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:

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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!”

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…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!

A community of peace: It depends on me #Ichoosepeace

Slide1Hardly a day goes by when we don’t see peace shattered, either on a global level or a local level. Why do we pursue peace? What is the point of upholding peace as a virtue?

At this time of the year the word ‘Peace’ has front of stage. It’s on Christmas cards, street signs and sung in carols. This is because the prophet Isaiah heralded the arrival of Jesus as the ‘Prince of Peace’.

Peace: (n) freedom from disturbance; tranquillity; a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended

During Christmas and the New Year period many of us reflect on the past 12 months and anticipate the year ahead. My thoughts this year are turning to the idea of peace, what it means to be ‘at peace’. 

I have decided that peace can be a mindset amidst chaos, unrest and normal everyday life. When our children were small with screaming toddlers and defiant tantrums, there could be peace in the craziness. At a global level, after the unrest has subsided the ‘peace keepers’ are sent in. They monitor the peace processes and implement peace agreements. As 17thC Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza famously said,  “Peace isn’t the absence of war… it is a state of mind.”

I choose peace.

In the past week, in my city, Sydney, in my nation, Australia and as a global citizen, peace has been shattered by events of unthinkable horror. We grieve, mourn and pay tribute to those who are directly impacted, and for those of us as observers, we find it difficult to reconcile and often maintain peace.

But if we think deeply about this, lasting peace is the result of a decision of many, rather than a decree of one. It does not operate in a context of fear. It does take brave people to make a stand. As a community we can decide to strive for, maintain and keep peace.

Immediately after the #SydneySiege many in our community sought peace. One person’s warped religious worldview was not going to turn a community against the entire Muslim faith and the #illridewithyou movement arose. Many people decided to be peacekeepers when they could have opted for war.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  Holocaust survivor and philosopher, Viktor Frankl

As much as the micro level, we can be peacekeepers in our communities. It doesn’t mean being a doormat for the ‘sake of peace’. But it may involve taking a stand, in a respectful way, there may even need to be a battle before peace can be achieved. The essence of it is to consider the community as a whole, before my rights as an individual. 

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (from the letter of St Paul to the Roman church in 60AD)

As I enter 2015, this will be my North Star. There is an individual response to peace, that can collectively make a significant difference.

@anneknock

Back in the game: My new rules for social media engagement #itsnotallaboutme

“No leader can afford to lead as they did in the Industrial Age. This is a new era with new rules. All around us, the entire world is flattening, democratising, and socialising.” (HBR)

I’ve been relatively quiet on social media over the last few months. Sometimes it’s good to reassess and rethink what we do and why we do it. We are told, “You need to get onto Twitter”. Why? There needs to be purpose.

  • Am I there just so my followers don’t forget me?
  • What popularity need am I trying to satisfy?
  • Do I think that I will be professionally dead if I don’t engage?
  • Is there a real purpose that is more than increasing my follower count?

I prefer to be purposeful. Make choices that make a difference.

I thought this article on the HBR blog was interesting: 7 attributes of CEO’s who get social media. As education leaders*, we can borrow ideas, be inspired and challenged by business articles. (*I consider anyone a leader who has and wants to influence for good, no matter what role or title they have)

Coine and Babbet identified the top seven traits observed over five years trend-watching and interviewing leaders. I’ve just reimagined them for educators, and non-profits.

1. An Insatiable Curiosity: Social leaders track the emerging trends. They also see what non-educators are saying that can both inspire and challenge thinking.

2. A DIY mindset: This personal curiosity sees the social leader find out for him or herself. Rather than listen through filters seek the raw information.

3. A bias for action: They live by a “ready, fire, aim” mentality and in the Social Age, this has never been more necessary. Engaging in debates and discussions in real time can add so much value.

4. Relentless givers: They constantly share what they know. Seeking to spread knowledge and learnings more broadly. Again, this has nothing to do with building social-media market share, but it is just the right thing to do.

5. Connect instead of promote: Social media self-promotion is a turn-off. It’s more important to build relationships and connection through genuine engagement on social media platforms.

6. My organisation’s #1 brand ambassador:  We are all building our personal brand through social media, but we can do it in such a way that is authentic and generous, which in turn will positively impact our organisation.

7. Lead with an OPEN mindset: “…short for Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network – means that no one person, even the highest-level leader, can have all the answers”. We develop collaborative relationships with people who are willing to help us discover the answers.

Here are some questions that I challenge myself about social media:

  1. Do I retweet (or blog) to highlight a new voice or idea,
    or is it to show how popular I am?
  2. Do I follow people who are not directly related to my field?
  3. Am I generous? Do I connect people and encourage others?
  4. How curious am I?
  5. Do I only follow those points of view that agree with my own?
  6. How has my social media experience grown and changed me (for the better)?
  7. Does my followers’ perception of me directly impact their perception of my school?
  8. How OPEN am I?

I’m back in the game. Hopefully living by my new rules. You’ll let me know otherwise, won’t you.

@anneknock

Leaders in Learning – Barcelona 2014: A movement for grassroots change

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Are you looking to the future, or stuck with your eyes on the rear view mirror? #LeadersinLearning @Stephen_H

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just two schools:

Northern Beaches Christian School, Sydney + Col.legi Montserrat, Barcelona

One conference: Leaders in Learning: Accelerating Change Conference

2-3 October 2014

90 participants: Australia, UK, Denmark, Sweden and, of course, Spain

Passionate educators, architects, designers and service providers

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Two languages – Spanish and English

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The skill of the simultaneous translators made for seamless dialogue and communication. They were amazing, “simultaneous” input in one language and then output in another. How did they do that?

 

 

We discovered that English has 30% more words than Spanish, so when we spoke fast it was a challenge.

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Col.legi Montserrat in the hills above Barcelona View from the terrace

The setting of the conference, at Col.legi Montserrat, in the hills above Barcelona, looking out toward the city and the Mediterranean Sea. Down in Barcelona it was about 28 degrees, much hotter than many of us had anticipated, yet as we enjoyed our breaks on the terrace, the cooling breeze prevailed.

Col.legi Montserrat is a school where active learning is evident all around. Students are engaged, writing, talking, discussing and sharing ideas.

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Accelerating change

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It was essential to us that the conference program was consistent with our philosophy for learning – open, active, action-focused. It recognized that the “expert input” IMG_1486 IMG_1495 IMG_1494
was inspiring and a catalyst for dialogue and connection. Participants were encouraged to take the ideas and form questions, to develop ideas and take action.

We heard from

  • Stephen Harris from Northern Beaches Christian School – a call to action for change
  • Mother Montserrat the congregational leader for the order at Col.legi Montserrat – implementing a design-thinking approach to embedding change
  • Dr Becky Parker and Dr Matthew Baxter from Simon Langton Grammar School – A case study on a school as a centre for scientific research
  • Anne Knock from Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning – rethinking professional learning

Not just a talk-fest…
a call to action

There was fun, music, laughter and drama. Friends were made connections strengthened. Most importantly, we felt like there was a movement for grassroots change, a gathering of a critical group of international influencers to grow and make a difference.

Where to next?

Our plan is that Leaders in Learning becomes a nexus for change makers, that we reconvene the idea in Australia in 2015. Stay tuned.

@anneknock