Lasting leadership requires finding my authentic self… How did I start?

Leadership is like the metaphorical iceberg. What we actually see in a successful leader is only a fifth of what it really takes. The real work of being a leader occurs in the four fifths below the surface, internal work. Authenticity is essential for the long haul.

Palmer quoteIn the last few months I started running, from ‘never, ever’ to 4km. When I was a child I would win heats at athletics events, progress to finals and regionals, without any training. This small person was fairly active.

For the last year or so I have looked at runners, and thought, “I want to do that”. So I bought myself some new running shoes, had orthotics fitted and downloaded the Couch to 5k app. I got started. Three months later I’m still at it. I believed that there was a runner inside and I decided to find her.

I’ve been thinking about the idea of authenticity, being true to my real self. I had one of those ‘stumbled on’ recently moments when I found the book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker J Palmer. ‘Vocation’, Palmer explains is derived from the word ‘voice’, not an external distant call, but rather a voice deep within each of us.

…every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.

I am idealistic enough to believe that for each of us, our work can be a place of deep gladness and that there is a unique need that we can meet. Palmer encourages readers to think about themselves as a child. He writes:

Watching my granddaughter from her earliest days… I was able to see something that eluded me as a twentysomething parent: my granddaughter arrived in the world as this kind of person rather than that, or that, or that… In those early days of my granddaughter’s life I began observing inclinations and proclivities that were planted in her at birth.

“this kind of person”

with balloonI started thinking about the experiences and passions that I had as a child those things that helped to shape who I am today and into the future?

As I thought about my childhood athleticism I remembered that each year at the annual Sunday School Picnic my only goal was to win my age race, as I seemed to do. Then I took this a step further, am I competitive? (yes) Is this a good thing? (I hope so)

(Note: I appreciate that for many, thinking deeply about childhood experiences can be painful, and for some, not necessarily recommended.)

“inclinations and proclivities”

I remembered another proclivity or two. I was that kid who was paraded from class to class with a ‘superpower’ in Grade 1, aged 6. I could pronounce really-really long words. The teacher would write “salutation” and other multi-syllabic words and the little blonde girl would read them all.

Throughout my school life I think my teachers either really liked me, or I drove them crazy. I was noisy, messy and talkative. And then I remembered the moment, I was in Grade 2, the thought occurred to me “I want to be a teacher”. Despite getting into trouble much of the time, this is what I wanted to do.

Word-focused

A teacher

Competitive.

Two out of three seem OK, but competitive. So I unpacked this one a little further. Success at competition required strategy and tactics. That works for me.

There is so much to say, I might unpack a few more ideas. Stay tuned.

@anneknock

#FutureSchools depend on getting better with #PresentSchools. Learning from boulders, pebbles and breakfast cereals

pebbles and bouldersTwo seemingly unrelated articles caught my attention this week. A great piece by Stephen Heppell on the “School of the future”

“In preparing our children for that uncertain future, we inevitably need schools unlike the ones that prepared their parents”. (Article here)

And the demise of another “boulder”: Kellogg posts $379m loss as consumers cut back on cereal

“Simple food, clearly less refined, if you like – that’s what I think consumers are looking for…”

I think that before we get too caught up in future schools we need to think about present schools, strategically moving on from the (seemingly still evident) industrial paradigm to growing a community that meets current and future needs of this generation, considering the big shifts that have seen the disappearance of Kodak, Borders and now possibly breakfast cereals.

There is nothing special about technology or what it can do – it is a normal expectation of life. An interactive whiteboard, ‘funky’ furniture, iPads/tablets and large open spaces are not necessarily indicators of a future-focused school. It is about shining a light on everything and disrupting practice to better serve the present, as well as the future.

In 2010 Charles Leadbeater a leading voice on innovation and creativity wrote We Think.

Imagine surveying the media, information and cultural industries in the mid-1980s, industries that provide most of our entertainment and so filter access to the world around us and shape how we make sense of it. The scene would have resembled a large sandy beach, with crowds organised around a few very large boulders. These boulders were the big media companies.

These boulders came into being because media had high fixed costs… They were closely regulated and resources… were scarce… Anyone wanting to set up a significant new media business could be seen coming from a long way off. Rolling a new boulder onto the beach took lots of people, money and machinery.

