher Leader as an acronym and to search for practices that describe each letter. The following is what I developed around the various researchers.
Teacher leaders are action researchers who regularly use qualitative data to guide their practice. They are action researchers, peer developers, mentors and decision makers.
Emotional intelligence is one of their traits as described further by Fullan (2001).
They have high ethics and moral values that reflect the culture and community with whom they work. Teacher leaders act and think sensitively to the school culture in which they work. They critically reflect on practice and are constantly changing, adapting and improving their practice. They are committed to self-review and actively encourage critical feedback from their peers and students. Teacher leaders have high student achievement and work with qualitative data. They seek out embedded professional development that focuses on pedagogical knowledge and subject knowledge. They are morally responsible for improving the quality of instruction- not just their own but also the peers with whom they work.
Teacher leaders learn to create and manage learning culture. They have ethical principles, which drive their decisions. They acknowledge all stakeholders and are active stewards in the role they lead. They are daily communicators and ensure that information is accessible to all with whom they work. Teacher Leaders are effective educators.
They see one of their roles in education as supporting leadership activities with resources.
“They equip students with the civic, moral, and personal skills and behaviours to live in a multicultural society.” (Cuban: 2001)
An example of teacher leader is the Sustained contract we were recently a part of. The delegated lead teachers and senior management pooled their ideas and expertise, and shared them around the schools within the cluster. At the same time, staff within the schools were part of the skills and expertise group. If any teacher showed signs of leadership within an area of digital learning or SOLO Taxonomy they usually contributed to the cluster, by sharing their skills and expertise. Everyone within a school was accountable and responsible for the success of the contract. Benchmarks were monitored, feedback was given and qualitative data gathered. This data was used to drive the next round of professional development. I became really skilled at curating evidence of our teacher’s learning and continue to do this even now.
2) Openness of the boundaries of leadership.
Once again, I use the term leadership as an acronym to search for practices that describe each letter. A variety of leaderships are defined in Alphabet Soup. (MacBeath, 2003)
However, in this case when I focus on the practices of leadership, I am writing about leadership practices associated with the concept of distributed leadership.
‘The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.’ (Keller, H)
Leadership is about life long learning and is an inner drive about self-improvement in order to better interact with others. It is about empowerment. Empowering the learners, the peers, and the community that all are part of the community of learners. Leadership is guided by action research and can begin with a simple question. Leadership is distributed.
Elmore (2002:15) promotes distributed leadership in “which formal leaders widely distribute leadership responsibilities among various role groups in the organization while they work hard at. Leaders create a common culture, or set of values, symbols, and rituals.”
Leadership is about examining practice and using reflection to guide the practice. At Newmarket School nearly all our staff have taken this onboard and have developed their own reflective blogs.
LEadership is about shared decision-making. One of Lambert’s (2002) key assumptions about leadership is that ‘leading and learning must be shared because school change is a collective endeavour.’ We know the importance of this at our school. I always say to our staff show me your example of what you are asking the children to do. A classic example of this is creating videos or asking the children to write.
Leadership is holistic and supportive. It is about instructional improvement. One of Elmore’s (2002) principles states that ‘the purpose of leadership is the improvement of instructional practice and performance, regardless of role.’
Finally leadership is about a professional learning community. Sergiovanni (1992) discusses the importance of ‘building a learning community by reorganising educational values, beliefs, and practices’.
I have established a learning community outside of school with the work I carry out with teachers on the #TeachMeetNZ project. I have explored many digital communities with our staff and each year brings a new one. I have recently set up one in Edmodo because maybe this year is the year where I can get more than a few contributing in a visible way.
