I recently attended the SPANZ Principals' conference (SPANZ stands for Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand). This was in Hamilton which is not far from Taranaki - maybe that's why I was the sole Taranaki Principal that went? Never-the-less I really enjoyed the conference and would like to share the highlights via my blog (you never know who could be reading...).
The first keynote speaker was truely inspirational. Dr Neil Hawkes from the UK centred his address on values education and really his plea was pretty simple - to promote good relationships and values in schools.
His definition of education - 'a conversation between generations on matters of importance' leads him to conclude that teaching and learning is about 'the flourishing of humanity'. With that in mind he mentioned a school in England called Wellington College that sets its curriculum around values (what is happiness?) and his advice to the assembled Principals was 'be authentically yourself'. I really liked these messages, especially the Polonious (in Hamlet) like advice to be true to yourself. Neil recommended this book by Richard Layard (an economist who has also got a book called 'Happiness' that I can also recommend).
Vivienne Robinson from the University of Auckland gave an address on 'Key competencies for school leadership'. She spoke of three important competencies - building relationships, knowing about learning, solving problems. Again I liked this presentation because of its less-is-more approach and it linked well with the messages from Neil Hawkes.
Andrew Douch is a biology teacher from Victoria (Australia) and by the end of his presentations we all wanted to move to Victoria and enrol in his bio class. What an inspirational teacher. I guess that's why he was chosen by Microsoft as the winner of the 2008 Worldwide Innovative Teacher of the Year Award. The thrust of his presentation was for educators to get connected with our generation Y students. His podcasts that are used as teaching tools were explained and the testimony of his students shows their value. I liked how he used desire paths(where people naturally go - see photo for details) to reach his students
He ended his presentation with a list for Principals that I'll share here and aim to keep in mind. It was called - what Principals can do to help:
Give time and freedom for teachers to experiment (professional development);
Foster a culture of risk failure (that includes the Principal);
Provide fences (to allow freedom to take risks);
Encourage staff to share resources online (and give them away);
Empower the Luke Skywalkers on our staff.
I've included some links to him and his blog and Dr Hawkes that I will certainly dip into - readers of this blog may like to as well.
All in all a terrific conference. It was great to catch up with my colleagues and share concerns and ideas. My thanks to the SPANZ executive for organising this year's speakers - and Paul Daley is a superb MC!