Do you see where we are going, here? (I don’t buy processed breakfast cereal anymore, I make my own.)
Looking again at this text five years later and Leadbeater words ring true:

Now imagine the scene on this beach in five years time. A few very big boulders are still showing, but many have been drowned by the rising tide of pebbles. As you stand surveying the beach every minute hundreds and thousands of people come to drop off their pebbles. Some of the pebbles they drop are very small: a blog post or a comment on YouTube. Others are larger… A bewildering array of pebbles in different sizes, shapes and colours are being laid down the whole time, in no particular order, as people feel like it.

Pebbles are the new business. The new kinds of organisations being bred by the web are all in the pebble business. Google and other intelligent search engines offer the locate the pebble we are looking for:

Wikipedia is a vast collection of factual pebbles

YouTube is a collection of video pebbles

Social media…allow us to connect with similar pebbles…with shared interests

There is still a lot of business in serving the boulders that remain, providing them with content, finance, advice and ideas… The information and media businesses are right at the forefront of the transition from boulders to pebbles because the web so directly affects them.

And education? Leadbeater continues,

Schools and universities are boulders, that are increasingly dealing with students who want to be in the pebble business, drawing information from a variety of sources, sharing with their peers, learning from one another.

Why are schools and universities boulders? Perhaps because as “institutions” they seem to be fixed immovable objects made up of large cumbersome buildings, rigid standardised testing, fixed regulatory and curriculum requirements and research evidence that looks back without considering rapidly changing future context.

If we could smash-up this institutional boulder and enable school to be more like a collection of learning pebbles, what should it look like? A place of broad opportunity and quality relationships that enables the future.

Ultimately, future schools, or even present schools, provide an education that is not only content-rich, but is meaningful and engaging, focussed on providing the best opportunity for this generation of young people.  It fully utilises the tools and resources available, in a way that ignites a passion and sets them on a path of lifelong learning.

@anneknock

What happens when there is an intersection of design and education? From disaffected to engaged #IfYouBuildIt

Slide1Design + Education
Design for education – the physical construction of improved spaces,

Redesigning education – creating the conditions to make change possible, or perhaps,

Design as education – learning design thinking for a community purpose

I have long held the idealistic view that when something is sparked in young people, when talents and skills are given expression, there is an opportunity to thrive. We often hear the term “disaffected youth”. The term disaffection speaks of alienation or estrangement. As a result, I am drawn to stories where young (and old) people are engaged, connected and have a sense of belonging.

This is why I found the documentary film If you build it so compelling. The Field of Dreams quote missed the mark, in my mind “if you build it they will come”. There is always so much to do for success, merely building something does not guarantee it. So the absence of the second half of the quote gives us the starting point, “If you build it”… maybe it gives the opportunity, should they choose.

This feature-length film is set in Bertie County in North Carolina. Two designers, Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller embark on a project in this sad and destitute area in America’s south.They see this more than a “project”, Emily and Matthew throw themselves into the life of the town, they live there and want to contribute. The set up Studio H – humanity, habitats, health and happiness – a design studio with a social conscience.

The film follows the lows and highs of the journey. This includes the over-bureaucratic local school board withdrawing support for the project, but Emily and Matthew persevere. They are pretty tenacious.

I loved how this pair engaged with the students, built their trust and presented achievable, yet still challenging design projects for the students. Across the 85 minutes we see the transformation from disaffected to connection, belonging and a sense of hope in their future. It left me with a lump in my throat.

Emily's TED talk

Prior to the events of the film, Emily presented a TED Talk  “Teaching Design for Change”, where she said

“Apply design within education… then figure out how to make education a great vehicle for community development.”

Event Flyer. Link to registration information

Event Flyer. Link to registration information

There is an opportunity to see this film…

If you are in Sydney, see this film and discussion about the place of design as education.  It is presented by the NSW Chapter of CEFPI – another intersection of design and education.

Wednesday 4 March 2015 – 5.30pm to 8.15pm

Level 7, 35 Bridge Street , Sydney

Following the film, light refreshments will be provided, and an expert panel will discuss the themes of the film.