I think back to the work of ULIMASAO bilingual teachers association to raise student achievement for Pasifika students in South Auckland. This is leadership in action, the association worked with school principals, teachers and the community to raise awareness about the benefits of Pasifika Bilingual Education. They used Cummins’ (1996) research on community empowerment, and Colliers’ (1987) research, to drive best practice for student achievement. The community was very much a part of the process. All involved in the children’s learning are responsible and accountable for their achievement. Students’ results drove the work of Ulimasao. Pasifika Teachers came from all over Auckland to share best practice ideas, to support and nurture any new teachers, principals and community to Bilingual Education.
This was leadership in action.
Element 3) Varieties of expertise distributed across the many, not the few.
This element sums up the distributed leadership
Principles and Practices of Distributed Leadership
In order for varieties of expertise to be distributed across the many, not the few, the following leadership practices are necessary.
Daily quality communication takes place. Information is continuously fed through at all levels of the school. Murphy (2002) discusses stewardship. Stewardship is about “the willingness to be accountable for some larger body than ourselves – an organisation, a community“. ‘Stewardship is to do with our choice for service over self-interest, with being willing to be accountable without choosing to control the world around us.’
‘Transformational leadership provides the vision and inspiration that is intended to energise all members of the school community.’ (Leithwood and Jantzi, 1990.)
Distributed leadership is about actively taking responsible roles. Teacher leaders focus on instructional change. They have implicit and explicit goals.
Distributed leadership is about building sound relationships by strengthening webs of social relationships. It is about being a social architect. This concept is about understanding culture, symbols, rituals, ceremonies, and traditions. It is about knowing the community in which you work. This is telling our stories, and redefining our goals in educational concepts. From my previous experiences in Catholic Schools I believe that telling stories is particularly strong in Catholic School. My past schools celebrated and revisited their history each year. They created memories that were archived and shared with the community. I try and do that at Newmarket School with the wiki that was created for this very task. However because I often am the only person curating memories of our stories in a digital way that the work can be overwhelming.
Transferring control is another principle of distributed leadership. It is about sharing leadership even when the school leader makes limits explicit. It is about examining daily practice and embracing the daily macro and micro tasks and using them to critically reflect on daily practices. When all elements are aligned, the result is improved academic outcomes for all. Often the teacher thinks that this is a top down approach but as our understanding of accountability develops and our understanding that we are all on this journey together for the success of our children then this becomes ‘business as usual’.
I see stewardship as an integral part of this element. The Samoan Matai system in which I was brought up helps me relate to this element. A Matai is chosen to lead his village and to speak for the ideas and goals of his village to the council of chiefs. When a Matai is selected, he is selected as the steward of the village, the guardian of values and thoughts of the village he is representing. When Matai come together they represent more than individual villages, they present a presence, a concerted dynamic that moves the world along. In Samoan we say: ‘O le ala o le pule o le tautua.’ Translated this is ‘ The path to leadership is service.’ At my school of Newmarket this is also our historic motto, ‘Not self but service.’
Likewise, in a Catholic school, a similar process takes place. Leaders are appointed to be a steward of the school for which they are responsible. However, the role goes further than that. Leaders are responsible not just for their school, but also for the schools in their neighbourhood and all the surrounding community. When they come together, they become one group, one concertive dynamic which pushes the world along.
Te Hiringa i te Mahara, the Power of the Mind Project by the Ministry of Education uses this same concept – we are all responsible and accountable, for each other as teachers and for our children’s learning.
Educational significance of this approach to leadership.
The educational significance of this approach raises the following questions:
How practical is distributed leadership in education?’
How are we preparing for the future?
Taking the elements already discussed, I revisit them and view their significance to distributed leadership.
Element 1) An emergent property or network of interacting individuals.
Schools cannot change teachers’ behaviour unless they discuss the teachers’ beliefs and values first. Fullan, Rolheiser, Mascall and Edge, 2001) argue that ‘Real change, occurs when teachers are fully engaged as active agents in the process of research and development and when it observes the three cardinal principles of responsibility, mutual accountability and collaboration.’ I have often used the term active agents of change and compared it to baking powder in baking. When baking powder is added the cake rises. At the same time, I use the term disruptive educator or the educator who asks the tough questions. The educator who questions the why of the system. Part of accountability is standing up and asking the tough questions of people leading our schools and leading the education system.
