Recently my twitter handle @melaniem8 has been tweeted out regularly, due to my part in the Connected Conversations at ULearn17. We will be live streamed during our conversation.
That is what I keep asking myself.
I have been missing from my blog and twitter in the last 12 months for a number of personal reasons. As I was getting lots of notifications, I thought I better see what is happening in there. I had a great laugh when I entered my twitter profile and clicked on my blog link which went to my last post titled ‘Presenting Sucks’. I wrote that more than a year ago. When I read the post I realised this is all true about presenting, for me anyway, yet here I am doing it again. Not only presenting to a group in the room but being livestreamed.
During my absence from twitter and my blog I have learnt a lot. One of the things I have learnt is that being uncomfortable with doing something you know will benefit you and your ideas is a good thing. It means you are doing great things. Hello discomfort!
That is what I am doing, getting really uncomfortable, sharing research alongside an inspiring colleague I have the good fortune to work with. We have been given a great opportunity to do some research into how the VLNP-Virtual Learning Network Primary- impacts on our students. Our story surprised both of us and made for some excellent conversations. I believe the conversations we have had made the research even more empowering to both of us than if we had done it on our own. Collaboration at it’s best.
If you can’t make ULearn 2017, join the connected conversations via the twitter feed #ulearn17 and #notatulearn17. I will also post the research into my blog once we have presented.
One of my professional goals for this year was to inspire leadership in the teachers and students around me. I didn’t know how I was going to achieve this, I just knew it was something that was a big part of my beliefs as a leader. I also felt that our students would benefit from this. We have identified our students as passive learners because they haven’t been a part of the learning process the learning has been done to them. In my research I have discovered that children who plan their own goals, set weekly schedules and evaluate their own work build up their frontal cortex and take more control over their lives.
I very quickly learnt to build this capacity with my teachers I needed to accept that I was no longer the person solving and doing everything. This was important to me because I knew that was exactly what we were doing to our learners which increased their passiveness towards their learning. I wanted my team to start leading themselves. When I first wrote my professional goal I pondered how I would evaluate this and my mentor and I came up with ‘When we see both teachers and student leading others’. Students are now running workshops and our teachers are researching and presenting to the staff. As a team we have been researching how boys learn and developing our understanding of the Innovative learning Environment we are creating collaboratively for our students. This is what we learnt, shared and used in our practice.
These are some little gems that I have discovered on my journey of inspiring leadership in those around me:
- Allow my colleagues to solve their own problems with me walking beside them.
- By listening with intention I am valuing what others have to say.
- Notice the treasures in front of me and and allow them to shine on their own.
- Let others know what a great job they are doing
- Giving time to others is a valued gift.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
Leadership Values and Beliefs
My Leadership Values and Beliefs as they are today demonstrate a great deal of growth and understanding from me. My journey this year has at times being challenging as I have questioned myself about being a leader and becoming a principal. I basically missed having the responsibility of my own classroom and the rewards that brings. When I was challenged on this I decided that being a leader of learning was a priority for me. This gave me more focus and direction and less distraction and confusion about what the hell I was doing.
My Leadership Values and Beliefs
- Grow leaders in teachers and students
- Build capacity in making a difference and leading change
- Provoke the thinking of the leaders around me with innovative practice and pedagogy
- Identify, understand and value the aspirations of my learning community with a particular focus on our Maori community and increasing the achievement of our akonga
More reflection on my 2015 professional inquiry
At one point this year our teachers felt like they were in the pit and were struggling with some of our student’s not managing themselves in this environment. As a team we thought that it would be time to define the different types of learners we had in our collaborative team. We decided we had three types and lined this up with the SOLO framework. The teachers also had discussions with the students and students identified where they belonged. Within this SOLO framework
Multi structural – Managed Learners
Relational – Self Managed Learners
Extended Abstract – Self Directed Learners.
The three are distinctively different and require a level of skill to work within. These skills need to be taught, modelled and practiced daily for them to become part of a daily routine. This is a work in progress.
The teachers identified our managed group as having all our target students and also complained that these students were disrupting the class by being noisy, off task, disorganised and often destructive of a breakout space we had available to the students.