Panel

Facilitator: Anne Knock, Chair CEFPI NSW Chapter

Paul Pholeros a Director of Healthabitat, a company that for over 30 years has worked to improve the living environments of Indigenous people in many suburban, rural and remote areas of Australia and internationally.

Matt Esterman  History and e-learning coordinator at St Scholasticas College, Glebe. His current research looks at user voice in the design process for new learning spaces and school buildings. Matt is an actively engaged professional at TeachMeets, He regularly blogs and tweets @mesterman.

Genevieve Blanchett a designer who operates across architecture, urban design and the performing arts with a focus on community-driven creative place making and arts-based development projects.

Watch the trailer.

Interview with designer, Matthew Miller and Another article.

I would love to see you there.
@anneknock

The new normal: Helping parents to rethink success at school (and life) #abundancementality

As much as forward thinking educators are working for change we are still often exasperated by parent expectations of education. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks in 2006 and 2010 were significant catalysts for change in the hearts and minds of many educators but we are yet to really help many parents embrace the need for change. As Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills put it (quoted in The Conversation):

Parents are a very conservative force… Everybody wants the education system to improve, but not with my child

GOOD WEEKENDThe cover story in the Good Weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald’s magazine: Testing Times: Meet the tiger parents grooming their young offspring for academic success by Anna Broinowski. This article was particularly focused on families of Asian background and the ‘tiger mom’ tendencies.

In NSW, my state, there are 21 academically selective schools and 26 partially selective schools. Many parents spend a lot of money and much of their child’s ‘childhood’ in cramming for selective school tests. One coaching college boasted that 1033 students earned places in 35 selective schools, no data on those who failed to gain a place. In two states, NSW and Victoria, there are 3000 tutoring business, with an annual turnover of $200-$400 million and only 8% are registered with the Australian Tutoring Association.

We empathise with parents, especially those of us who have had to make these choices, wanting to do the best for our kids. Our own sons, now 31 and 28, both went to government high schools – the elder to the local comprehensive and the younger to a performing arts high school.

Our elder son undertook an MBA after his initial degree and is successful in business. The younger, is working hard to pursue his music and songwriting career, while working as a barista. His HSC mark was not sufficient to earn a place at university after Year 12, nor was it his goal. However, last year, he decided to go to uni, study a BA in literature and is getting High Distinctions and Distinctions for much of his work – maturity and purpose mattered.

We are proud of our kids. They are kind, considerate and wonderful humans. They really think of themselves as lifelong learners, work hard and enjoy life. As parents, we didn’t push hard, they were pretty well-rounded in their social, sport and cultural activities. Today, we like them as people and enjoy their company, and it seems that they quite like us as well.

I want to tell the parents of school-aged children:

that there is more to life than the score/mark to study a course at university, one that they may not want to pursue in the first place.

that the cramming, coaching and memorisation may get their child to university, but won’t necessarily be enough to keep them there.

that raising a contributing human is far more important than being able to tell your social group how well your child did at school.

that things change – even school. Your experience of school should not be the same for your own children.

that passion matters. Take time to discover what does your child loves to do.

that, above everything else, relationships matter. Careers, opportunities will come and go. Our children will face difficult and challenging situations. They will make both wise and unwise choices along the way. But through it all, we want to stay in relationship with them.

We can choose to see life as a broad spectrum of opportunities that match the breadth of passions and interests of humanity, or, as a pie. If I take a piece you won’t have it, or if you take it, I miss out.

Embrace the abundance mentality.

@anne knock

Onboarding our new staff – Getting the 3Cs right: culture, conventions and connections #onboardNBCS

OnboardWhat happens when I step onboard a plane?

Well, I’m about to *start an adventure. I’m going someplace with a bunch of other people. *There is a team of helpful people on hand to get me where I need to go and help me along the way. I may (or may not) engage with my fellow passengers. I need to understand the conventions and protocols of being on the plane, for my own safety. I know that there is a captain in charge. Once I am onboard, I am both excited and I am literally an ‘insider’.

(*Indulge me with this metaphor)

We are about to start a new school year. That means there are new staff.

How do you ensure that new staff are ready for the year ahead? How do you get them onboard. The term “Induction” feels like something that is done to you, while onboarding is embarking on an adventure with a crew of people for the duration of the journey.

