Where is the sense of urgency?

My time in LA has come to a close and now I’m off to Harvard for the main reason for this trip – that is to undertake the Leadership: An Evolving Vision Course.

As I leave LA, competing thoughts come to my mind. The lavish lifestyles of the so called ‘fame’ is quite obvious in a town like Hollywood. Most of the actors live  on Mullholland Drive in the surrounding mountains with a few still hanging around. Beverly Hills. The expensive mansions with landscaped gardens and gated communities means that many of those actors are living in surreal environments. Other places like Disneyland, Universal Studios and Warners Bros Studios often create a world that we like to live in, where happy endings and fun times are often the norm in the various motion picture or sitcoms genres.

At the other end of town, I saw a vast array of homelessness in Hollywood (not sure about other areas of LA) with people begging and sleeping on the streets each night, rummaging through the bins by day and trying to do start ups anyway they can. It was sad to see children in this predicament with their mothers or father begging on the street in the morning and at the same place late at night. It’s the later that drives any educator in the importance of education in alleviating the potential of poverty for our young students in our classroom each day. Until you truly experience poverty or see the effects on a daily basis, you never really quite understand what people go through each day and night.

To raise the plight of homelessness, I was recently delighted to hear that DEC Secretary Dr Michele Bruniges participating in the Vinnies CEO sleep out. This is a worthwhile fundraising activity that we should all support. In 2015, I am hopeful that we could do a local sleep out with some of the MEPS staff.

Returning back to what I saw, the dual societyin LA is something I don’t want to emulate for our Australian society. It is important that our Federal Government, regardless of parties, support the 5th and 6 year of Gonski and ensure that those that are most vulnerable are given opportunity to succeed in life. I don’t want to look back in 10 years time and see the increase in homelessness on our street or the increase in mental health issues associated from poverty.

As I leave LA, the importance of providing a relevant, stimulating and personalised education for our students is more important to me than ever. Yesterday, I had the good fortune to finish my LA stint of my travels with a tour of Universal Studios. My tour guide named Blair (and she nows that I was going to write about her)  had the most remarkable knowledge about films and sitcoms, and she was barely in her early 20’s. She could tell where various scenes in movies or television shows were set and name the actors. At the end of the tour, I asked her about her schooling and where she built up her interests and knowledge.  I received the reply that none of it came from school but rather a passion and interests in the film industry. She indicated that as a young child, she spent all her time watching movies and learning about the different actors and their lives.

The lesson here is that sometimes we can easily create a mismatch in what we teach and what students want to learn – maybe this is the first sign of disengagement for students. Instead, we need to be more relevant for those that are having the most difficulties  engaging in school by tailoring the curriculum in a more personalised and relevant manner by taking into account the interests and passions. I know this is not easy to do but I’m seeing on social media twitter that many of my colleagues are doing that each day now.

There is a sense of urgency in education to make a substantial change. Rather than wait, we need to have a real ‘crack’ at making change that takes into account how students learn with the proliferation of technology use, where students learn, and how we go about teaching presently and into the future.  Without the fundamental changes, we may end up with more disengage students and ultimately more homelessness.

Over the next week, my excitement is building as I move closer to Harvard and my course.  The Harvard Club Australia, Teachers Mutual Bank and the Public Education Forum are giving me the chance to see a global world and now the urgency is more evident as I can see the sadness in the alternative.

(Note: this blog was written at 4am in the morning at NYC Penn St Station after doing an all nighter.)

 

Did I Say Thank You?

Thank you to the Harvard Club Teachers Mutual Bank Scholarship in conjunction with the Public Education Foundation. I now find myself in Los Angeles  en route to the Harvard Graduate School of Education in  Cambridge, Boston.

Educators provide the inspiration for staff and students to achieve their aspirations. It was over four years ago that I started connecting up on social media to find the most brilliant and wonderful educators on line sharing their pedagogies, learning spaces and wealth of other resources to drive my thinking and thoughts into leading a school to create a better paradigm in which to work and learn. Up to then, we were making changes  but slowly rather than the required urgency necessary to address the needs of our culturally diverse students.

The Harvard Club Teachers Mutual Bank Scholarship and the Public Education Foundation recognised the transformation at Merrylands East and kindly awarded a scholarship for me to study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in July.

In the last fortnight of Term 2, I was quite taken back by the generous comments of staff, students and parents towards this award. It was so delightful and with sincere gratitude that I shared the award with them as ti was a tremendous team effort to recreate Merrylands East as a place where students don’t see school but learning each day.

