Operating Styles and communicating more effectively in Teams

Before Mark sends us the PowerPoint from his last session I thought I would share the operating styles model with an example of the CONNECTOR working to communicate more effectively with the DETAILER or at least my interpretation of this process.

 

Next year we will do more work with Mark around Teams on our Student Free Day.  I hope this will be beneficial as we develop strong teams to support students.

When A School Becomes Toxic – What Can We Do to Change School Culture?

When A School Becomes Toxic – What Can We Do to Change School Culture?

Pernille Ripp

When you walk into a school you can usually feel the culture right away.  Is this a building where teachers love to teach?  Where students thrive?  Is there a feeling of family in the air or something else?  A building’s culture is often invisible and yet it can be one of the most important components of what makes a school great.  In fact, I fell in love with Oregon Middle School because of the feeling of family I encountered in my very first interview.

So what happens when a school’s environment turns toxic?  Where mistrust and anger become commonplace?  What do we do when we find ourselves in the type of school where all we want to do is shut the door and teach in peace, too tired to deal with everything else?  Well, there are a few things we can do.

We can make sure we are not the ones being toxic.  Yes, it is hard to let go of anger.  Yes, it is hard to not get upset.  And yet, we also make a choice every day of whether or not we want to add more negativity or not.  We make a choice, it is not made for us, and sometimes we have to make it again and again throughout the day as we try to stay positive.

We can build others up.  Why not point out the positive that you see.  Just as negativity is contagious, so is positivity.  You may be the only one noticing great things but give a compliment, leave a note, do something that shows you notice the great that is happening around you and speak up.

We can choose to trust a new person.  We often only extend the trust to those we know well and everybody else in a building we are not quite so sure of.  But how about we assume that there must be more people in the building that are there because they also love teaching and kids?   Purposefully extending your circle of trust means that your “inner” circle will grow, which means there are more people you can vouch for internally.  It may not seem important but it certainly is.

We can watch each other teach.  I know nothing about what goes on in other classrooms but instead of being ok with that, I have asked if I can come watch others teach.  I have also opened up my door to anyone that would like to come in.  Yes, it is hard to feel like you are being judged but we can also assume positive intent.

We can have courageous conversations.  If someone is seemingly negative at all times, ask them why.  Yes, this may be super uncomfortable for all of us but a simple question can go a long way.  Often we establish a pattern of unhealthy venting and don’t know it ourselves.  Someone calling us out, even gently, can be all we need to see our habit.

We can focus on what we can change.  There are many things in my state that upset me, there are even decisions in my district that I may not agree with, and yet, when I cannot change things I let them go.  Why anyone wants to carry anger with them every day they teach beats me.

We can make new friends.  Often we stick to the same people in our teaching circle at school, why not extend that circle right along with the trust?  Stop by someone’s room and ask them a question, seek out someone new to sit by at the staff meeting, volunteer for a new committee.  Something to meet new people.  A toxic environment often comes from not knowing each other, so break that barrier down one person at a time.

We can refuse to give power to the toxicity.  In our silent agreement, when we nod, when we spread the stories that tear others down we are complicit in spreading toxicity.  When we agree rather than ask questions, when we stand and listen, we are complicit in the spread of toxicity. So walk away, don’t agree, speak up.  If you do not want a toxic environment then do something about it.  Shutting your door is the easy way out.

Sometimes the toxicity comes straight from the top, so administrators, this is for you.

You can be the voice of reason.  Seek out both sides of the story before you judge, don’t have favorites, and leave your own emotions out of it.  Just like teachers at times will side with students that they like, so will administrators, and that sends a very strong message to everyone in a school.

You can check your own interactions.  If the interactions you are having with teachers are more negative than positive, think of how that affects the students.  While there are always tough conversations to be had, how they are approached can make or break a school culture.

You can be positive.  I work for one of the most positive administrators I have ever met.  Every day, no matter what, she has a positive attitude, even in the hardest situations.  This makes a difference and it sets the tone.  Our culture is one where people welcome and teachers feel valued.  If an administrator always looks mad, tired, or stressed it spreads to everyone else.

You can respect privacy.   As an administrator, you probably have way more information than any teachers and especially about other teachers.  That is part of your job, and so part of your job should also be to keep that private.  I have heard horror stories of administrators sharing private things that greatly influenced how others saw a teacher.  Be mindful of what you share and who you share it with.

You can initiate hard conversations.  I think too often administrators are not quite sure how to approach a toxic person or situation, and I get it, it can get really messy really quickly.  But at the end of the day, if we don’t talk about a problem it will never get away.  So we can allude, circle, and kind of talk about it, or we can face the problem head on and try to get somewhere with it.