As we prepare our students for a future that is changing, it is not easy to prepare for a moving target. The work place of the future is continually changing and evolving. Teacher leaders recognise this paradigm and use it as a challenge for self-review. Teacher leaders must be life long learners. They must learn new ways of learning with the students that they teach.
Element 2) Openness of the boundaries of leadership.
Elmore, (2000) links distributed leadership to the school’s fundamental task of helping students learn. He promotes ‘distributed leadership in which formal leaders widely distribute leadership responsibilities among various role groups in the organization while they work hard at creating a common culture, or set of values, symbols, and ritual.’
Leaders must forge closer links with external influences that help shape the system.
Sometimes, a true leader is able to be a led. They understand that by employing great people and know when it’s time to get out of the way.
Element 3) Varieties of expertise distributed across the many, not the few.
Johansson (2006) discusses distributed leadership in depth.
‘This is a values informed leadership a sophisticated, knowledge-based, and skilful approach to leadership. It is also a form of leadership that acknowledges and accommodates in an integrative way the legitimate needs of individuals, groups, organisations, communities and cultures – not just the organisational perspectives that are the usual preoccupation of much of the leadership literature.’
Leadership is about going beyond the four walls of the classroom and even including the students themselves. Leadership is about a professional learning community; it is about shared community knowledge and is organisations and people focussed. Prior knowledge is acknowledged. All members are empowered and are committed and accountable to the vision. There is trust between all stakeholders and normality is diversity.
An evaluation of the practical utility of distributed leadership to leadership.
When I refer back to the practices of distributed leadership, I have chosen to focus on five aspects to evaluate. There are: shared leadership, common vision, outside constraints, budget constraints and time constraints.
The leader must be open to shared leadership. Some leaders could feel threatened as they feel their leadership role is being eroded when they share the leader role. It can be equally frustrating for those who prefer to have someone lead him or her.
Having a common vision.
For distributed leadership to work, it helps if everyone in the school has bought into the school vision and goals. This works well in the New Zealand integrated school system, which allows only 5% to be a different faith. The Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975 dictates this.
However, in Australia, where Catholic schools, are private schools, not integrated, some schools can have as many as 40% of their students from other faith, or no faith traditions. Distributed leadership would also work in a Bilingual Unit, such as O le Taiala, in Findlayson Park School. Parents, students and teachers buy into the concept when they apply for their children to be included in the units. There are other examples of schools having a common focus. Examples include a schools with an elearning lense such as the schools in the Manaiakalani cluster, or a school based on Emilia Reggio principles. Difficulties can arise if not all stakeholders have bought into the concept. Such stakeholders must suppress their own views for the sake of the school’s common vision and goal, even if they are not in agreement.
Outside constraints can affect the common vision, and these have implications on distributed leadership. Distributed leadership is about setting the communities’ educational goals. However sometimes outside agencies dictate the education goals. Examples of outside constraints include the Ministry of Education in their National Educational Goals, the Education Review Office in their school reviews, and the Proprietors of Special Character.
Professional development is central to the idea of distributed leadership and the opportunity to critically reflect on one’s own self. However schools’ budgets are usually limited, therefore any money spent on professional development needs to be seriously considered, as in practice, the concept of distributed leadership takes a long time to implement and carry out.
When leadership is distributed, more demands are placed on individual leaders. It takes time and commitment for school leaders to build a professional learning community. It takes dedication for a person to take on more responsibilities over and above an already heavy workload, and also to reflect on their learning while so doing. I know when I ask staff to do this I am asking a lot. When they reflect on their learning I make a special effort of acknowledging this and give them written feedback on their posts. I also give them a shout out on social media. A passionate belief in education is required to undertake leadership roles, which often comes with no extra monetary gains. I share this from personal experience over the thirty years that I have been teaching. Many times I am asked, ‘why do you run learning sessions for teachers?’ My response is ‘why not.’ I am an older teacher and it’s time to give back. I also take great pride in seeing their development. I take an even greater pride when I see this transfer to their classroom practice. Ultimately a learning teacher is learning children.
