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

XLR8

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

IMG_4718

IMG_4717

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two languages – Spanish and English

IMG_1610

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.

IMG_1613

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

IMG_1612

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

Designing effective spaces for working and learning: How to avoid the factory, the treadmill and the waiting room

IMG_2599In my international travels I’ve seen many amazing schools, universities and libraries, some that are visually stunning, but often there is something missing. Designing spaces for effective work and learning requires the connection of three distinct ‘spaces’ – cultural, technological and physical – each in harmony. When one is missing you are stuck in…

 

…a waiting room, a factory or a treadmill.

Cross-pollination is a healthy thing. I look for opportunities to experience new contexts, learn about other sectors and meet people in different professional fields. This broadens the scope of  my experience and challenges mindsets. Over the last 12 months I have enjoyed connecting with James Kemp MD at Amicus Interiors. On the one hand Amicus (which is Latin for ‘friend’) Interiors could be described as a furniture company for office fit-outs, but on the other, and more realistically,

IMG_0016The brand personifies the business and represents the foundation of trust that we place at the centre of our company culture. We are an enthusiastic, friendly team and we love what we do…

We have developed a solid reputation for meticulous care and attention to all our work. This reputation has been built upon an underlying commitment to our clients, to understand, and plan for, the key issues and challenges that surround the delivery of each project.

James visited NBCS and was struck by the similarity of our school and the work of his company, he wrote on the company blog:

Led by the inspirational principal, Stephen Harris, they have created an Activity Based Working (ABW) environment at NBCS for the children to learn, develop and have fun. If you had told me it was possible to have over 180 year 5 & 6 children working effectively (and quietly!!) in one open plan area, I would not have believed you! But when you see it in operation it is truly inspiring.

These children are given the trust, responsibility, the technology and the right support from their facilitators (the ‘teachers’) to excel. Whether they are sitting at desk, on the floor in small work groups, on sofas or beanbags, they are working away with excitement. I loved it. (Read the full blog here.)

I first came across the idea of Activity Based Work (ABW) a couple of years ago after visiting a CBD corporate refit and wrote a few blogs (like this one) about it as I believed that this approach to the work environment had much to inform the educational context, a corollary to James’ inspiration for NBCS informing work spaces.

Amicus InteriorsJames and I caught up last week, to see the transformation of the Amicus Interiors office in Martin Place in Sydney as an Activity Based Work(place). This was my first opportunity to see the new fit out. We talked about how the team are adapting and changing to work in an ABW environment. As with anything that involves people, the shift to change takes them on a journey – no fixed desks, closed and open collaborative meeting areas and close co-location with colleagues.

 

 

In our lively discussions about the places of work and learning, James highlighted the three types of spaces that must inform the effective place of work (and learning):

  • Cultural space – the way we do things around here
  • Technological space – the tools that enable
  • Physical space – the surroundings that support the work and relationships

Each of these play a crucial role to encourage innovation and creativity and foster productivity.

What happens if something is missing?

Factory Treadmill Waiting Room

When we are thinking about the redesign, refit and transformation of learning spaces, how do these three elements interplay? In 2015 NBCS ‘Project Barcelona’ will be complete – a space that is open, social and connecting. It involves new ways of thinking about school, spaces and learning for the 21st Century. Right now we are gearing up to look at what is needed to optimise the space and prepare our staff:

  • Cultural space – how will the community shift their thinking about school and then own and embrace the space
  • Technological space – what tools and infrastructure are required for the space to function as intended
  • Physical space – how will the fit out, the zones and the movement meet the dreams and aspirations for connection

@anneknock

Some other posts to check out:

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?

Slide1

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

Cutting through the edu-jargon: What does it mean to be a ‘coach’? 5 attributes of great coaches

Just like the term ‘facilitator’, the ‘coach’ is often used to describe the role of the educator and leader. When used, heads nod in agreement, and then what? Do we assume that we either know what it means, or are actually doing it?  ‘The Coach’ is quite a defined role and it is worth looking at the attributes of great coaching to see how they can apply to the education sector.

I came across a post on the Melbourne Sports Institute website: “Defining and Explaining Great Coaching”. The original study by Andrea Becker in International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching broke down more than 60 attributes that emerged from athlete questionnaires of great coaching. In education, either as a leader or teacher, successful coaching provides an effective approach to developing skills, establishing culture and creating an encouraging and goal-focused learning environment.

For each area below analyse yourself as an effective coach.

1. Personal attributes of the coach

As with any leadership role, the internal qualities of the leader are what shines the loudest. In sport, great coaches display certain attributes. They have a passion for the game and are experts, always learning, always updating their knowledge. It is crucial that coaches see potential in the people they lead.

Introspectively, great coaches are real people who make mistakes and admit mistakes. They are emotionally stable, genuine, loyal and honest. Character matters and modelling behaviours such as commitment, discipline and being organised.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Passionate about what makes a great teacher or leader
  • Ongoing learning and development
  • See potential and growth in others
  • Admit mistakes
  • Emotionally stable
  • Real and genuine
  • Consistently model desired behaviours

2. Culture of the learning environment

In sport, the coach creates an athlete-centred environment, focusing on individual growth is essential to the success of the team. This then leads to a team-centred approach, collectively creating the culture of achieving what is best collectively. Coaches are accessible, approachable and good listeners, creating an atmosphere for the athlete to flourish. The practice environment is well-planned, highly structured and game-like, it replicates the authentic purpose.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Ensure a learner or team centred environment
  • Clear about the desired culture for success
  • Accessible
  • Good listener
  • Well-planned and executed coaching structure
  • Authentic outputs for the team/individual

3. Coaching relationships

The relationship with the team or individual extends beyond achieving the task itself. The quality of the relationship matters.

