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.

 

Staff Wellbeing

It must nearly be Ekka week…I can sense it in the air…

Time to reflect on where we are with respect to our own wellbeing:

Where are you?

 

I would like to thank the members of our Wellbeing Team for their continued work in supporting staff and students with respect to wellbeing.  There are a range of resources available out there and the team works with some of these to reflect on the practices of the school and how we can improve wellbeing for all.  I thought I would share a few:

I have put this one up in the staff room for you to reflect on:

Information from MindMatters with respect to schools and wellbeing:

School workplaces can be stressful environments

All work places can be stressful at times– and schools are no different.

Stress is a normal response to the demands of work and while it can affect individuals differently, prolonged or excessive stress is not good for anyone.

Some of the things that can be stressful for school staff may include:

  • time pressures and workload
  • poor student behaviour including lack of motivation and effort, disrespect, challenging authority and violence
  • managing instances of bullying and other behavioural issues
  • conflict with management and colleagues
  • adapting and implementing change
  • being evaluated by others
  • poor working conditions
  • self-esteem and status

When these, or other workplace stressors, begin to impact on the mental health and wellbeing of school staff, it is important to take action to reduce or eliminate stress and build better ways of coping.

As with all workplaces, the responsibility for this action is shared between individual staff members, and the organisation. This Spotlight will point to key resources relating to staff wellbeing, including Heads Up created by the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. Heads Up provides individuals and businesses free tools and resources to create an action plan for a mentally healthy workplace, find out more about your own mental health, and get tips on having a conversation with someone you’re concerned about.

https://www.mindmatters.edu.au/spotlights/staff-wellbeing

Department of Education wellbeing oneportal page:

https://intranet.qed.qld.gov.au/Services/HumanResources/payrollhr/healthwellbeing/staffwellbeing/Pages/default.aspx

https://mediasite.eq.edu.au/mediasite/Play/701719c3953944eea41c5936c900ba161d

 

How to make stress your friend…and other wellbeing resources

TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

Wheel of Well-being

A UK resource that the Department of Education Queensland is utilising elements of:

https://www.wheelofwellbeing.org/

 

The importance of teacher resilience to outstanding teaching and learning in schools

A research project has identified teacher resilience as being key to outstanding teaching and learning in schools. Professor Chris Day explains the key messages from the research for schools, teachers and heads.

It is a truism that over a lifetime, most workers, regardless of the particularity of their work context, role or status, will need at one time or another – for shorter or longer periods, or as an everyday feature of their work processes – to call upon reserves of physical, psychological or emotional energy if they are to carry out their work to the best of their ability.

Schools and classrooms, especially, are demanding of energy of these kinds, partly because not every student chooses to be there and partly because successful teaching and learning requires cognitive, social and emotional investment by both teachers and students.

Given the likely associations between resilience and teaching quality, it is all the more surprising, therefore, to find that the capacity and capability to exercise resilience in schools has been largely ignored by governments and researchers in the past who have preferred instead to focus upon problems of teacher stress, burn-out and retention.

While the final report of the Skills Tests Review Panel to the education secretary in June, commissioned by the government to review the recruitment and selection procedures, identified the need for new written tests in literacy, numeracy and reasoning, it also recommended that so-called, “personal qualities such as oral communication, empathy and resilience” should be “the responsibility of providers of training”.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of one-off testing for resilience capacity and capability, it does seem to be important to address the issue. Which parent, for example, would want their child to be taught by a teacher who was unable to do so because their capacity for commitment, their sense of resilience, had become eroded over time? Here is what one experienced teacher said: “Sometimes you think, why do I keep doing this? They are never going to learn and nobody appreciates it. I think I have less belief in my ability to be effective the longer I’m here.”

Rather than ask how we can prevent stress and mental/emotional ill-health or how we can retain teachers, the more important questions are: “How can we foster resilience and what types of training, support, work environment, culture, leadership and management practices will facilitate its development?

These questions were the subject of a recent seminar series funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and attended by teachers, heads, academics and members of national policy organisations.

Evidence presented during this series suggests that employers in general tend to underestimate the extent of psychological ill-health among their staff. Psychological ill-health, whether work-related or not, is estimated to cost UK employers approximately £25 billion a year. On average this equated to £1,000 per employee.

This figure includes sickness absence and replacement costs, but also the reduced productivity of staff who attend work but who are unwell, a phenomenon known as “presenteeism”. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health’s report in 2007 estimated that presenteeism accounted for at least 1.5 times as much lost working time as absenteeism.

Although precise figures for the education sector are not available, it is not unreasonable to assume that the extent of presenteeism there may be as considerable as it is for the workforce as a whole: a substantial number of teachers may be attending work while not well. Over time this suggests that they will not be able to teach at their best.

A key strand of the seminar series, therefore, was the presentation and examination from psychological, sociological and policy perspectives of national and international research knowledge of the work and lives of teachers.