Even with the challenges associated with the practical utility of distributed leadership, my current belief in this form of leadership is effective in sustaining lasting effective, learning environments. I identify with the Helen Keller quote, which I have rephrased to suit a school situation. ‘The tiny pushes from each stakeholders pushes the school towards a goal of long-term effective learning environment for all.’ My background has distributed leadership as a way of making decisions. From the Samoan Matai system, being taught and having teacher leadership modelled in the many of the Catholic schools that I have attended and taught in and having led a Samoan Bilingual Unit where as a team we had a common goal of student success. My current role is with second language learners and the teachers who teach them. We all have the common goal of student success.
Distributed leadership can be seen as a weakness in the current market of instant outcome based models, but I view the aligned elements of distributed leadership as a clear pathway to improved student achievement and the future for lifelong learning. Distributed leadership creates a professional learning community that continually reflects, grows and changes depending on the environment it is in.
Where to next
When I reflect on my understanding of distributive leadership using SOLO Taxonomy, I can define and list elements and practices and am beginning to make links with what is happening at our school. I can see that we are growing stronger as a staff in distributive leadership but still have a way to go. Analysis of data suggest that distributed leadership impacts positively upon student achievement. (Hallinger and Heck, 2009). But change takes time because the whole school needs to come on board with the concepts and share the same vision. At Newmarket School we have recently embraced Google Apps for education. I can see the visible learning of our teachers. Our teams have changed and teachers have new roles and responsibilities. I can see our professional learning community constantly changing, living and adapting as we move to a deeper level of learning cultures. I hear ‘Business as usual’ and for me that is the way we do things at Newmarket School and that is growing leadership capabilities in our teachers and our students.
Harris, A. (2008) Distributed leadership in schools: Developing the leaders of tomorrow. Routledge & Falmer Press.
Johansson, O. (2001) Swedish school leadership in transition: in search of a democratic, learning and communicative leadership?, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 9:3, 387-406, Retrieved April 2015 from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14681360100200122
Last week at the World Education Leaders Conference 2015, held in Singapore I attended Yong Zhao’s master class session titled ‘Designing and developing an education for the age of globalisation’. Yong shared the ingredients of a new education paradigm and these included student autonomy, product-oriented learning, and globalized campus
He spoke about redefining excellence and the need to abandon the current mindset entrenched in the obsolete employment oriented educational paradigm. Our children are being educated to exist in an existing society that no longer exists.
Research shows that the more successful an educational system is in the traditional sense as indicated by test scores the less likely it is to cultivate entrepreneurs. Therefore the less prepared it is for a globalised society.
Diversity must be treated as a strength. We must identify that we must bring more than uniqueness and creativity because globalisation reveals that we are not as unique as we think we are. Our students must be prepared for high skilled jobs that cannot be substituted by machines. We must give our student voice and choice. Student autonomy is essential if we are to help students identify and develop their talents because middle class jobs are going and currently there is massive youth unemployment in the world.
We must have the students create their own courses which include creativity, entrepreneurship, and global competence and provide them with opportunities to experiment with their interests, their strengths and weaknesses, and engage them in authentic work. Our children must embrace entrepreneurship. In order to do this we need a new education paradigm—entrepreneur-oriented education, instead of the current employee-oriented education. Our children will become global, creative, and entrepreneurial,
Product orientated learning
Localisation and uniqueness support the development of diverse talents. Students must connect with a global community because small niche skills are becoming sought after skills as we become consumers of psychological products. We need independent young thinkers who are willing to use their learning differently to create jobs and contribute positively to a globalized society. We need to think about the the skills that cannot be acquired from another. Low income jobs are growing as we move into the age of abundance and choice. We no longer have a monopoly on education. Schools are not a museum. Teachers and leaders are not curators of school learners. We need to teach our children that we must work together. Glocalisation is embracing the localised culture. Creativity is entrepreneurship. We used to prepare employees but now we must prepare entrepreneurs.