I had a discussion with these students – In a summary the target/managed students thought it was the rest of the class that was disrupting their learning by being noisy and off task, they wanted quiet spaces to go to and they wanted their teacher to be available more for them to talk to, they made reference to their teachers time always being taken up with the others students who were being, in their words, ‘naughty’. They also thought that they would be more comfortable with the teacher telling them what to do instead of having to write their own timetable. This surprised all of us and immediately things were put in place to support these learners – a managed timetable was created and time each morning was given to them to explain what the timetable was for the day and also gave them a chance to make decisions about their day with their teachers support. The teachers also ensure these students are listened to more consistently and were given them positive specific praise, praising them for the behaviours the students identified they needed to work on. When they get distracted they are to do what our group Expert, Harry, said he does
‘Ignore and focus on what I am Doing’
So even though we are aiming for student agency for our learners we know this will be at different levels for all of them.
In my last post I mentioned that I would reflect on the spin off from my Inquiry and the changes myself and my team have been making in our pedagogy around student agency. This is an example of one of the surprises which confirmed that what we are doing has positive effects.
Opportunities made possible
Part of the Visible Learning process has been about students creating their own goals, setting their own timetables and making decisions about the workshops that they will go to. We discovered this freedom to make decisions about their learning time provided opportunities we hadn’t thought of.
For example, a couple of our students decided to timetable time to create a video, to enter a competition for Chinese language week. They created a video talking about their school speaking in Mandarin. We didn’t even know they could speak Mandarin. We were right, they couldn’t, they had used Google translate to find their words. The speaker wrote down the sounds she knew to enable her to say her English words in Mandarin. Their video won the competition which gives them flights to Wellington to visit the Weta Workshops and to go to the Chinese Embassy for Dinner.
Student agency – giving the students the power to act on their learning.
How will our leading of change influence teachers to develop beliefs, practices and habits around developing Student Agency – giving the students the power to act on their learning.
Develop active learners who can guide their own learning with the knowledge and resources to understand where they are at with their learning, where they have been and where they can go.
- The learning is visible
- Students help create the criteria for the learning
- Students have the opportunity to learn how to become reflective on their learning
My Inquiry was a fascinating journey and although the visibility of learning needs a lot of work other exciting developments have spun off from this. I will write more about those in my blog.
Part of the learning being visible means that our students need to know where they are, where they have been and where they can go so that they can make decisions about their own learning. Our students are very new to this process and the journey has been challenging to say the least and we are still working on it.
At the beginning of the year our staff wrote our own Learning Progressions in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. We used the NZC, Literacy Learning Progression’s in student voice, the Literacy Learning progressions and various other resources to help guide us with this. We worked in teams and eventually came up with our own which are still evolving. With the teachers guidance students write their own goals and we frequently review these as needed or as requested by our students.
Next steps for the Learning Progressions: We find these too wordy for the students and will look at rewriting these. We will continue to use these in our student learning conversations and guide the students to use these when reflecting on their learning.
This hasn’t always been as streamlined and as exciting as the video has indicated and we are still changing how we do things but the shift in thinking and the development of student agency is certainly being demonstrated with student’s knowing their goals and identifying workshops they need to go to. I have completed an interview with our target students except it was about 6mins long. I believe that even though they know and they say the same things as what these students know. Getting it out of them was like pulling teeth. I will hold onto this video and do a similar one at the end of 2016 to see if there has been progress.
Is exciting, stressful, frustrating, interesting, fulfilling, scary! Some days I can’t wait to embrace the change that is coming our way and other days I want to run and live in a hole away from the doubt and fear of it all.
We must never forget why we are in the leadership roles we have been blessed with.
He Tangata! He Tangata! He Tangata!
The very reason why I don’t stay hiding.
My Inquiry is based around this question
How will our leading of change influence teachers to develop beliefs, practices and habits around developing Student Agency – giving the students the power to act on their learning?
I look forward to reflecting on this over the coming year and sharing a final evaluation in November.
P.S. I wrote this 8 months ago.