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:
Why do we work in teams and what are the benefits of team working?
Good teamwork is essential for high performance in any business or non profit organisation. Certain features of voluntary organisations and charities make developing teamwork even more important. As well as enabling better performance teams can bring other benefits.
Benefits vary depending on the purpose and size of the team but may include some of the following. A team can:
apply a mix of skills that go beyond the scope of any one individual
solve complex problems that take more than one mind
generate new ideas
coordinate individual activities towards a common bigger goal
I don’t want to start by alarming everyone and having you believe I think that you all are unwell 🙂
I thought I would share some resources to consider as we move forward. Today the reviewers spoke about collaborative teams and the need for planning and overviews etc. In my session I received a bigger picture of things to work on and one of them was to be mindful of staff wellbeing. It is meant to be a four year plan not something we can develop overnight. I don’t want to burn out anyone I am conscious of the impact that it can have on me personally if I attempt to push too fast and too much. So some resources:
“an enquiry which is carried out in order to understand, to evaluate and then to change, in order to improve educational practice”
(1998, p. 93)
I have discussed this model when I first came to Payne Road to review the state of play. It was a way for me to see what was happening and to discuss where you all thought we needed to go. The Full School Review is also fulfilling a part of that approach by externally reviewing what is happening. I have had some initial feedback and there were no real surprises. Basically we need to determine our student needs, your needs, deepen our knowledge, make a plan, implement the plan and see if it is working. The key concerns at the moment seem to be not the what we are teaching but how and if that is supporting our students needs. You are a skilled group of professionals and I look forward to working with you all on this challenge. And hopefully we can make it rewarding and less stressful.