Managed versus employable
If you want to be managed, you are not employable. Simply following orders is no longer employable. Current employees mindset seldom go an extra mile. Entrepreneurs look at extra miles as opportunities and have creative minds to come up with a solution to a problem.
Schools must forget about preparing employees and embrace entrepreneur education.
3x elements for a good school are
What: Student Autonomy
How: Product oriented Learning, student driven
Where: The global campus
Collaboration is a misused term. We must focus on social intelligence, social network and social capital. Human to human contact is the key. We must work on group mentality rather than individualism. Take the phrase, ‘It’s good to be nice to others for your own benefits.’ Start with what the children know and then the reading and maths follows. Have the students create courses for each other. Learning is a human activity so teachers will always be needed. Schools must provide opportunities for student voice, choice and personalised support and lets get the learning right first for adults. Lets create a sense of research and professional development because this builds trust between members.
If the outcome measured is only the test scores, then the process is ineffective.
Project Based Learning is not as effective as Product-oriented learning to test learning. Does the work we do produces authentic learning? The passion can drive the motivation.
We must ask the question, Has the student produced anything that matters to them or to someone else?
We must build resilience, empathy and the ability to overcome hurdles.
Learn about others, then learn with others and learn for others.
I got a lot out of the session but in particular the connections I made with other members of the group. I especially liked the discussion between the sessions.
Overall I think that our students need to connect with a global community in order to achieve global prosperity. Our children must develop the knowledge and skills to live and work across cultural and national borders as global citizens in the global village.
My take aways from Yong’s session
1) Let us redefine excellence in our schools and not limit this to test scores.
2) Let us provide opportunities for our children to take part in global activities with children from other countries.
3)Let us allow our children to choose what they want to learn. For example do not limit their reading to their levels.
4) Let us create a sense of research and professional development within our school.
Yesterday was the second anniversary celebration of TeachmeetNZ. WOW I can hardly believe how fast the past two years have evolved with the project. To anyone who has taken part as a presenter, audience or the support crew, I say thank you. I cannot tell you how far the reach of TeachMeetNZ has been. All I can do is share some of the numbers I have such as having over 80 educators share their learning.
After each session I push out the evaluation form and use the feedback to drive the next session. Currently most of the feedback comes from the presenters. The feedback allows me to identify areas that need addressing.
One day I must put together a TeachMeetNZ bloopers clip. To be honest most of the major bloopers will end up being me. I still have a giggle when I recall one session going live with my opening slide telling the world that I was outside hanging up the washing and to get ready for the broadcast. Since that day, I now just launch straight into a session because TeachMeetNZ is not about my learning but about the current presenting team’s learning.
Yesterday was no exception. 40 minutes until live time, I could not get the hangout record button activated. The setting up has become so slick, that the link had been prebroadcasted as part of the advertising sheet I generally set up.
So I left the team on the original hangout while I problem shooted. I quickly set up another hangout, grabbed the links, readjusted and came back to the team where I gave them the new hangout link and asked them to rebroadcast the new link like mad over twitter and google+ hangout. This all happened in the space of 15 minutes. Thank goodness I knew hangouts so well that I was able to do this.
Then we went live and once I had greeted everyone, we had technical feedback happening just as the first presenter lined up for their spot. Someone had the video live and I watched the mics trying to identify who…. it was me. In embedding the new video onto the home wiki, I had inadvertently left the page open. One of the ‘rules’ I go through with the team during practice sessions.