This article from Inc How to build an onboarding plan for a new hire was written a number of years ago. This term that has been used in business for quite a while. There is immense cost in the loss of staff and recruitment of new staff that can be minimised by a well thought through onboarding program.

It is as much about getting your new teacher or admin staff member ready for their role as it is about ensuring that you attract the right person to fill the role in the first place. There should hopefully be no surprises on either side.

Educators have little choice but to hit the ground running. Many sectors, have the luxury of easing in new staff, providing a week’s worth of induction. Teachers start with their students fairly quickly, they meet parents from the outset and need to be able to employ a suite of skills ranging from teaching the curriculum, managing student behaviour to knowing where the toilets are, whilst simultaneously learning the culture of the new work environment. It’s a big ask.

As a result the precious time that is available for preparing new staff needs to strategically address the propriety areas for Day 1, Week 1 and Term 1 and then implement an ongoing program to support the other learning that needs to happen, the things that are less critical at the start.

At NBCS in 2015 we have embraced the concept of onboarding our new staff. The purpose of the program is to:

  • help new staff to feel like an ‘insider’ as soon as possible
  • become intuitive about the culture and expectations
  • feed and maintain excitement about their new job at their new school
  • feel part of the team

There is much that a new employee needs to know. However, bombarding them with information on the first day isn’t the optimal scenario, just like the business of learning we need to unpack, prioritise and strategise, focusing on the learner. We also need to model culture at every opportunity.

At NBCS we have applied the design thinking process to the day, starting with the driving question for the new staff member: Where do I fit and how do I contribute?

The first stage of the process over two days, is an active learning program with the Senior Leadership Team. There is no other higher priority for the SLT than to serve and build relationship with the newest member of staff. The program will focus on 3Cs:

Culture: Begin to gain an understanding of “the way we do things around here”.

Conventions: Know the important information that will ensure their safety and the safety of the community

Connections: Build relationships with their team and leaders that will set them up for a win.

We will be using #onboardNBCS to share the fun. I’ll keep you posted!

@anneknock

Immersive Learning Environments Matter: Designing places we all like to be

The physical environment matters to me.

Tap House

Have you noticed how social, open public places spend time and money creating the right ambience? Last night, while having a refreshing beverage in an establishment called The Local Taphouse I looked around at the space. They had created a real ‘pub’ atmosphere that locals would visit, living up to it’s name. It ‘feels’ like a pub should feel. Not just a place that dispenses beverages and provides seating.

The design of the physical environment matters to the patrons.

Nielsen Park

Summer at home is dangerous, for the bank balance, at least. We live in a part of Sydney that is hard to beat. Bondi Beach down the hill and Sydney Harbour around the corner. We spend the summer swimming at Bondi (sharks, what sharks?) and in the Harbour (sharks, what sharks?).

We stay most of the summer in our tiny, bright and sunny apartment, with the local area as our playground. But, that means I usually spend time thinking about the design of our our place. This time it’s been the bathroom. We have dismantled the shower screen, purchased cedar bath mats and created a ‘wet room’.

Style and functionality both matter to me.

 

Class 2

It was with delight that (via Twitter) I happened across the immersive learning projects for the new school term at Hartsholme Academy in Lincoln, England. Carl Jarvis and his team understand that the physical environment matters to their students motivation, and also for the teachers’ enthusiasm. I have visited Carl’s school and was blown away by the creativity of the teachers and the engaged learning of the students in the spaces.

The physical environment matters for learners.

As I travel and see schools I often am impressed by professionally designed spaces that have substantial budgets, but what the crew at Hartsholme have done is taken their everyday classrooms and created immersive learning environment, reflecting the theme of the term. The classrooms don’t have one desk, one chair per student. The children are working on the floor, inside castles or tents, wherever they feel most productive.

The immersive learning environment is one aspect of their revolutionary approaches to learning, it operates within a well designed strategy for engagement and authenticity. But the physical environment is designed to:

Class 12

Stimulate the senses

Connect the learning

Provide a range of environments for the children to interact within

Have materials that enable exploration of thinking

Facilitate working together

 

It is wonderful to see a school taking such risks…

“How could you ever do this, not giving students tables and chairs. It’s a fundamental right!”

 Slide3

…but also achieving the results.

Hartsholme Academy is now consistently performing in the top 5% in the country and has been described as “beyond outstanding”. It was once “5th worst school in the country”.

You can find out more about Hartsholme approach in Carl’s own words here explaining more about the philosophy in his TEDx talk last year.

 

Just like the pub, my apartment and the the immersive learning spaces at Hartsholme Academy, the physical environment plays a significant role in enhancing our experience and quality of life and learning.

@anneknock

What if school was like Uber? 5 critical disruptions for educating children of the #ubergeneration

UBERUber, on the one hand, under siege from the taxi industry, on the other hand, every second person I speak to seems to regularly utilise the service, whether it’s in Sydney, London or New York. Of course, the under 40s have definitely embraced it. This generation embraces disruption. They don’t watch scheduled TV, they don’t own a CD, and less of them are even bothering to get a driver’s licence. Late Gen X and early Gen Y see the world differently, travel, lifestyle, balance and fair remuneration are their drivers (McCrindle Research).

This is the emerging generation of parents with children starting school in the next few years. The big question is: Will they consider disruptive thinking about the learning environment and context of school for their own child, or will nostalgia inevitably kick in?

In 2011 I was asked to write an ed-op-ed piece for the Sydney Morning Herald. At the time I had raised the issue of nostalgia playing a part in parent’s view of the education they seek for their own child, I wrote:

“Outside the school gate, our young people experience a dynamic, innovative and creative world, yet so often it is a foreign environment… Nostalgia often paints a picture of the school that parents may seek for their children. This picture can be informed by happy memories or the sense that ”it didn’t do me any harm”…” (Knock, SMH, 2011)

I’m curious to know how the Uber-generation will think about school, once they are parents.

This morning, I read an article by James Valentine, a late baby-boomer and technology embracer on his recent experience of Uber:

This is where it started: Saturday night Christmas Party, beachside suburb of Sydney. 1am. Time to go home. Or time to stay and get ugly. We decide to go. I use the m2 taxi app. I enter the address. I enter where we’re going. I book. A tag comes up reading “WAITING FOR DRIVER TO ACCEPT”. Nothing happens.

I wait 10 minutes. Nothing happens. (Valentine, SMH, 2014)

The so-called ‘tried and true’ methods, those with a monopoly on service no longer cut it.

I open Uber. The address I’m at comes up instantly. I tap in the destination, it figures out I want my home address. I book. Instantly I’m looking at a map showing an animated swivelling school of Uber vehicles. Seconds later I get a message from a driver who says he’s three minutes away. His vehicle separates from the school and starts heading to me. His phone number pops up. A little portrait of him arrives. I get  a countdown. Two minutes away. One  minute away. At the moment of arrival, he rings me. We’re already at the front gate.

At the end of this journey, I paid $14. I haven’t paid $14 for a cab journey anywhere in Sydney for 20 years

(Valentine, SMH, 2014)

This is the kind of service and connection that we are now expecting. It’s why AirBnB has revolutionised the accommodation industry and Spotify-like services, the music industry.

So if we are educating the children of the Uber-generation, what might they expect from a school experience for themselves as parents, and their child, that reflects the world we live in. Here are five critical disruptions for educating children of the Uber-generation

  1. Communication: relevant, timely, meaningful and intuitive. Not waiting until the formal reporting schedules for parent-teacher interviews, but setting in place a system for feedback that is manageable and helpful.
  2. Tracking: Following from the previous idea, providing a progress monitoring mechanism that enables real-time information flow.
  3. Breaking the monopoly: While defined outcomes, NAPLAN and formalised testing aid in the big picture, these have now become an industry themselves, rather we need to focus on authentic and purposeful learning.
  4. Relationship: Student to student, student to educator, educator to parent, parent to parent – all these relationships matter. The desired outcome of the clear relationships and roles will reap benefits not only at the individual level, but as a community.
  5. Destination: Taking the students where they want to go, achieve their identified goals and aspirations.

There isn’t a single industry in the world that doesn’t have to deal with this kind of rupture. If the new thing doing the rupturing is better, then the old thing needs to improve. Fast. (Valentine, SMH 2014)

@anneknock

Happy New Year!