Taken together, these showed that while many teachers enter the profession with a sense of vocation and with a passion to give their best to the learning and growth of their pupils, for some these become diminished with the passage of time, changing external and internal working conditions and contexts, and unanticipated personal events.

They may lose their sense of purpose and wellbeing which are so intimately connected with their positive sense of professional identity and which enable them to draw upon, deploy and manage the inherently dynamic emotionally vulnerable contexts in which they teach and in which their pupils learn.

In a 2008 survey among teachers in schools in England, for example, teachers reported the damaging impact of these symptoms on their work performance. Issues were, in rank order, excessive workload, rapid pace of change, pupil behaviour, unreasonable demands from managers, bullying by colleagues, and problems with parents.

One of the conclusions of the seminar series was that the more traditional, psychologically derived notions that resilience is “the ability to bounce back in adverse circumstances” do not lend themselves to the work of teachers.

Resilience is not a quality that is innate. Rather, it is a construct that is relative, developmental and dynamic. A range of research suggests that resilient qualities can be learned or acquired and can be achieved through providing relevant and practical protective factors, such as caring and attentive educational settings in which school and academy leaders promote positive and high expectations, positive learning environments, a strong supportive social community, and supportive peer relationships.

Without organisational support, bringing a passionate, competent and resilient self to teaching effectively every day of every week of every school term and year can be stressful not only to the body but also to the heart and soul – for the processes of teaching and learning are rarely smooth, and the results are not always predictable.

The seminar series concluded that to teach to one’s best over time requires “everyday resilience”. This is more than the ability to manage the different change scenarios which teachers experience; more than coping or surviving.

It is being able to continue to have the capacity and capability to be sufficiently resilient, to have the desire and the energy as well as the knowledge and strong moral purpose to be able to teach to their best.

The capacity to be resilient in mind and action is likely to fluctuate according to personal, workplace and policy challenges and pupil behaviour; and the ability of individuals to manage the situations in which such fluctuations occur will vary.

The process of teaching, learning and leading requires those who are engaged in them to exercise resilience on an everyday basis, to have a resolute persistence and commitment, and to be supported in these by strong core values.

It is this more positive view of teacher resilience associated with teacher quality which should, we believe, inform policies of selection, recruitment and retention. The key messages from the research seminar series are that:

  • Teaching at its best is emotionally as well as intellectually demanding work and demands everyday resilience.
  • Levels of work-related stress, anxiety and depression are higher within education than within many other occupational groups.
  • Rather than focusing upon managing stress, a more productive approach would be to focus upon fostering and sustaining resilience.
  • Resilience is more than an individual trait. It is a capacity which arises through interactions between people within organisational contexts.
  • Teachers’ resilience needs to be actively nurtured through initial training and managed through the different phases of their professional lives.
  • Because government has a particular responsibility in relation to teaching standards, it needs to ensure it establishes national policy environments which acknowledge the importance of resilience to high quality teaching.
  • School leaders have a particular responsibility to foster and nurture teachers’ capacities and capabilities to exercise everyday resilience in order to ensure that they are able, through who they are and what they do, always to teach to their best.

Some other links:

 

Teacher Wellbeing

Teacher Wellbeing: Five Ways to Help Each Other

Teacher wellbeing is essential to support the wellbeing of students and their schools. So how do we build it?

Wellbeing in teachers is determined by three factors: what we can do for ourselves (over which we have control); the socio-political climate (although we might influence this, it does not make sense to expend too much precious energy on things we cannot change) and the relationships we have with each other. The last factor is really about social capital, the connections we have with each other that are marked by mutual cooperation and trust.

In 2016 let’s focus on the development of social capital in the schools where we work. What can we do to promote reciprocal support, kindness, trust and respect? These actions exist in the everyday micro moments – not doing more but perhaps a bit differently.

1. Notice and appreciate

Most teachers do not seek fulsome praise, but everyone wants their efforts noticed. It makes a significant difference to wellbeing when someone shows that what you did is acknowledged and valued. Although you don’t necessarily go that extra mile for anyone but your pupils, it doubles satisfaction when someone shares and savours successes with you. In one school a newsletter goes out every Friday and on the front page is a thank you – not just to staff for academic, sporting or drama achievements but to anyone in the school for everyday on-going good work – teachers get a mention of course but so do the cleaners, secretaries and casual staff. Teachers told me that it was the first thing everyone read – who was being noticed this week!

So next year make a point of looking into classrooms to see what is different – talk with colleagues over morning tea about little successes and achievements, both yours and theirs – and also notice those who are struggling and might need a word of encouragement.

2. Connect

What do you know about your colleagues – their lives, passions and perspectives? Schools that organise regular social functions to which everyone is invited can break down barriers between people and reduce the toxic power of cliques. I sometimes do a simple activity in workshops where I ask participants to have structured conversations with people they don’t usually talk to. Finding out a little about someone’s story inhibits quick judgement and prejudice. Once you have discovered what you have in common you have a basis for a different kind of relationship – one that might lead to greater collaboration and/or mutual support.