I will let the presenters into a little secret here, those of you who know me well know that I am not the best at multitasking. I cannot operate technically and listen to conversations at the same time. Therefore it is important for me to see your slides before the session so that I may prepare myself better as a host. During a live session, I am so busy watching cameras and mics that I have no idea what you say. I come back and rewatch the session after the event and then give you feedback via twitter. My feedback is usually positive because I know how far you have travelled technically as educators during this period of preparation. I know preparation has been intensive and I know how much work you put into your presentation. In addition, I know that you have already had feedback from your peers during the practice run throughs. I believe that last thing you need at this stage would be critical feedback.
Where to Next: TeachMeetNZ Leadership Panelist Discussion
From a presenter’s perspective TeachMeetNZ is all about connecting and collaborating with each other to create a product for education. But from an audience perspective TeachMeetNZ is about consuming. Yes there is some feedback on twitter and sometimes with the Q & A on a hangout and generally it is all positive. I have had some of the audience reflect on a session via blogging.
I do have an idea for an upcoming session. I can see a TeachMeetNZ critical discussion happening but will need to select the panelists carefully. Maybe only have 4x. I envisage a depth discussion happening where we can come together as educators and have dialogue. Kind of like a debate, or a critical friend discussion. Where we are taking someone’s work or research and critiquing it. Not in a critical sense but yet in a critical way. From my experience in education I have identified very few educators who have the skills to cope with discussion like this. I do not believe I could cope with discussion like this because I am an educator who has better discussion after the fact.
I have to choose carefully and firstly I need a strong host. The major challenge is identifying who because I know what happens when school leaders get together, they can be worse than teachers in keeping to a time schedule. I am looking for dialogue leaders who are strong in their field of research and practice and can handle the discussion. That they are willing to be open to the critical dialogue. That they would treat this session as learning for their own professional growth. That they are open to having their views swayed with the discussion. That are happy to create a recording for education.
So I need some whos, I already have in a mind a host. Who do you think could cope with this task. In education who have you heard speak in a critical way and I am not just talking about blogs, I am talking about real time. Maybe this is the leadership TeachMeetNZ that many have asked for. Drop me a DM via twitter and give me some names.
To find out more about TeachMeetNZ, check out the previous sessions.
I achieved 10 of them and that is another blog post. I made it a point of talking to lots from preservice because I was so happy that they could join us. In addition I was the vehicle for Dr Cheryl Doig’s virtual session. She and I practised the session virtually until she was comfortable with using the tools. On the day she ran her session through me virtually using virtual tools.
I would have liked to see some of the coding and 3d printing session and the gaming. But generally, I am happy with what I attended. I did miss out of getting my image lazer printer.
6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned?
I would liked to have brought @ginnynz01 but due to circumstances that was not possible. However because she is now on twitter I know she was following virtually.
7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why
I love science and missed meeting and hearing Nanogirl @medickinson.
I love photos as memories. So I will say I missed out on a photo opportunity with my TeachMeetNZ team. The TeachMeetNZ teachers have put in a lot of effort and time to share their teacher stories and it would have been great to have that as a memory. I also would have liked a #grelfie with Pam Hook aka @arti_choke. She is my eduhero.
8. What is the next book you are going to read and why?
9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #EdchatNZ?
I will continue on my journey of learning more about how I can support ‘The greatest source of variance that can make a difference to student learning–the teacher and how they share their learning.’ My principal Dr Wendy Kofoed @newmarketschool and I will be sharing this at Ulearn so do join us in our session. Breakout Four A on Thursday 09 Oct 2014 at 13:45 to 14:15.
10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
I am willing to take a risk and handing our teachers a blank canvas and coaching them as they take the risk with our students.
I am adding one more task to this meme. Using my SOLO taxonomy lens I know that this meme is at relational level because we are making connections with each other. However to push my meme to extended abstract I need to make my meme visible in a sharing way. So I have added mine to the #edchatnz Listly and I challenge anyone reading and who are tagged in the meme to do the same.