Since the announcement of the award,  a lot of colleagues have asked me how this all came about. Firstly, the  Harvard Club are a wonderful supporter of public education principals by not just sending  myself over to Harvard but 5 other public education principals. Their contribution to further enhance the professional development of principals by seeking to establish such a scholarship with the best institution is extraordinary generous. Secondly, the Teachers Mutual Bank have not only supported my scholarship but also the work of principals throughout NSW by sponsoring many primary and secondary principals’ conferences and major Department of Education and Communities school events. Thirdly, the Public Education Foundation with the support of the Department of Education and Communities, NSW Teachers Federation, Unions NSW, Primary and Secondary Principals Association, Social Ventures Australia and a host of other known and unknown philanthropists provide for students from socio-economic disadvantage backgrounds, and or also hard working students the opportunities to extend their talents.

The course that I am undertaking with my colleagues is called Leadership:  An  Evolving Vision.  This course is so timely considering all the changes that are currently happening in education both systemically and also the paradigm shift from school leaders having a requirement by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership to be innovative and make change for improvement. With the proliferation in changes in technology and the mainstreaming of students and staff being connected in a global world, we do need to make substantial changes otherwise our students will either venture learning on their own or  be disserviced by our lack of willingness to cater for their learning needs.

Over the next week or so, I aim to blog more about my trip and the wonderful opportunity afforded to me, in anticipation that many of my colleagues will be able to access this marvellous and life changing experience.

In the meantime, keep up to wifi tweets as  I know that the work of the Public Education Foundation and the generosity of all the contributors are now globally recognised throughout social media world.

 

Why My School Needs Gonski?

Imagine an organisation on a $150 000 budget a year without the mantra of making an annual financial profit but a moral imperative to invest all the capital to support the development of 370 workers’ talents and skills via 24 managers on a daily basis. The budget has to pay for the training of the managers and their replacement when absences occur, all the utilities (water, sewerage, gas, electricity, sanitation and communication) necessary to run the organisation, and the maintenance of the premises that dates back to 1928. Well, that’s what my public school does every year.

There is a minimal amount available for student resources by the time the budget is allocated each year. My school does not have specialist performing arts, sporting or music teachers, nor do we have paraprofessionals to support students. Instead we have full time classroom teachers to match the number of classes that can be formed, a Learning and Support Teacher,  two English as a Second Language Teachers, a Reading Recovery Teacher, and a Teacher-Librarian. We rely on the multiskilling of primary teachers or the goodwill of the school community with fundraising activities or donations to supplement the learning programs in our school.

My staff and community are fully aware of the implications of our school budget and what is plausible to achieve. Over the past 8 years, we have collectively painted our classrooms, constructed gardens to improve the school environment, repair trip hazards and even arrange for the fixing of toilets in times of emergency. Yes, that’s right! When the aging toilets and pipes overflow, someone has to respond and quite often it’s the principal who is the only person in my school not on class apart from the office staff. We have achieved the maximum output with our budget by self-managing projects where possible and being judicious about the resources that are needed. We have made significant transformation but that’s only the surface to improving our students’ outcomes and engagement in learning.

It is not uncommon for public education teachers (and dare I say all teachers in all sectors) to use their own finances to purchase additional resources for their students, not to mention the provision of voluntary hours beyond class time for those extracurricular activities. Follow Australian educators on twitter and they are regularly using their own personal funds at places like Officework, Bunnings, Kmart, Ikea, Bookshops or similar stores during their weekends or school vacations to provide that little extra for their students knowing full well that the school budget is tight, or paying for their own professional development.

Gonski (now known as Better Schools funding) provides an opportunity for my students to access the resources that are necessary to achieve the highest possible learning outcomes. The additional funding would enable our school to employ a speech pathologist to assist students with expressive and receptive language needs instead of waiting on the two years public waiting lists and experiencing learning difficulties. Likewise, we could employ occupational therapists to assist some students to fully function at school or specialist teachers like Reading Recovery for additional early intervention over the next four years. The additional funding could replace some of our reading resources that are currently held together by sticky tape or invest in additional technological devices to enable our students to fully implement the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities and outcomes.

We only need to view the Channel 2 Four Corners episode about Claymore to remind ourselves that we have so many vulnerable young people and children in our society with limited disposable income by their parents. Gonski can assist schools to bridge the gap by providing educational outcomes that enables students to shift away from the inter-generation of poverty and eventually financial independence through full employment.

