Monday, 5 December 2016

The battle to find time in schools – we need to consider teacher efficacy

The battle to find time in schools – we need to consider teacher efficacy
Teacher and school leader workload issues very much stem from the fact that there is not enough time to do the job properly. Some time back I commented on two ways that leaders can support teachers with workload issues, as to a large extent school leaders must take the initiative and lead in providing teachers with the support and guidance needed to tackle the many demands placed upon them.
Leaders, however, should not solely focus on what tasks they can take away from teachers and focus their priorities in the direction that it is most needed, leaders have a huge responsibility to also work with teachers to make them more efficient at what they do.
It is not advocated that when workload issues arise in schools, we first start with a conversation about teacher efficacy, as that would be like waving a red rag to a bull. That said, if we are serious about improving schools, then we do have to look at our own efficacy both as leaders and as teachers.
We should be asking the following questions:
  • Is there a quicker way to do this in order to get the same desired result?
  • Is what I am doing actually effective given the time I am spending on the task?
  • What technologies can we harness to improve workflow and help us accomplish a task with less effort?
  • Do we make the most our of the collaborative planning time made available to us?
  • Is my classroom time utilized effectively, so that students get a better learning experience during their contact ours with me?
  • Is there a reason for us to still do this task in this particular way, or do we still need to do this task at all?
Discussions about personal efficacy, whether it be as a teacher, or as a school leader, need to be approached with an open-mind and with a willingness to be self-critical along with a desire to be better at what we do.
School leaders need to be aware that if everyone in a school had this approach to personal efficacy, then we would be making further strides of improvement than we are currently. The topic of efficiency and efficacy, therefore, requires leaders courageous enough to bring up this discussion to those who are less inclined to discuss their own work, preferring to keep the agenda focused on what others can take away rather than be inconvenienced by the suggestion of changing personal work habits.
This conversation needs to be put on the table in all of our schools but must take place with a high degree of empathy on the part of the leader initiating the discussion. Not everyone has the ability to learn new technologies at the same pace, some of us are better at collaborating than others and some of us are more insecure in our role as a teacher than many of our colleagues. Subsequently, working to improve teacher and leader efficacy needs a differentiated approach rather than one size fitting all. That is what we ask of teachers in classrooms working with students, so we must do the same when working with teachers.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Dear Defender of the Status Quo

This blog post supports te need for change. It's tricky being involved in the journey at Frankley School when schools around us perhaps are not changing as fast? 
Parents don't always see the need. They harp back to what they knew and what they think is best for education today. 
I always keep coming back to the heart surgeon. Would you like the procedure from 20 years ago or the latest ...

What's your thinking on this article? There is such a common theme about the use of technology to personalise learning and transform learning and teaching? What changes have you made?

Dear Defender of the Status Quo...3


Dear Defender of the Status Quo,

The status quo does not need your help.

It is a powerful force on its own. It has inertia on its side. And fear. And control. 

You feel safer with what's familiar, but you're not. 

In the end, failure to change makes you antique, obsolescent, irrelevant, and eventually extinct.

You can see that the world is changing around you. Fast. Really fast. The evidence is everywhere. But what are you doing about it?

The status quo won't prepare students for the challenges they will face. 

Change is inevitable, and you are needed as a change-maker.

Is your teaching today much different from how you were taught? Are your lessons preparing students for yesterday or tomorrow? 

Desks are lined in straight rows. Students listen for instructions, complete assignments, take tests. How is the experience unique to the world today and not the world of 50 years ago?

You are more than a curriculum implementer. You are a positive change maker.You work with the most valuable resource in the world--children.

You matter.

A lot has been pushed on you I know. Your work has been devalued, disrespected, and run down.

Your work is more than a test score.

But it won't help to circle the wagons and just hang on to the old. 

It's tempting to become cynical. To resent the bureaucrats or pundits who want to change you from the outside. Who want to create a marketplace for a child's education.

Keep the focus on your students.

Keep an eye on tomorrow.

Don't let your school become a time capsule.

Be a champion for change. Don't wait for it to happen to you. Drive the change from your platform. You have a voice. 

You are a leader.

People want to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against. I want to know.

Share your story.


You can let the challenges cause you to clinch your fists and hang on to what you know, or you can reach for something new and be the one who creates a better tomorrow for public schools, and ultimately for kids.