The personal attributes of the coach are the grounding for creating the relationships that underpin the success of the athlete. These relationships are both professional and personal, strong and lasting. They are built on a foundation of trust, confidence and respect. The coach takes responsibility for the team or individual performance when things go bad.

Athletes are provided care and respect and they know that the coach believes in them. Players are empowered because they are included in the decision-making.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Believe the best for the team
  • Put relationship first
  • Trustworthy
  • Respectful
  • Caring
  • Humility
  • Empowering of the team/individual

4. Behaviours of a great coach

These behaviours extend beyond the particular focus of the players and extends to life skills. Coaches help players achieve high expectations and these qualities are very consistent with great teaching, using a variety of instructional methods and pacing the coaching according to learner need

High level coaches prepare meticulously, they are focussed on the details. Coaching is not random. Great coaches create great systems. They also own the systems and believe they are essential for success.

Most importantly is the impact of effective communication. Great coaches remain confident, calm and emotionally stable under pressure. Communication needs to be clear, consistent and honest. It is well-timed, motivating and positive.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Whole person focus, not just task completion
  • Teach identified and essential skills
  • Vary instruction methods
  • Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
  • Implement a system for coaching
  • Effective communicator
  • Stable under pressure

The role of coach in both professional development and student learning is a broad and encompassing role. After reading this, I have come to the conclusion that it is also an essential role in any workplace or school. There are, however, a discrete set of skills to enable the team or individual success. It is easy to say “the teacher’s role is now more like a coach” and leave it there, how often have you heard that?

What if we committed to a coaching culture? This means at a school staff level, coaching becomes a significant approach to professional development, that is then embedded in the school culture and becomes a model for student learning.

@anneknock

 

Teacher as “facilitator” cutting through the jargon. Try this quick quiz.

We’ve all heard it teachers are coach, the ‘guide on the side not sage on the stage’ and facilitator. These words are easy to say, but what do they actually mean?

Slide14Last week we had a great group from Melbourne come to NBCS for an Immersion Day. These are opportunities beyond Edu-tourism, to drill down, gain clarity in priorities and identify next steps. I really enjoy working with these groups. Facilitating is not telling people what they should do, but providing the conditions for the group to learn through input – knowledge and experience – and then provide time and space for them to process and develop their own outcomes, for their own school.

facilitate (v) to make easy
1610s, from Fr. faciliter “to render easy”

There are a few key elements of effective facilitation:

  • Leading people through a process of agreed objectives
  • Encouraging participation, ownership and productivity
  • Creating conditions where participants feel safe
  • Ensuring that the group is the star
  • Achieving their outcomes

Probably, the most important point is that a facilitator recognises that the answer is ‘within’ the individual or group, they have the capacity to find a solution. The facilitator guides the process and allows the group to draw their own conclusions. They empower the group and then step back.

The art of facilitating has four priorities:

Clarity of the task: what needs to be completed

Facilitator, know thyself: impact of the facilitator on the process

Empower the group or individual: Channeling the energy and understanding the group dynamics

Enable the process:  Create the right environment to get the work done

2013-09-05 04.19.01Allowing for the process doesn’t mean operating without structure. The best facilitators implement a structure that feels organic and fluid to the participant, yet it is well-thought through and meticulously planned. It is much easier to be a controlling content knowledge specialist than an effective facilitator. Facilitators work in-the-moment – they are ‘present’ with the group. This is their highest priority as a practitioner.

It’s not always easy to take that step back and allow the group to own the process and outcomes. Human nature wants to take control. When we consider teachers as facilitators the responsibility for learning is the students’.

Here’s the paradox: Facilitator is a leadership role where the power resides in the group.

Teacher as facilitator: What does it mean?

Being substantively neutral
Not the only source of knowledge and expertise

Create a climate of collaboration
Not command and control

Provide a range of tools and resources to help the group find their answers
Not one way is the only way

Being a content knowledge expert is challenging in the era of teacher as facilitator. Where once you were a teacher because of what you knew, now, the role is more about what the student needs to know to achieve their own learning goals. Handing over the responsibility of learning to the student is not abandoning the job of the teacher. Content matters. As with the group from Melbourne coming to our school. I presented input and knowledge from our experience, but then provided the conditions for them to set priorities and next steps.

Try this quick quiz. Do you:

  1. Need to be the focus of every session with your students?
  2. Know what it means to be ‘present’?
  3. Embrace the notion of making the way for learning *easy?
  4. Have a toolkit of ideas and resources to employ as needed?
  5. Commit to seeking the needs of the group or individual, not your own?
  6. Believe that collaboration plays a significant role in learning today?
  7. Allow the students to plan and drive their learning?

This is what a facilitator does.

@anneknock

* easy is a challenging word here. It is not used in the sense that there is no rigour, but that the teacher’s role makes the path clearer.