I must thank the NSW Minister for Education the Hon. Mr Piccoli MP for his support of Gonski and all the personnel behind the scenes that formulated a position that eventually led to our NSW signing an agreement with the previous Federal Government – a historic decision supported by so many educators, academics and NSW politicians. Gonski is not about education systems or schools – it’s system blind as we’re reminded. It’s about student learning and giving all young people every opportunity to succeed, especially the most vulnerable in our society. No child should be disadvantage because of their postcode, ethnicity or their socio-cultural or linguistic background. For this reason, I have added my signature to the www.needtosucceedalliance.com and voiced my support for the full commitment to the existing Gonski agreement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do We Win?

The global race to be one of the top five Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) countries is a debate all around the world at the moment. Countries are endeavouring to find that pedagogical panacea and structural reform that will give them an edge over Finland and many of the Asian countries. During the current race, I have often wondered whether anyone has stopped and asked, “What do we win?” Is there a massive global sheep station on offer or a world cup in education?

The Australian National Assessment Programme for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is our local standardised  tests. Merrylands East treats the tests like another school activity due to the Government’s compliance requirements. However, I will create some heresy amongst some education purists by saying that our school does not teach to the test, or focus on it during teachers’ programming, and when the results arrive, they are simply disseminated to our parents without any valued judgements. Our school results over the years can range from the global financial crisis to the Australian mining boom but we don’t measure our school on them. This is not to say that schools don’t need to improve in Literacy and Numeracy – all schools do! It’s the benchmark that we set ourselves that really matters and that will be different for each school.

International and national standardised testing do not reflect the complexity of achievements in a school, nor the breadth of successes. Each school and individual students have their own success stories to tell.  For Merrylands East, the pedagogical shift towards project based learning and genius hour with higher levels of student self regulation and engagement are just some of the highlights. Parents have accepted that NAPLAN is a necessity but place their value on the diversity of school programs and the creative products designed by their child in an open learning environment.

I have asked myself the question, “Do I want to be like countries Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea or the city of Shanghai?” The answer is an emphatic, “No.”  If we truly believe in the concept of lifelong learning, then education is not a race to cram  knowledge into 13 years of schooling within a narrow corridor and constricted area of the curriculum. Instead, learning is collaborative process where students and teachers help each other fulfil aspirations and dreams.

Speaking to Australian employers, they do not ask for NAPLAN results but look for creative designers, authentic problems solvers, good interpersonal skills, teamwork and a love of their product. We need to foster the same skills with a love of learning. Just recently, a number of teachers visited our school and  one student displayed a portfolio of online games that he had created and proudly picked a 3D version. Another 12 year old student showed 3 weeks of project animation called Emma. She explained the thousand photos of each individual line or fill in change and the product was created using MovieMaker. Our students are proud of their achievements and articulate their learning due to their ownership of learning.

The Australian Curriculum General Capabilities and outcomes are the major focus areas of Merrylands East curriculum. Literacy and numeracy are woven throughout learning with students having the opportunity to demonstrate outcomes in a diverse range of evidence. Creativity is highly valued and students will often celebrate the success of themselves and others.

The global top 5 in standardised tests in 2025 produces no prizes. Therefore, let’s create a better future for our students and ensure that they continue to be lifelong learners beyond schooling and a standardised test score.

 

Why Disruptive Leadership?

In the early 1980’s, I remembered walking into my former primary school for a second year teacher education practicum and noticing that nothing had changed. This is despite leaving the school almost 8 years ago. The school’s learning environment looked the same, my former teachers were in the same rooms and most of them were using the same textbooks and resources, and the culture felt like a time warp despite the world moving on. I passed my practicum but little did I realise at the time that the experience would be invaluable in making change at my current school.

Too often, we believe that a situation is difficult to change due to inertia or some form of policy that has lost its currency. Disruptive leadership is about looking at an authentic problem from outside in. Instead of tinkering around the edges, we reconceptualise problems, obtain different perspectives from both within and outside the field and design strategic solutions.

Merrylands East Public School required disruptive leadership to make a shift from conventional wisdom to a new reality.  The school’s Parents and Citizens Association asked a simple question as to why schools cannot start earlier and finish earlier to capture the peak hours of learning for primary students and to avoid the fatigue factor in the afternoon. Many of these parents have very little deep grounding in industrial relations, government policies and procedures, or how schools worked but came with an authentic pragmatic solution without any preconceived ideas. We could have easily tinkered with the school hours by shifting our recess and lunch periods but still ended with a hybrid version of the existing paradigm.

