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.
I shared this quote about the merits of collaborative teacher efficacy on our student free day as a definition of this term and also to share what I believe is the way forward when we look to impact successfully on student learning.
And here lies the problem…do we all recognise what the challenge is?
Are we prepared to face the challenge? Are we prepared to change what we do? Work differently? Work together? And rely on ourselves for the answer?
I think we would all agree that we face a range of challenges in schools and in society (that often get forced on schools to fix)…Like you (I hope) I
So let me throw this problem of practice out there…
This is not an exhaustive list of influencing factors…I could go on…the system…the curriculum…funding/resources…leadership…etc etc
I developed PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) to address pressing needs at Payne Road but I also developed them because the answers can’t always come from me or from a policy maker somewhere or from some external team. We are our best resource…we have an opportunity to think outside the box, work differently and look beyond tradition and the way we have always worked. I don’t exaggerate when I state that our profession is at risk of becoming obsolete and I have seen our respect in society diminish over the course of my career.
I don’t have the answers…but I challenge you all to try.
School districts face tremendous budget challenges and, as a result, professional development has been “trimmed” from many school budgets. (Habegger & Hodanbosi, 2011). School administrators responsible for planning professional development face a daunting task and often focus on PowerPoints, district mandated training, one-shot presentations, and workshops that are delivered by expensive experts. These types of activities lack teacher collaboration, time for sharing of ideas and opportunity for reflection and analysis (Torff & Byrnes, 2011, Coggins, Zuckerman & Mckelvey, 2010).
Now it is a dissertation…and long…and I am not expecting you to read it all…some of it my touch a chord with you…perhaps start with the preface.
I want you to consider this challenge or problem of practice when you are working in PLCs this year. There will be no one magic wand but a collective approach and the willingness to take risks will begin to address some of our concerns.
Think also about what you already have access to…our technology has evolved and we have access to a range of resources. And some of these have been with us for a while…we need to explore how we can use some of these differently…I can tell you from personal experience…trial and error has been a far better teacher than any professional development that I have ever attended.
People are often quite uncomfortable with change, for all sorts of understandable reasons. This can lead them to resist it and oppose it.
This is why it’s important to understand how people are feeling as change proceeds, so that you can guide them through it and so that – in the end – they can accept it and support it.
Bridges’ Transition Model helps you do this. We’ll explore the model in this article.
About the Model
The Transition Model was created by change consultant, William Bridges, and was published in his 1991 book “Managing Transitions.”
The main strength of the model is that it focuses on transition, not change. The difference between these is subtle but important. Change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.
The model highlights three stages of transition that people go through when they experience change. These are:
Ending, Losing, and Letting Go.
The Neutral Zone.
The New Beginning.
Bridges says that people will go through each stage at their own pace. For example, those who are comfortable with the change will likely move ahead to stage three quickly, while others will linger at stages one or two.
Let’s examine each stage in greater detail.
Stage 1: Ending, Losing, and Letting Go
People enter this initial stage of transition when you first present them with change. This stage is often marked with resistance and emotional upheaval, because people are being forced to let go of something that they are comfortable with.
At this stage, people may experience these emotions:
A sense of loss.
People have to accept that something is ending before they can begin to accept the new idea. If you don’t acknowledge the emotions that people are going through, you’ll likely encounter resistance throughout the entire change process.
Bruce Sullivan is a relationship specialist and a proven performer having achieved results with people for over 24 years. His practical, hands on experience is based on working with individuals, families, businesses and communities providing education and opportunities for personal improvement. It is this experience that has given Bruce a unique understanding of our ability to relate to one another in the workplace and at home.
Speaking to a group of principals, one of the participants, thanked me for my time, and gave a very elegant “call-to-action” to the group. It was not simply discussing what I talked about, but what they needed to do to move forward.
One of her quotes that resonated with me was, “Intention is not good enough; we need to look at our impact.”1 It jolted me. There are very few people in the world that don’t want to do important things, yet what is the impact of our intentions? Everyone wants to be a great teacher, but do all educators do things that keep them up to date and moving forward in their work? This would obviously apply to any profession.
I have always believed that you could have been a great teacher ten years ago, changed nothing, and now be irrelevant.
This is one of my favourite quotes from a college dropout who felt a post-secondary education was no longer relevant to what he needed to be successful in our world today:
“Wanting” is not good enough on it’s own; the impact of our actions are how progress is always measured.
I understand that our jobs are all a balancing act. We juggle expectations from ourselves, our own lives and families, our students, our parent community, the school and our department. I don’t think we have the balance right yet and it is something we are constantly working towards by reviewing systems and trying to filter down to what is important. I can only speak for school and will not begin to try and review how everyone manages their busy lives. I wanted to take the time in this blog to clarify my expectations and where they come from and also to see how my personal belief in Teacher autonomy can still work in this current era of high expectations, accountability and departmental overarching guidelines. I don’t have all the answers and that’s why I ask everyone to work in teams to try and get to the core of our business.
