16 November 2015

2015: Learning to Lead


  1. Focus on our vision: make this transparent.
  2. Establish and develop relationships.
  3. Build a collaborative environment that engages the community. 

"...Very supportive... when Ben asks you 'how do you know you've grown' say 'look at Muireann!' She believes in herself now and that is HUGELY down to you and your support...but you have grown so many other people too! and the school culture! and a huge amount of trust from others - and your provoking skills are impeccable! As for feedback -  I'll need time to think about that one..."

An Attempt at Goals in March but it was a real case of I didn't know what I didn't know... I would like to put some real thought into what these goals look like in 2016 with Ben and Helen in the new year. 

And... then... You wonder if you are bringing what you said you would to the position when you applied... And also the realisation that the bar is rising.... 

"I believe I could contribute to the leadership team at Shotover Primary School because I am a collaborative and connected educator. I am a passionate about teaching and learning and would bring a reflective approach to teaching and learning at the school. I would bring a proactive response to the needs of the children, their families, the teachers and the wider community. I constantly strive to implement high quality teaching programmes based on effective pedagogy and am very aware of the diverse needs of not only the learners but the teachers I am working with, also.

I would contribute to the team by:

  • bringing a proactive response to scenarios as opposed to reacting
  • having relational awareness: ensuring my availability, valuing others
  • knowing the community and their expectations
  • seeking mentoring and promoting the sense of AKO within the school
  • ensuring that my practice is current, reflective, changing to meet the needs and the environment
  • being aware of the big picture approach ie. strategic
  • walking the talk
  • having a professional focus on learning
Lastly, I believe that reflection really is a signature of my practice. My professional blog might give some insight into my professional reflection and growth over the past few years."

10 November 2015

Concept, 2016

The purpose of our professional learning session today was to come up with the macro concept for 2016. and to begin thinking about the Big Question so that we are ready to take this a bit further with Julia Atkin in January.

We spent some time: Thinking and Deciding, Refining - What is Concept?   
A clarifying discussion was held.  Is this kid friendly terminology?
Reminder that the concept is the large umbrella but the Big Ideas need to be portable so that the mentors can access this when the opportunity/need arises.

Using Pam Hooks Macro Conceptual ideas, we investigated and shared ideas to the group.  This was done in the true sense of Google collaboration on slides with no allocated tasks. Ideas were added to the slides so that we have a collective understanding of the concepts and a resource to refer back to.

Groups were then asked to 'pitch' (or not) the concepts they had researched. Decision making followed, using the 10 counter vote system.  The winning concept …………. Movement.

28 October 2015


I believe a significant part of my leadership role is to be able to implement the NAGs in a meaningful way in the day to day running of learning programmes. 

The Board has an overall responsibility to ensure that the school is running competently but at the end of the day, the SLT are probably more likely to lead. 

This is especially so for NAGs 1 - 3.  This is my breakdown after re-visiting the NAGs. It includes a breakdown of each NAG and potential direction which are very much open for discussion and challenge! 

17 October 2015

Avoiding the recommended videos showing...

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3 October 2015


What is the difference between a team and a group of people working well together? There is a belief that teamwork will lighten the load or make things happen faster. We have realised that is not quite so...

“Real teams perform- they are not amorphous groups that we call teams because we think the label is motivating and energising” 

Katzenbach and Smith - "The Wisdom of Teams"

In a session with Tony Burkin last term I became quite alarmed when he announced to the room that "one of the myths is that teachers like to collaborate". I felt incredibly uncomfortable about this statement but it is this statement that has forced me to keep thinking and digging into what it really means to be a team and what collaboration needs to look like.
There are a number of reasons that teams actually underperform. These include (according to Burkin):
  • no clearly defined explicit purpose (They exist because they are all about raising student achievement)
  • People mistakenly believe teams working together harmoniously are better and more productive.  We've all been in one of those meeting where a new idea or concept is introduced as non-negotiable because "the SLT has decided..."
  • Newness is a liability. Crikey, what does this mean for us as a new school with new teams and new groups coming together? This makes me realise the sense of urgency to foster professional relationships as well as social relationships.
  • Complacency - there is no room for deviants as it creates mediocrity in a team.

Working groups come together to share information, share perspectives and insights, make decisions to help each other. The focus was always on individual goals and accountabilities. Workers don’t take responsibility for results other than their own. Working groups are prevalent in our schools. They are great place to be and I have worked with some great groups of people. But they have not been teams.

Teams go beyond group discussions and sharing information. In a team there will be dialogue about performance standards. There will be debates and it will feel comfortable enough to have open ended conversations. The role of the leader is to foster that open and honest dialogue so that the beliefs of the team are collective and the practices reflect what the team has defined as important. The desired outcome is clear to all. This common commitment distinguishes a group of workers from a team. Without it groups perform as individuals. With a common commitment, teams will hold each other accountable for their performance in a trusting and transparent culture.

Reflection: How can our teams articulate their common commitment and use this to evaluate their effectiveness?

No group can ever become a team until it can hold itself accountable as a team. It’s the difference between "the boss holding me accountable" to "we hold each other to account".

Our common commitment is to cause learning… Do our discussions reflect this?

1 October 2015

Why Blog?

Blogging is a form of professional journalling for me. It is a time that I endeavour to be analytical about my practice and development. It involves me using critical analysis, evaluation and synthesising. 

This is a shift for me. When I began blogging it was simply a professional diary which was sequence oriented. The latter has proven to be great way to look back on and see my growth over time and the journey of the educator that I have become. Having said that; it is the deep thinking out loud on the blogging platform that is strengthening my own understanding of my beliefs and values which ultimately impact on my practices which in turn means that my daily actions/ practices reflect my beliefs and that of our school. 

Each time I blog, I am endeavouring to articulate my thoughts and new learning. My posts overtime are becoming much more evaluative, synthesising and reflective. The mere fact that each post might be read by people who know me and people who don't causes me to really think about what I record and to ensure that it does in fact reflect my walk... I need to walk this talk!

I don't write for an audience so why don't I simply record my thoughts in a journal or lock down the blog? The fact that is public means that I am being transparent which is a key attribute to leadership in my mind. It also means that my reflections are relevant, timely and purposeful.

Another reason to blog is that it easily ticks off PTC 12. (See below)

Having said that I don't write for an audience, there have been some posts that I would have valued discussion on....

PTC #12.  use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice
i. systematically and critically engage with evidence and professional literature to reflect on and refine practice
ii. respond professionally to feedback from members of their learning community
iii. critically examine their own beliefs, including cultural beliefs, and how they impact on their professional practice and the achievement of ākonga

29 September 2015

Term 3

This has been what I consider my biggest year yet professionally. To even try to describe briefly the personal and professional growth that I have experienced as a part of the SLT opening a new school feels impossible. This short post cannot even touch on the depth of growth and the challenges that we have faced this year. 

I have been grateful for the fact that the school is still being built around us. It was very much a construction site when we gained access 4 days before opening and it has slowly opened up as different parts of the site are completed. We open to Years 5-8 next year when we fully open. The gym, DATs room and the music suite will be completed next April. This has helped me to form a great metaphor for this year. 2015 has been about building the foundations of our school. We have forced ourselves to really slow down and develop our collective beliefs about absolutely everything from the way that we communicate to our beliefs about assessment and our appraisal systems. Out of these beliefs, we've developed the principles and our practices. The latter will change as long as they reflect our beliefs. It is the beliefs that are building our school. 

I have struggled with my role and to be honest I have experienced a certain amount of grief with the shift from pipeline 2 to pipeline 3. Moving out of the learning environment into a walking leadership role was hard to begin with. I felt that I was walking away from my passion for teaching and learning and working with children. Instead directing my energy into the children it is the mentors/teachers that I am now coaching. It has taken quite a bit of shift in my thinking to adapt to this role but I am finally finding my niche. 

The fact that everything is new and a blank canvas for us to work on has been sometimes daunting but also empowering. It's not very often you do something for the first time everyday in a school and this has given us permission to really challenge what we have always done and rethink everything with one word - "WHY?"

The areas that I have really enjoyed rethinking include reporting which we are referring to as "Communicating Learning" and appraisal. I like the fact that we don't believe learning is an event that happens twice a year and that we are really challenging ourselves and our community to re-think what this can look like. The SPS teacher criteria that Helen and I worked on last year seem to fit with the environment that we are working in and link to the PRT. I wonder if others look back on their current reality and desired reality that they compiled in January as much as I do. Have we helped them enough to develop and work on their 3 bold steps to achieve their desired reality? How close are they to their desired reality? I am looking forward to reflecting on this process next term when we work together and reflect on our first year and our individual growth.

I have had some major revelations this year including the following:
  • relationships are key and these take time in a new school. This has been our major investment this year at the expense of things that I might have thought were priority this time last year. 
  • don't make assumptions.
  • we all arrive from a threshold that was our previous school.
  • good communication is key - people speak in words but see in pictures.

Each of these revelations has been key to help me develop as a leader and find my way more securely into pipeline 3. I thought we would be further ahead with eLearning but to grow our collective capacity has required the development of the culture at our school. Relationships, communication, transparency and a collective vision are vital to our move forward. 

22 September 2015

Appraisal is a critical component to defining ourselves as professionals. There is a compliance element to appraisal given its relevance to our on-going registration.  However, appraisal that has clear purpose and meaning will create powerful reflection which ultimately, in turn leads to personal growth.

At school, we have unpacked the RTC further into our own Shotover criteria. These are reflected on by the appraisee themselves. This document is then shared and talked to at a reflection meeting.

At our professional learning meeting this week, I was privileged to hear our teams share their current teaching inquiries into agency. What resonated for me was the common theme for everyone is about putting the learner at the centre and to provide them with authentic purposes to write.

It was a privilege to get some insight into everyone's new learning and the direction they are working on...

  • student voice to lead learning. Posters - for audience. Purpose to inform.  Working through the writing cycle.
  • capturing student voice by writing for the child. Oral language. Toby's interest and linked between home and school.
  • Linking writing to art/ concept. Student voice came in developing student voice onto post its to give feedback to peers. Scaffolding vocabulary and phrases. Developing the children's ability to give feedback to peers about learning.
  • Authentic context: conclusion of the ski programme. Brainstorm and reflection around the programme and the input our parents had. Audience = parents. Purpose was to thank. Children working through the writing cycle. The emphasis for this writing was about responding to feedback and re-crafting. The thank yous were published as cards and delivered to parents.
  • Engaging the disengaged. Researched into the needs of particular children and also explored their interests. Looked for common interests in order to encourage a group of boys to work together and collaborate. Use of google docs has allowed the boys to collaborate, engaged them and helped links between home and school. Using the boys' interest in science was the engager. Purpose was to share at assembly.
  • engaging one boy to write. He needed to enjoy success. Responded to writing for a real audience. Authentic simple texts that allowed him to practise surface features and to write through the whole cycle. Success has lead to success and engaged writers. They are beginning to edit and improve texts with adjectives. Children saw the impact on the audience as they watched a mentor read it to the new entrants.

17 September 2015

Random Comparisons Between Coaching the ABs and Leading in Education

Steve Hansen - All Black Coach: What are the links between leading in education and coaching/management of a rugby team, ie. how they function, vision, lead

  • building a shared legacy and a story that is shared
  • collective group including management and players to enhance outcomes and ahieve lofty goals
  • setting big goals - moonshot thinking… Aim for the moon and reach the stars
  • Collective - THE Team has to be greater than the individual
  • constantly aiming to improve and develop
  • alignment of thinking amongst all involved
  • everyone has to agree and commit or disagree and commit
  • As leaders we need to let go of control. It’s about taking everyone along. We need to facilitate the environment so that it is conducive to good outcomes.
  • Leading a group of people to achieve a common goal means that we need to be on the same page.
  • Value relationships and accept that it might be the behaviour or the action that we dislike or do not agree with.
  • How do I want to live as a leader? What am I going to negotiate? What is non-negotiable?
  • Strong loyalty to the team not the individuals.
  • Leaving the team - it’s about sustainability
  • How do you read the individuals and how they tick? Am I getting the best out of that person? Being aware that something is happening in their lives and might impact on their performance.
  • High emotional intelligence: self awareness is massive. What do I need to know about how I and others act under pressure.
  • create an environment where motivated teachers can perform a their best.
  • motivate myself: how?
  • understanding who we are and what we want to be. When you walk away, you need to know it’s been done right. The sacrifices our families have made motivates us to do well.
  • Carrying the fear of not getting it right. Dealing with the constant pressure of expectations on us means that we need to understand them.
  • A shift from being fearful of failure or not being good enough by creating an environment that supports risk taking. People need to feel comfortable out of their comfort zone and extending themselves.
  • If we are fearful of failure, it is likely to happen. We need to look at previous mistakes and prior failure and learn from these.
  • We can’t expect things to happen; we need to work towards that collective vision and provide

8 September 2015

Materials, Imaging and Number Properties

Professional Learning Meeting from this week...

What might effective maths programmes look like in the habitats? 

2 September 2015

Back in January, we began our team induction. It involved amongst other things; our first face to face, a jet boat, frisbee golf and some competitive geo-caching....
I set up 4 tags representing our house colours and assigned them to the foundation team and the houses they were to affiliate to. 

The car rally got competitive but also opened up the world of caching and the use of digital devices in totally new ways for the team.

It's a fun time to look back on. It was a huge privilege being a part of this team and absolute magic to see everyone come together for the first time.  It was an event that would launch such awesome learning. We were focussed on developing trusting relationships that would allow for transparency and open conversations. These have both allowed for fantastic but challenging conversations and massive growth within/ across the pipelines. 

The tags sat in the cache for a wee while. In fact two are still there! The purple tag is MIA somewhere in the States and to be honest, we completely disengaged from trying to follow the tags.  But magic happened when we got this message...
We were somewhat excited when we checked out the photos and found this...

There was doubt in the room. Needless to say, we are wondering who actually is taking our red truck to the UK this month! 

The wonderful outcome of this wee adventure is that it has opened up another realm of possibilities to the team in our globally connected world!

26 August 2015

Hapara Workspace

I had my first view of the Hapara Workspace in a webinair with Lenva Shearing tonight. I always love how clearly she takes us through these platforms at such a fast space. I am looking forward to sharing this feature with the team but am still wondering which learners will benefit most from this tool and structure. It has the potential to be a very practical task board but it is important to re-think some of the secondary school features/ management of tasks. 

  • beta mode with new features being added weekly: bits of it are sometimes broken.
  • workspaces is the big container that makes up the whole
  • columns 4 in every plus cards added = goals, cards/ resources, activities, rubrics ( not ready to go yet… can simply include a link if needed. the rubric maker is coming…)
  • The activities can include a link or just an instruction. Smartshare is initiated by the student when they click on the link in the learning activity.
  • Start date is when the card is available therefore you can hide the cards and stagger the dates that cards are released. Due date - when the task is due to be completed.
  • Can add co-teachers to workspaces - a collaborative space.
  • make workspace visible by publishing. The students need to access the workspace by going to mystudentdashboard.com and log in with their log in
  • Children can add resources for the rest of her group.
  • They can also add their own work to the cards - only the teacher sees.
  • student clicks on link and and the doc goes to drive. On her card, it shows that work has been started and when finished she can submit.
  • When a piece of work is submitted - the child loses editing rights while the teacher marks it. The teacher marks it and the work is copied when it is returned. The original is kept as a copy so that there is a record of what the child has submitted.
  • Can see activity and whether children have visited the workspace. Changes occur on the card and on the overview summary.
  • Icons attach…. 10 icons and colours - so you can tag activities to resources. You can ask children to tag 4 of the red rocket tasks and 2 of the yellow stars.
  • Whole school unit - every class is a different group
  • unpublished workspaces - edit, delete
  • libraries and sharing

Self pace module - https://sites.google.com/a/hapara.com/hapara-workspace/
                             - https://sites.google.com/a/hapara.com/pd-module-2/ 
Google Group -  https://plus.google.com/communities/113914853889094994008

24 August 2015

Beginning to Gather Student Voice

We are getting ready to unpack some practices and think about where they fit with our beliefs, principles and literacy essence statement. It's a big journey that needs to go slowly so as to ensure that we are all on the same page.  I have been excited by our first go at capturing "student voice" and sowing the seeds with the team about the value of this and engaging learners in the curriculum with what they bring to the conversation! 

15 August 2015

Thinking About Makers' Space, STEAM and Tinkering @EduCampInvers

This weekend, I attended #EducampInvers.  I made the conscious decision to not participate in a session that I am passionate about. Instead, I decided to observe the Tinkering session. I wanted to see what it all looks like from a "teacher's" perspective. I had a wonderful time observing teachers in the sandpit and playing with tinkering things. I was inspired by Phillipa's and Emma's passion and the way they explained stuff. I was also impressed by the discussion/ dialogue amongst educators as they explored tinkering. 

The helpful conversationsI heard included:
You're doing it wrong
But what's happening
We need to change something
The other one was way better
So...that's the plan
But why?
Yay! We did it!

I have been a fan and an advocate for educamps for a few years now. This forum has helped me to connect with passionate educators and to develop collaborative inquiries with educators from anywhere. 

11 August 2015

Effective (e)Learning

Today we finally had time to sit down and share our thinking around eLearning or should I say just learning! It was great to be able to have Myles Webb (@NZWaikato) skype in with us and share the impact on engagement and progress that e tools have had on his writing programmes.

For most of us, it was the first time that we had come along the SAMR model. We used this to think about what eLearning is happening at present. 

8 August 2015

Developing Learning Relationships

I have been thinking a lot lately about the relationships that we are developing with our children at our school. I remember hearing about the research that was being done by David Hargreaves from a colleague returning back from the UK a few years ago. His work was based on mental models in teaching and learning with a particular emphasis on interpersonal relationships. Sadly, it was written in 1975.

Hargreaves refers to three mental models that teachers typically hold:

  • Lion Tamer – Control by power – education is about keeping children managed, contained, busy and good 

  • Entertainer – Control by manipulation - education is about keeping children controlled, happy, busy and good 

  • New Romantic – Teaching model based on ‘unconditional positive regard for the learner’, education is about child agency, child engagement and teacher as ‘activator’ – feedback, student verbalisation, challenging goals, frequent checks on effect of teaching…’ 

Few teachers hold only one mental model exclusively but I think all of us have met our fair share of "lion tamers" and "entertainers" in the staffroom. And like many, I aspire to be a "new romantic" in an ILE. Next time you lead a group discussion be self aware and ask who is doing the talking & who controls the interaction?

There are distinct parallels between Hargreaves work and the learning relationships that Michael Absolum talks about in "Clarity in the Classroom". 

Absolum discusses the following perspectives of educators with regards to the relationships that they develop with the children that they work with:

  • A Control Focused Perspective, ie. the teacher has control by power - learning is about keeping children managed, contained, busy and good - little time for an ‘expressive / evaluative’ process of learning.
  • A Caring Focused Perspective. The teacher has control by good intention. Learning is hampered by sympathy and excuse making.  There is no need for ‘expressive / evaluative’ processes because "that's okay... it was a good try."
  • A Learning Focused Perspective. This is when learning at the centre. Learning ‘is the sole purpose of the relationship’ between the teacher and the children he is working with. Learning is about child agency and engagement. The teacher's role is to activate this which in turn promotes the need for an ‘expressive / evaluative’ process as a part of the learning cycle. 
Absolum goes on to suggest that there are a number of attributes you would notice if children are really learning to learn.  The first is a sense of self confidence - they know that they can learn. Children are in control of their learning. 

My wondering is how well are we developing and building our relationships with the children that we are working with? Is learning really at the heart of our interactions? 

Ref: Mental Models in Teaching & Learning David Hargreaves,: Interpersonal Relationships and Evaluation 1975  
Michael Absolum,: Ref: Clarity in the Classroom