Monday, May 28, 2018

You're the voice, try and understand it, make a noise and make it clear (John Farnham)

Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash
Student voice. That was the answer.

My question was: what's the one thing you would like me to address if I become your new Head Teacher?

This came during my (successful) epic interview for a new job in the UK.

It was the student interview. They asked some searching questions and when they were done they asked me if I had a question for them.

I did.

Was I surprised by their answer? Not really.

My current senior students at my current school would probably have said the same thing if they'd had the chance to interview me before I became the Kaipara Principal.

Student voice.

This can be interpreted in different ways.

It may mean 'more choice', or 'getting what we want', or 'asking for our opinions', or 'our preferences'.

The simple fact is, I liked how they asked if I had question for them. It made me feel included somehow. 

Now, the reciprocal question needs to be asked of the students. Everyone likes to be listened to, don't they?

What do you want to say? (Go ahead; I'm all ears).

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Baby, you've been on my mind (Linda Ronstadt)

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Meta cognition, a.k.a. learning to learn, has been on my mind this week. 

Incidentally, it's our school motto and features on our gate. So I see it every morning as I arrive at school. That constant reinforcement is pretty cool.

Why is it our motto? Well, because when students are aware of their thoughts and actions it makes them move in a positive and focused direction.

My students have set their own learning goals which they own. I check their commitment to them and they ditch them if they are not totally committed.

From then on it's a pathway to success through hard work and persistent effort coupled with thinking about what they are doing. That in turn feeds the belief that they can succeed.

The real trick I am keen to see develop more is students maintaining their focus in the learning centre when other students go off task. Because of the learning centre lay out with its variety of study locations, it does happen more and more that meta cognitive students realise they have no control of that other student but they can maintain their own focus.

I had an interesting conversation with a student yesterday who was wanting to know how he could gain enrichment (a great scheme by which self-directed learners can work from home one day a week). I explained that he needed to do just as I've outlined above - divorce himself from a tight group of other boys who distract him and focus on his own learning.

He listened carefully and nodded his understanding. Now I need to see him do it. If he does, and I think he will, he will have grown as a self-directed learner and be able to pursue a more positive path.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Please please and thank yourself (The Exponents)

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Continuing the focus on Self-Directed Learning, this post takes a gander at a recommended cycle (cycle - geddit?) of SDL:

  • Assess the demands of the task
  • Evaluate own knowledge and skills
  • Plan an approach
  • Apply strategies
  • Monitor progress
  • Reflect and Adjust strategies

For my money, individual lessons coulda woulda shoulda replicate this cycle to embed these aspects.

For instance - after the welcomes, learning objective and snappy opening, a junior school lesson could segue naturally from prior knowledge to task plan to plenary reflections and next steps.

SDL cycle. Right? 

Just imagine if that was done over and over and over again. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Let's get excited, we just can't hide it (The Pointer Sisters)

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Volunteering to lead innovative initiatives is a good thing to do. A virtuous thing. 

Throughout my career, from time to time, I have found myself as a committed champion for innovations that excite me, and so, I wasn't surprised when I found myself doing it again last week.

As the blogosphere is well aware, I am a true believer in Self-Directed Learning (SDL), and so I volunteered to co-ordinate a group of dedicated doers looking into the current state of SDL in our Westmount campuses and wondering where we can go from here to improve things.

What was that? Oh, you're welcome!

What did I do and what should I do next?

My first move was to send a link to this very blog to my devotees...admirers? Would you believe fanatical supporters? 

Coincidentally a recent post tackled the 'how do I improve SDL' conundrum. My aim is to use it with those dedicated doers as a pulse-taking activity.

And so to the 'what next?' bit.

Well that centres on my dedicated doers. 

I'm Mr Excited by the idea of strengthening SDL and at this stage I need my dedicated doers to share that feeling. 

Does that idea really generate enthusiasm in them?

I'll get a greater sense of that over the next week or so. I have yet to receive any responses from my initial email but I'm also a firm believer in relentless positivity. 

Maybe I need to frame it differently; I'm hoping no one starts talking about how busy they are, I would hate it to die the death of a thousand cuts.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dear friend, what's the time? (Paul McCartney)

Photo by Dickens Sikazwe on Unsplash
A truism that is often repeated: only other principals know what the job feels like.

I've heard it a lot, most recently during a terrific two day leadership development event ('symposium' sounds too grand, 'thing' too blase). And I've said it myself. Many times.

But. What does it mean? Does it hold up?

To me, it's a version of 'before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes'. In effect, it is saying - understanding of some one's experiences, challenges, thought processes, can only happen if you can really empathise with their situation.

In our case - other Principals.

Being a school Principal is a unique form of isolation, stemming from a unique challenge - to be part of a team (or series of teams), yet also be a leader and a manager of people and things. 

Over the years, my mentors and sounding boards have been (and continue to be), other Principals. 

Shout out to you all around the world and in the blogosphere!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Five perfect storm requirements needed for Self-Directed Learning to go gang busters!

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
Self-Directed Learning is what we are about at Westmount School. Old news. But what conditions need to exist to improve S-DL?

Great question. Here's my response!

  • Environment (personalised places/conditions to do it)
  • Learning goals (set by the student and owned!)
  • Choice (what to study and when to study)
  • Self-reflection (How am I doing? What needs to change?)
  • Support: Learning coaches (help is on the way)
BTW: Those last two are linked. Self-reflection is tough for kids and that's why a coach is a crucial ingredient.

My take on this (and it is mine - go ahead and Google 'What conditions need to exist to improve Self-Directed Learning' and see how you get on!) is that, as educators, we can work wonders when these five conditions intersect.

If even one of the five elements is missing - you end up with something that is less than successful. Think about each one. Are any expendable? Disposable? Didn't think so.

Recipe for success? You bet!

Stir well. Allow to simmer. Watch the results unfold over a lifetime!