You can ask for feedback.  My administration just held a two-day listening session where anyone was welcome to come and discuss whatever they wanted.  That sets the tone for the level of trust they place in us; they want to hear what we have to say even if they have no solution.  Simply opening up the door and asking for genuine feedback sends a powerful message about where you are in your administration journey; are you trying to grow or are you good with where you are.

A toxic culture can arise quickly but can take years to combat.  And while it would be nice to simply point the finger to one person and accuse them of being the main culprit, we all have a role in it.  From those that continue to spread negativity by venting their frustrations, to those of us that choose to shut our door and forget about the rest of the school; we are all complicit.  So take a long hard look at yourself, after all that is the only person we can control, and make sure that what you bring to your school is really what you meant to bring.  I know we all have bad days, but some times those bad days become bad years without us even realizing it.  A school’s culture is never too late to fix; but it does take a decision to do something about it.  And that decision can be made by us. Every single day.

 

What can we learn from the Finnish Education system

I am not necessarily a fan of elements of our current system despite the fact that I continue to implement those elements that in the Finnish system have proven to be ineffective.  Having done a lot of reading about this system recently and over the years there are a number of things we can learn from their system.  However, not necessarily easy to implement because of other systems that impact on education including our social and political climate along with other education systems including the private system, early education, high school, tafe and university.

I thought I would take this opportunity to share some findings for you to think about from their system and perhaps how we might try to implement those things at Payne Road or even in any State School in Queensland.

First of all let’s address the myths about their system:

Some key points from my reading:

  • Collaborative Teaching
  • Special Education programs

https://youtu.be/HsdFi8zMrYI

  • Teaching the whole child
  • No diagnostic assessment
  • Longer breaks and less teaching time
  • Less homework
  • Concentrate on small data – (more in line with the feedback work)
  • Equity rather than equality
  • Multiple intelligences a consideration
  • Project based learning
  • Ongoing professional development and peer coaching
  • Schools choose their curriculum
  • Wellbeing a focus

Other resources:

https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2017/08/29/Teach-Like-Finland/

My Finnish Education Lessons on YouTube

Collective Teacher Efficacy

I want you take a moment and think about all the students in your class.  If you need to go in and have a look at the class dashboard at https://oslp.eq.edu.au/OSLP.MVC/Dashboard in OneSchool.

Do you believe that you can make a difference to all those children, overcome their challenges and impact positively on their achievement.  Be honest…are you concerned that external factors, e.g. disability diagnosis, time constraints, parent support or student attitude, will prevent some children from ever achieving.  It is human nature to perceive or attribute various causes when considering factors that contribute to their success and/or failure.  What we want to do is promote (and that is not really the word I am looking for) teacher efficacy.  The belief that you can make a difference.

When teachers attribute students’ successes and failures to internal factors rather than external factors, they in turn, believe their actions impact student achievement.

The next step is collective teacher efficacy:

Amazing things happen when a school staff shares the belief that they are able to achieve collective goals and overcome challenges to impact student achievement.

It is a bit difficult to develop a PD program that suddenly develops collective teacher efficacy.  It is not as simple as here is a recipe go and do it.  We are investigating the IMPACT teams as a way we can work together to look at student work and share strategies for success.

The Research

Why are we doing it?

 

STEAM – Project based learning

Students work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience.

As a result, students develop deep content knowledge as well as critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills in the context of doing an authentic, meaningful project. Project Based Learning unleashes a contagious, creative energy among students and teachers.

Resources:

https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/36-stem-project-based-learning-activities

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/sept10/vol68/num01/Seven_Essentials_for_Project-Based_Learning.aspx

STEAM Made Simple – Primary

Bright Sparks – Using Design Thinking to Solve Problems – Years 5 & 6

 

 

Leading Impact Teams

Teacher teams are a school’s greatest resource…

Excellent teams make excellent schools!

Leading Impact Teams taps into the scheduled team planning time every school already has, and re-purposes it in a model that provides the processes needed to build teacher expertise and increase student learning.

The model combines two existing practices, formative assessment and collaborative inquiry, and promotes a school culture in which teachers and students are partners in learning.

Teams will learn how to:

  • Build a culture of efficacy

  • Take collective action using high yield strategies

  • Maximize peer and self-assessment strategies

  • Clarify learning goals and success criteria

  • Leverage progressions

  • Utilize evidence-based feedback

Teacher Efficacy

What Is Teacher Efficacy? It’s About Believing in Kids

Great teachers have two things in common: high expectations and encouragement.

A good example would be my science teacher. He assigned my class to write an essay on biomes. It had to be 1,000 words, not counting any words less than four letters. It was really hard. I finished it, but some kids didn’t.