So next year spend a little bit of time in staff meetings mixing people up and talking in pairs or small groups about things that matter. Just five minutes once every so often would make a big difference. Use some of the wonderful materials around to stimulate these discussions, such as strengths cards to facilitate positive conversations.

3. Be active together

It is much more motivating to do physical activities together than alone. Perhaps you can also involve your pupils? How about a dance session once a week – or yoga, aikido or zumba? Perhaps get in an outside trainer and find a partner or group to commit to a term of activity at lunch-time or after school for 30 minutes. Get that serotonin buzz. You will perform better afterwards once your body has been pumping blood to your brain – so it’s a good investment of time! And it’s fun, so an oxytocin rush too!

So early next year have a conversation about what activity to go for, who will join you, when you might do this and how you might get it up and running!

4. Give to each other

Many teachers give so much of themselves they may feel their buckets are empty and they have little resources to draw on. Yet the research says that giving provides more wellbeing for the giver than the receiver so let’s give it a go for each other. Even giving a smile can make a difference. One school had a “Random Acts of Kindness” board in the staffroom where people wrote post-it notes when a colleague had done something small for them. This became a focus of conversation across the school. It works even better when the school has a “Secret Angel” system in place. This is where everyone (who wants to) puts their name in a hat at the beginning of term and picks out someone else’s. They then just keep an eye on that person for the term – making them a cup of tea, checking if it is their birthday and perhaps taking a duty for them. As someone else will be doing it for them their own bucket will also be topped up from time to time!

So next year what might you do to give teacher wellbeing a boost in your school?

5. Keep learning

One of the best ways to learn the knowledge and skills involved in developing healthy relationships and resilience is to teach this to children and young people. Teachers facilitating Circle Solutions in schools in Australia say they are learning ways to make a positive difference to their own lives both at work and at home. Simple techniques matter – like being pleased for someone else’s success, giving them the credit, bringing out the cake, sharing the good news! So many of us are reluctant to do this – jealousy, lethargy or simple thoughtlessness gets in the way. Marital relationships where partners are ‘active constructive responders’ have a much better chance of survival.

http://www.nesli.org/wellbeingtoolkit.html

http://www.research.uwa.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/2633590/teacher-wellbeing-and-student.pdf

 

Respectful relationships education program

https://learningplace.eq.edu.au/cx/resources/file/6956a602-d160-4946-88ab-9de60c000ee4/1/index.html

Program Guidelines

Introduction

Research shows that violence against women is much higher in countries where the economic, social and political rights of women are poorly protected. Violence is consistently worse in areas where power and resources are unequally distributed between men and women (for example by an under-representation of women in parliament and on corporate boards, a pay gap between men and women, and a gender gap in superannuation). Evidence also reveals that the ‘constants’ in predicting higher levels of violence against women relate to social structures and norms, as well as organisational practices that support gender inequality, especially in the following ways:

  • the condoning of violence against women
  • men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence, in public life and relationships
  • rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
  • male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.1

You can’t intention your way to extraordinary! Bruce Sullivan at TEDxUQ

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.

 

 

 

 

The Whole Child Approach

http://www.ascd.org/programs/learning-and-health/wscc-model.aspx

Each child, in each school, in each of our communities deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. That’s what a whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement really is.

wsccmodel-large

The demands of the 21st century require a new approach to education to fully prepare students for college, career, and citizenship. Research, practice, and common sense confirm that a whole child approach to education will develop and prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow by addressing students’ comprehensive needs through the shared responsibility of students, families, schools, and communities.

All educators want to improve the work they do for students, their families, and the community. Whether it’s instruction, school climate, leadership, family engagement, or any of the other issues schools face on a daily basis, all educators need tools to help them improve their actions and methods. A whole child approach, which ensures that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, sets the standard for comprehensive, sustainable school improvement and provides for long-term student success.

more info at…

School improvement tool:

http://sitool.ascd.org/Default.aspx

 

Patience, persistence, and a willingness to grow

Another good article by George Couros:

sylviaduckworth

A good friend always talks to me about the willingness to just put in the work when no one is watching. I think about this all of the time, and what it means for educators, and what it means for our students.  The most meaningful things in your life will come with effort. We know this but do we aspire to it?

The image above is not only showing what people don’t see, but it is also shows what some people are not willing to see.  Many look for the easy route, but is this what we want to teach our students?

Another friend of mine talked about some of her frustration recently and reached out to me for some advice. What I told her was that, “You feel bad because you care and you want to do awesome things.  Understand that not everything works the way we plan, own it, and then move forward.” Sometimes it is good to cry, be upset, feel like you failed.  It is not about embracing failure; it is understanding that it exists, and then moving on, and moving forward.  One of my favourite movie quotes is from Jerry Maguire, and it is simply two words;

“Breakdown? Breakthrough.”

Patience, persistence, and a willingness to grow.

What if these were traits that all of our students walked out of school with?  The future would be pretty bright.

Some other resources:

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