If technology isn't your strength, that's okay. But how are you growing? How are you becoming a stronger digital learner?


You lead by example. Your example is your greatest opportunity for influence. Your students are watching.

Don't allow change to be something done to you. Be empowered.

Your work can't be replaced by a machine, but only if you connect and relate and stay relevant. You may be a kid's best chance. You can be a game-changer.

Spread hope.

Remember to always teach kids first, and then curriculum. Teach them how to think. How to work the problem. How to adapt to whatever they might face.

Create excitement around learning. Make it count for something besides a grade or a diploma or a test score.

The status quo is a taker. It takes your passion, your zest, your difference. It tries to make you like everyone else.

Stand out.

You are not an interchangeable part and neither are your students. Make your classroom more artwork and less assembly line.

And please, please don't be a defender of the status quo...

We've always done it this way just won't cut it anymore.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

What it takes to coach your people

I think ths article has really made ne reflect on how well I do this ..I need to read this and consider further.

You know you need to coach your staff. If they perform well, you perform well.
And, if you aren’t currently measured on your “ability to coach and develop others” — that is likely to change soon.
Coaching from an outside expert continues to be important, but increasingly, organizations are looking at on-the-job coaching as a vital tool for developing talent and meeting performance goals. And you, the manager, play the key role.
“The problem is that leaders are being held accountable for developing others, but few are taught effective ways to coach,” says CCL’s Candice Frankovelgia. “So, they end up giving reviews, meeting occasionally and giving advice. At CCL, we’ve been helping leader coaches understand what they need to do to be an effective coach and boiling it down to specific actions.”
Whether you are a professional coach or a leader with coaching responsibilities you need to establish the relationship; incorporate assessment, challenge, and support; and push for results.
To gauge your effectiveness in each of these areas, consider the following elements (adapted from CCL’s Coaching for Greater Effectiveness program and forthcoming 360-degree assessment):
Relationships: How well do you establish boundaries and build trust? To create an effective coaching relationship, you need to, among other things:
  • Be clear about learning and development objectives.
  • Show good judgment about which information to share and which to hold private.
  • Be clear about the impact of your own behavior on employees.
  • Be patient.
  • Show integrity.
  • Follow through on promises or agreements.
  • Continually show that you have employees’ best interests in mind.
Assessment: Do you skillfully help others to gain self-awareness and insight? If so, the actions you take will include the following:
  • Provide timely feedback.
  • Explore the gap between current performance and desired performance.
  • Help employees discover situations where their impact is different from their intentions.
  • Help gain clarity about the behaviors that employees would like to change.
  • Note inconsistencies between words and actions.
Challenge: Do you effectively challenge the thinking and assumptions of others? Do you encourage them to practice new behaviors and step outside of their comfort zone? As a coach, you might challenge employees by:
  • Helping them explore the unintended consequences of a potential action.
  • Encouraging them to generate alternative solutions to problems.
  • Asking open-ended questions.
  • Helping them understand the consequences of not changing key behaviors.
  • Encouraging them to take reasonable risks.
Support: How well do you listen? Are you able to understand the coachee’s perspective and find ways to engage him or her in the coaching and development process – even through difficulty? Support comes in many forms, including:
  • Listening carefully to the ideas and suggestions of others.
  • Being open to the perspectives of others.
  • Allowing employees to vent emotions without judgment.
  • Encouraging employees to make progress toward their goals.
  • Recognizing the success of employees.
Results: Do you help the coachee set meaningful goals and be accountable for them? If so, you are likely to help employees identify:
  • Goals that will have the greatest positive impact on their effectiveness.
  • Specific behaviors that will lead to achieving their goals.
  • Specific metrics and milestones that employees can use to measure progress toward their goals.
“Once you have the tools and some practice under your belt, you will find that coaching is an effective way to develop and motivate direct reports,” says Frankovelgia. “But you, too, will benefit. As you improve your coaching skills, you are developing leadership capabilities that have benefits in other work relationships, too. Your ability to build relationships, elicit information, challenge assumptions, support others and clarify goals will go a long way.”

