Happy teachers matter: Seven things school leaders can do to create the optimal culture

happy faceWhat are some of the things that make us happy in our work?

  • A sense of a job well done
  • Confidence in our abilities
  • Great people to work with
  • Feeling valued for our efforts
  • Being heard and understood

OECD ReportIn March 2015 the OECD released a report from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Schools for 21st Century Learners (2015) by Andreas Schleicher. It identified some good news, and some not-so-good news:

The good news: The most successful education systems are those in countries whose society values the teaching profession.

The not-so-good news: Fewer than one in three teachers believe that teaching is a valued profession in society.

“…their belief in their ability to teach, engage students and manage the classroom – has an impact on student achievement as well as teachers’ own practices enthusiasm and job satisfaction and behaviour in the classroom.”

What can school leader do to enhance teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction?

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1. Distributed leadership, provides opportunities to participate in decision making at school.

2. Positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and their colleagues and teachers and their students

Good relations between teachers and their colleagues and between teachers and their students can mitigate the negative effects of challenging classrooms…”

3. Meaningful appraisal and feedback that recognises and celebrates teachers’ strengths while simultaneously challenging teachers to address weaknesses in their pedagogical practices.

4. Provide a culture of collaboration among teachers through:

    • jointly teaching the same class
    • observing and providing feedback on other teachers
    • engaging in different classes and age groups
    • professional learning

“The strongest association with teachers’ job satisfaction appears to be participating in collaborative professional learning activities five times a year or more.”

5. Applying a variety of teaching practices, from instructional to constructivist practices.

“The latter [constructivist practices] forms of teaching and learning help to develop students’ skills to manage complex situations and to learn both independently and continuously. It has also been argued that these practices enhance students’ motivation and achievement.”

6. Quality professional development. A focus on the three components of self-efficacy – classroom management, instruction and student engagement  – strengthen their confidence.

7. Capacity to positively handle misbehaving students.

Teachers who spend more time keeping order in the classroom reported lower levels of self efficacy and job satisfaction

This report reinforces what many of us know and believe. When teachers are confident in their abilities, working positively and productively with our peers (and students) and equipped for the job, we build a place where our people want to come to work everyday… because we’re happy!

@anneknock

How do you lead innovation in schools? Step 1: Unlearn some old stuff & Step 2: Learn some new stuff

School leaders – here’s a quick quiz

  • Are you prepared for disruption, mess and opposing viewpoints?
  • Do you think you can successfully challenge the status quo?
  • Can you throw out conventional approaches to leadership?
  • Will you stick to it for the long haul?

Yes? Then read on.

FullSizeRender (1)Making It Mobile is the SCIL signature workshop for educators coming up in a few weeks, held at our school in Sydney. In the practitioner strand the focus is on “teachers as designers”. Alongside this, I am facilitating a parallel workshop for leaders, but I am troubled. What if these amazing passionate teachers are inspired and are keen to innovate in their schools, only to return to the same-old leadership, where innovation needs to fit in a pre-defined box? These teachers will become discouraged and disillusioned. A new leadership paradigm is essential.

On my drive to work this morning I listened to the TEDx talk by Linda Hill: How to manage for collective creativity (Sept 2014). Linda is the professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School. She opened her talk:

FullSizeRenderI have a confession to make. I’m a business professor whose ambition has been to help people to lead. But recently, I’ve discovered that what many of us think of as great leadership does not work when it comes to leading innovation….
If we want to build organisations [schools] that can innovate time and again, we must unlearn our conventional notions of leadership.

These “conventional notions of leadership” are spelt out in the plethora of leadership literature on our actual or virtual bookshelves published over many decades. They tell us that leadership starts with a vision, it rises and falls on the leader to execute strategy and, as many leaders can testify, it is a lonely and stressful business. The prevailing culture is that “the people” look to “the leader” to tell them what to do.

There seems to be two long held beliefs that need to be challenged:

  1. The absolute leader – knows all and tells all
  2. The lowly minion – has no ideas and does what they are told by the absolute leader

Companies like Pixar and Google understand that successful innovation is not about the solo genius, in the same way leading an innovative school or organisation requires a complementary team-based approach. The innovative school needs an innovative leader who creates the environment where:

  • collaboration is the culture
  • problems are opportunities
  • team is the prevailing structure
  • the talents and passions of ‘the many’ can be unleashed
  • diversity and conflict co-exist
  • there is a village or a community

The journey of innovation has an unknown tomorrow, but it starts today with complex and compelling problems that need an answer. To navigate this future the first thing we must do is embark on that journey of unlearning.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can not read or write, but those who can not unlearn, learn and relearn – Alvin Toffler

@anneknock

Making it Mobile – 2 day workshop
30 April – 1 May
Northern Beaches Christian School, Sydney Australia

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

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

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.

CM Science

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

Leadership Reflection: Being Teachable. How do you rate?

Once upon a time the leader had to know everything.

As our society has shifted in the last couple of decades, one of the crucial areas in leading today is being teachable. In this era of accessible knowledge and collaborative problem solving, leadership has become open – open to the ideas of others and open to embracing change, rather than maintaining the status quo. The current thinking that knowledge is shared, our skills complement one another and one person doesn’t need to know everything, challenges the notion of the stereotypical boss, the solo operator, secreted away in the corner office.

Post-war President of the USA, Harry S Truman, famously had the sign on his desk “The Buck Stops Here”.

buckstopshere

The President made the decisions and accepted the ultimate responsibility for those decisions. While a principal, CEO and even President still carries the weight of responsibility for decisions and subsequent actions, effective people-centred leadership in the 21st century is less autocratic and unilateral. Change, decision-making and development can be stalled, as one person becomes a bottleneck through which all activity must pass.

Putting aside our own agendas and being open to learn from others is challenging at first, but is ultimately freeing. Being teachable is essential to being an open leader. Without this as a key value leaders can default to “The Buck Stops Here” mentality and all the baggage it may carry.

For those of us in the business of education the shoe is often on the other foot, we are the teachers. Shifting that mindset to being a learner, deliberately becoming teachable. This ultimately breaks habits that can hinder growth potential.

What does it mean to be teachable?

1. I need to recognise that I am constantly growing
Not: “I’ve got it all sorted”
What new skills have you learnt in the past 12 months?
Have you put yourself into a challenging situation?
Do you allow yourself to fail?

2. I am willing to change
Not: “I’m comfortable here”
How often are your colleagues revisiting the same things with you?
Do you keep defaulting to past behaviours?
Do you find yourself longing for the good old days?
Are you defensive when someone makes a suggestion?

3. I must listen, no, really listen
Not: “I’ll tell you what I think”
Do you listen to people, no, really listen?
Are you able to give yourself completely to another’s perspective or idea?
Can you listen without considering a response?

4. I accept that others can teach me
Not: “I have all the resources I need”
How self-aware are you? Do you know your gaps?
Are you able to identify areas of growth?
Are you open to put aside your tried and true methodology?

5. I am comfortable with uncertainty
Not: “Everything is in its place”
Can you cope with the messiness of change?
Are you able to push out into uncharted waters?
How does disruption affect you?

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All of us need to work hard at remaining teachable. . As leaders we set the culture and this is a culture that I would like to see flourish in my world.

@anneknock