Without motivation we find our jobs very difficult and we see on a daily basis that motivation can drive our students to achieve or the lack of it hold them back. I have shared the work of Dan Pink with respect to “Drive” in the past.
This along with other work looks at why we are motivated to do our work. And we are all motivated by different things. As a Teacher (or Principal) you are motivated by:
Autonomy – you want to get on with your job as you see fit. You want to have a say and control over how you teach and implement the other elements of your profession. Sometimes the guidelines and expectations restrict your own creativity. Prescribed curriculum and pacing can be frustrating.
Mastery – you seek novelty and challenge and may become bored easily without that challenge. You seek feedback and you look for innovation. Readily try new strategies, techniques and resources. Can be frustrated when things don’t work out the way you had envisaged or hoped.
Purpose – You need to understand the vision and mission in order to be motivated. You need to understand an initiative in order to accept and move forward. You have high expectations for your students and you are interested in what is best for them. You prefer big picture conversations and can be frustrated by conversations about minutia.
Belonging – You seek feedback, interaction and engagement. You are interesting in forging relationships and work well in teams. You are able to reach even the most difficult of students. Your instructional decisions are based on “who” rather than “what” or “why”. You share resources and ideas with your colleagues though can be a little socially awkward.
We’re a complex bunch 🙂
It is probably not as cut and dry as that and we are a combination of all of these. However, we tend to have a go to behaviour. The complexity is bringing that all together as a team, complying with expectations and working towards a common goal. Sometimes I find my job is a case of filtering out the “rubbish” and getting on with what works for our kids. If it was only that easy. So where do my expectations come from how do we make that work for everyone.
Research & Data
Feedback is one of the top 10 influences on student achievement.
It is also linked to a number of targets for literacy and numeracy. This is where the accountability comes from and this is what my Lead Principal will always talk to me about. And this is the struggle for those of us who like our autonomy.
Data that drives our agenda
This is the data that gives the region the most drama…while our ICSEA is 92 and in the light green category of Upper Quartile expectation (compared to similar schools). We are performing in the mid upper quartile or mid lower quartile across the board in year 3 and 5. We all know there are a number of contributing factors and trust me it is not something I lay awake at night thinking about :). It is just something to be mindful of when you question some of the decisions we make around our programs and our planning and coaching strategies.
Planning, Teaching, Assessment and Professional Learning
Our Teaching & Learning Cycle outlines our process and embeds our other priorities. My expectation would be that we use this opportunity to plan together and discuss the individual needs of our students as an important part of our professional learning. It is a way for us to maintain some consistency around expectations though I would hope that this process has enough flexibility to meet your needs. The autonomy can come in the way you deliver your program but remember those involved are using their experience, expertise and research in helping you to deliver a program that meets the needs of all your students. I would hope that you all would readily engage in this process as it also shapes our other resourcing including teacher aide time and extra staffing.
When I came to Payne Road I made a decision that we would use the C2C resources particularly the assessment tasks. I know this is not popular because it can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to the quality of those tasks and the time it takes to deliver that assessment. My belief is that it is important that we deliver the rigor of the Australian Curriculum and at the moment the C2C resources are there to help us do that. From some interesting conversations at the Data Literacy day for Metropolitan Band 7 School Leadership teams we reviewed elements of the Australian Curriculum and the intent of those standards as a “C” standard. If we had the time it would be good to develop some new assessment tasks but at the moment we are all very busy and we will work with what we have.
Reading to Learn and Learning to Read are our current strategies for English and we are still refining. This is our attempt to balance our program (recommendation from the Full School Review) without throwing out everything we have invested in to this point.
Mathematics will probably become part of our review work in 2017 and beyond.
One final word
It is my intention that we approach this work as a team. I will continue to seek your feedback but you must remember we can’t approach all the work within your personal style or motivation (or mine) as the key approach. There will be challenges and we won’t always agree on the processes in place but I would hope that we can discuss these as professionals. Remember the ultimate goal is to improve student learning and in the process build our own capacity to meet these needs.
Thanks for your efforts and I hope your day is not too much of this:
WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get our of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?
I know I have shown the video and I have talked about this a number of times but I really think it is important…I would like you to take some time and think about that question in the context of what we do. I would like your ideas to shape “our WHY” and then we will have more success in defining our WHAT and HOW…
So what’s my WHY:
I want all the children and staff in my school to enjoy what they are doing and to know what they do is important. If along the way they get a great education and a sense of security and belonging then I have done my job.
Probably needs some work. Some other resources that might help: