Educational leadership & learning

After another wonderful and inspiring day of teacher led and teacher organised professional learning, I’ve taken time to reflect on key points for myself personally and our school.

I love the atmosphere of TeachMeets, the vibrant collaboration, the open conversations and the ‘Pick n Mix’ sense of choosing workshops, but never being 100% sure of what you will receive, but knowing you will learn something new.

First the highly inspiring @0ttleyoconnor, who passionately explained his view that school leaders are not heroes, but hero makers who would then create further heroes. He encouraged us to reflect on the ‘why’ of our roles and reconnect with our core purpose. Schools he said should be about ‘collaborative entrepreneurship’ and that leaders should be ‘barrier removal operatives’. Much of what Patrick said rang true for me as a headteacher.

Next I attended @beckyiwalters workshop discussing the power of video enhanced coaching and personal reflection for teachers. The only thing that really matters is the learning going on. What happens in classes impacts on learning and therefore we should focus our times, energy and resources on developing our understanding and practice. A non-threatening / judgemental use of video technology empowers teachers as learners and enables powerful self-reflection and collaborative conversations.

At out school this week we are launching ‘Coaching Learning Study’ triads and will be dipping our toe into filming groups of learners for short periods of time, as part of our journey towards signing up for this more extensive professional development tool in the future.

Then I went to listen to @MrsHumanities who is always impressive on Twitter talk about a ‘less is more’ approach to marking and feedback. Victoria shared many strategies she has trialled in her classes. The one that stuck with me is the overview of objectives sheet for a project / unit of a series of lessons. She will highlight in one colour when a student has achieved one aspect, and use another colour to share the next focus.

It reminded me of the SOLO Learning Journeys we are developing in maths, to support our own professional understanding as teachers, but to also make the journey more visual and interactive for the learners. The key aim of ensuring that feedback has a more effective impact on learners, whilst taking less time for staff, is one of the current holy grails of school development.

@jamiehilton300 led the next workshop I attended. He talked very openly about challenging and painful experiences he had been through as a headteacher, and the strategies and people who had brought him back from the brink. He explained that stress is an adverse reaction to too much pressure, and was only ever designed within our bodies for very short term predicaments, i.e. flight or fight. Too many people working in education seem to suffer, and to put up with suffering heavy workload and stress over long periods of time.

Having worked with a previous headteacher who tragically died from cancer within months of taking early retirement, and having got into a pattern of working long hours and being about 23 years from retirement, finding a healthy work life balance must be a priority for me.

Finally, and crucially, @LLCL_Director exhorted us to make sure we took action from our day of professional learning. She explained that professional learning stays exterior to our actual practice and is soon forgotten. For it to transform into professional development, we have to make a firm commitment to action. To developing an aspect of our practice, and practising it over and over again: so it becomes an habitual change. If we don’t change our habits, we soon revert back to the status quo.

For me my action was to share one of her models showing this to our staff as we launched our ‘Coaching Learning Study’ project this week. Only by us committing fully and openly to is process and maintaining this collaborative and collegiate learning process over time can we hope to ensure the development of our practice is sustained and embedded.

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