How to Create a Coaching Culture

Giving individual leaders the information they need to be effective coaches is step one. But organizations that want to build a coaching culture will also want to:
  • “Seed” the organization with coaching role models.
  • Link coaching outcomes to the business.
  • Coach senior leadership teams.
  • Recognize and reward coaching behaviors.
  • Integrate coaching with other people-management processes.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Teach with your mouth shut

Teach with your Mouth Shut

Teaching With Your Mouth Shut

Teaching With Your Mouth Shut

When someone asks you what do you for a living and your answer is “teaching,” people generally assume you’re in a position of power. Why wouldn’t they? When we think of teachers, we picture them standing in front of their students, giving instructions and maintaining order. Teachers dictate rules, answer questions, have command over their material, and captivate their students with brilliant insights and advanced knowledge. When you’re a teacher, students take you seriously. They admire and respect you. (Or, you hope they do!)
While being in this position of power can feel gratifying, it doesn’t always work. When this school year started, I decided to stop “teaching” my 10th graders in the traditional sense, and find a new way to educate my students.

Why Teaching Fails

“The teacher refuses to govern the students in their inquiry because he wants the students to learn how to govern themselves.” — Donald Finkel
Our assumptions regarding what a “good” teacher is may very well be wrong. In his book “ Teaching with Your Mouth Shut,” Donald L. Finkel describes teachers who “carefully and clearly tell students something they did not previously know.” This kind of teaching, he says, is simply “telling.”
What is wrong with teaching through telling? After all, hasn’t it been a very common teaching model for decades?
According to Finkel, the main drawback of teaching through telling is that reflection is done by the teacher, not by the student. Knowledge is transmitted—often in unstimulating fashion—as specific bits of information, which are notoriously hard to remember and often provided without context. When students are exposed to material they haven’t learned about before, they fill in the gaps with their prejudices and opinions. As teachers, we should want our students to acquire a deeper knowledge of a given subject matter, not just memorize facts and figures.

What I Gained by Refusing to Teach

The alternative to teaching through telling is what Finkel calls “teaching with your mouth shut.” In this model, teachers step back and become silent observers, rather than putting on a performance like an actor in a play. Instead of being “carriers of knowledge,” we become humble enough to say “I don’t know.”
Instead of tightly controlling the learning process, we allow students to find their own solutions, thus “creating circumstances that lead to significant learning in others.” Refusing to teach through telling is also refusing to accept the traditional view of what being an educator means.
Starting from the first class I taught this semester, I made a deliberate effort to step back from my role as “teacher” in the classroom. At first it was very strange for my students. They were expecting an authority figure, someone to tell them specifically what to do. But I did the opposite: I gave them general instructions for a class project, including some milestones and (flexible) deadlines, and then set the students free to complete the project on their own.
The first week, when a student asked for the “rules” surrounding the project, I simply repeated my instructions: “The only ‘rule’ is that we’re here to record a podcast on the future of technology. It is up to you to decide what you want to learn and how. I will listen to your ideas and help you when I consider it appropriate, but don’t expect me to say much.”

A Week Later...

Students started to feel like they “owned” the class. It struck me how they began listening intently and responding to each other. They asked questions and made discoveries on their own, and learned to work autonomously without relying on my guidance. The best part of all of this is that they developed a voice of their own.
But it wasn’t perfect. Students struggled with uncertainty, taking the initiative, being tolerant, and even having a certain respect for silence (because at first, we had a lot of that!) But they learned, and in the end, they gained a sense of ownership not only of the project, but of the class, since they alone were responsible for it.

How to Teach with Your Mouth ‘Shut’

1. Create a classroom environment that invites student participation.
2. Make a distinction between power and authority.
  • Power is the ability to make things happen whereas authority describes your relationship with your students. Give your students power in regards to their learning while maintaining your authority.
3. Listen intently and don’t intervene.
  • You’ll want to jump in and give instructions or advice, but resist the temptation. (I know how hard this is, believe me!) You’ll be surprised by what your students can do if you take a step back and let them control the learning process.
4. Use software that facilitates collaboration.
  • Find an online tool that allows students to learn with others. Choose one that has the flexibility that students need to develop their own processes, while making it easy for you to track their progress.
Rather than being a great actor and stealing the show, stepping from the front to the back of the classroom has been far more rewarding to me. My students are now collaborating with others, asking questions, and finding their own answers.
Best of all, they are finally learning.

Stefany Bolaños (@_StefyB) is part of the team at Learnhub. She also teaches an economics course at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, has published three children's books, and previously started a tutoring business.

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