That’s where encouragement comes in. Teacher efficacy is about rooting for kids. When I only get a couple of answers right on a test, or come up a few words short on an essay, a great teacher doesn’t say I should’ve done better. He or she congratulates me on what she got right and helps me focus on how to improve next time.

https://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/resources/1/Pdfs/Teacher_Efficacy_What_is_it_and_Does_it_Matter.pdf

http://corwin-connect.com/2016/07/fostering-collective-teacher-efficacy-three-enabling-conditions/

Collective Teacher Efficacy: The Effect Size Research and Six Enabling Conditions

Building relationships through communication

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that parents and teachers have the same end goal.  It can be very intimidating when we are faced by a passionate parent who wants you do everything for their child perhaps with the expectation that this will be at the expense of others in the class.  Building a strong partnership through positive communication is important for all students not to mention better for your mental health.  None of us are immune to that sick feeling when we are faced with a meeting with a parent we normally have very little communication with but we know they are upset about a decision you have made with good intention.  Regular positive communication is the key to build that relationship and minimise surprises during parent/teacher meetings.  I know feedback from our last parent/teacher interviews and my experience in other schools was positive when teachers were able to clearly outline where their child was at, what they needed to work on next and where they are heading.  I can tell you that no parent looks forward to a meeting with a teacher where they have to hear about the problems their child is having academically or behaviourally.  Trust me they will already know.  What they want to know is how they can work on that and your are their best resource and ally.  There are always exceptions to this rule but if you maintain the positive constructive relationship you can work through these times.

Surprise a Parent

Parents are not accustomed to hearing unsolicited positive comments from teachers about their children, especially in a phone call from the school. Imagine how you would feel, as a parent, if you were contacted by a teacher or the school principal and told that your son or daughter was doing well in school, or that your child had overcome a learning or behavior problem. When you make calls to share positive information with parents, be prepared for them to sound surprised-pleasantly surprised.

Research shows that school-home communication is greatly increased through personalized positive telephone contact between teachers and parents. Remember, when a phone call from school conveys good news, the atmosphere between home and school improves. When you have good news to share, why wait? Make the call and start a positive relationship with a parent.

http://www.readingrockets.org/article/building-parent-teacher-relationships

Some other resources:

 

Building Trust in the Workplace

Trust is about reliability and doing the right thing. It’s also a big factor that will determine success in your job and your career — especially in a rough business climate where your value as an employee is closely watched.

Do your colleagues, subordinates or superiors perceive you as trustworthy and honest? How do you perceive them? Trust is a characteristic that builds respect and loyalty, as well as a supportive and safe work environment. Distrust increases tension and negative “on guard” behavior, which can erode the spirit of the team and ultimately productivity.

Below are six steps to build trust in the workplace.

1. Be Honest

The first step in building trust is to be honest.

  • Tell the truth. Even small lies and twisted truths are still lies.
  • Share honest information, even if it’s to your disadvantage.
  • Don’t steal — on expense reports, from the supply cabinet or your colleagues.

2. Use Good Judgment

The second step is to know what information to share, when to share it and when not to share it.

  • Protect employee’s personal information and company or competitors’ proprietary information as if it were your own.
  • Think twice before sharing a blunt, unsolicited judgment. Extreme honesty may hurt the recipient, ironically destroying trust and the safe environment.
  • Don’t expect apologies to erase your wrongdoings. Apologies might earn a forgive, but perhaps not a forget.
  • Avoid “just between us” secret conversations unless necessary to the benefit of the company.

3. Be Consistent

The third step is to be consistent in words and behaviors. It’s not enough to be trustworthy only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

  • Show up — every day and on time — and stay at least the required hours.
  • Do the work; meet or exceed the job description and company standards.
  • Do what you say you will do. Fulfill your promises.

4. Be Honest in Nonverbal Communications

Body language experts tell us that more than half of communications’ impact is in nonverbal communications. To increase trust through body language:

  • Look others in the eye with comfortable and direct eye contact.
  • Exhibit open body language with: 1) open arms versus closed across the chest or hands clasped together, 2) hands kept in sight (not behind you or in your pockets) and open (not in a fist), and 3) legs uncrossed with feet flat on the floor, while seated.

5. Have a Mutually Beneficial Attitude

Blatant self-serving agendas may cast doubt on one’s trustworthiness. In reality, everyone has self-serving agendas, but it is the level of harm to others that determines the level of trust in that person. To increase trust:

  • Avoid me, me, me. Genuinely care about others and promote we, we, we.
  • Nurture mutually beneficial relationships with open communications.
  • Willingly accept information and constructive critique.

6. For the Leaders

Trusted leaders are sorely needed. Leaders should be able to:

  • Ask the hard questions to build and protect the company.
  • Listen and consider others’ ideas with an open mind.
  • Focus on issues and solutions rather than personalities.
  • Set the example, by being responsible and accountable.

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_build_trust_in_schools

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar03/vol60/num06/Trust-in-Schools@-A-Core-Resource-for-School-Reform.aspx

https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/building-trust-for-better-schools/book227439

http://teachforall.org/en/network-learning/importance-trust