Disruptive leadership is not about the norm but creating new products and procedures and challenging the values, beliefs and assumptions of a society. School hours for the majority of Australian primary schools are 9am to 3pm model with some slight variations. These times haven’t changed since the commencement of NSW public schools in 1848. The Merrylands East change has resulted in teachers having optional afternoon time to collaborate, program, assess and evaluate student learning without the added conflict of other activities. Students have benefited with learning taking place earlier in the morning with additional family time in the afternoons. Most recently when Sydney sweltered above 30 degree Celsius temperatures in the afternoon, our students had a range of alternatives rather than being fatigued at school.

In any organisation disruptive leadership is about making long term change with sudden impact. The Merrylands East school hours had to change overnight rather than gradually. People involved in our school had to make the necessary personal adaptation to align with the organisational change. With any disruption, there is always some form of insecurity, uncertainty and emotional change that needs to be addressed. However, collective community solutions have inevitably resulted in our school being placed in a position to meet the needs of our local community.

Disruptive leadership is evident all around us. Who would have imagine that banks could be automated and funds withdrawn or deposited globally, phones become multifunction, and enterprises operate in  alternative work designed environments? Who would have imagined that students could self-regulate their learning, share their learning globally in a range of multimodal texts and collaborate with other students anytime anywhere?  At a classroom level, disruptive leadership may involve the change of pedagogy and the creation of a better learning environment for students.

I must caution that disruptive leadership is not about being militant or making change for the sake of change. Instead, disruptive leadership is about being solution driven with a totally fresh approach and challenging the current norm. Sometimes, this may involve starting with a blank canvas and designing from scratch with all possible solutions on the table for discussion. It’s also about letting go our prejudices and stepping back from within, and withdrawing emotionally from ownership – not easy to do, especially if schools have long standing traditions and a culture of conservatism.

Disruptive leadership has resulted in Merrylands East changing our pedagogy, learning spaces and the way we operate in the 21st century.

Why do we have timetables?

Why do we have timetables?

Merrylands East Public School has been quite fortunate this term to have @AliceLeung from Merrylands High school working in our school every Wednesday morning, and teaching physics to Year 5 students. The program is now beyond the infancy stage and our students are enjoying inquiry learning challenges.  I have noticed the engagement and intrinsic motivation of the students are higher due to the range of skills that are required to participate in the program. Earlier in the program, for example, the students had to create different shaped angry birds, propel them with an elastic band, measure the distances, record and explain their results.

The physics program has highlighted an issue about primary schooling in the 21st century – that is, why do we have school timetables that segregate subjects into discreet areas of learning and into set time periods. The Year 5 students in their physics program have integrated Science, Maths, Creative Arts and English in learning tasks in order to hypothesise, test and discover their findings. Even though, there were a lot of variables in the various tasks that could have influenced the results, the students engaged in the learning experience as though they were seasoned scientists, using a broad range of skills with the added bonus of developing skilled communication to articulate their processes.

Timetables in primary school can easily disengage the engaged with a teacher ending a learning task when students are highly motivated in what they are doing. Instead, if we truly believe in the concept of learning anytime anywhere, we should be focusing on seamless learning where students can continue with particular tasks without an interruption or being asked to discontinue.

At Merrylands East, some of our teachers are shifting away from the segmented timetables and providing students with time to learn and engage in projects that may stretch over a long period. The daily lessons that have an introduction, body and conclusion are now being diluted away in this decade with longer periods of sustained learning. We want our students to self-regulate their learning and our learning spaces to be student centred.

Thanks to @brionyscott the removal of school bells has limited another distractor of learning in our school. No longer are students clock watching and being dictated by sounds. Quite frequently, I walk into classrooms where students may be engaged deeply in a learning task, so much so, that the scheduled recess break (morning tea) is often overlooked. However, we have built structures in place to allow students to eat fruit when they want to eat during learning periods.

The school change has resulted in students experiencing deeper learning and engagement through project based learning, play based learning, genius hour and gamification. STEM is a further area being explored. The frequency of students saying, “I don’t like Maths” or another subject area is slowly being diminished and replaced with the enjoyment of learning. Even the most disengaged students are now some of the most engaged students.

One critcism of our transformation shift is the accountability factor about the implementation of the Australian Curriculum in our school. I can readily admit that our community of mainly non English speaking background students with refugee experiences and disrupted schooling, would make it extremely difficult for our teachers to cover all the curriculum with a genuine deep understanding. The alternative is to teach without learning and tick off all the areas that have been covered – is that what we really want in education? Our school preference is to teach deeply and provide the general capabilities and outcomes in content areas. This means that we are covering the Australian curriculum but a general observer will need multiple stop watches to determine the time allocation we provide for each subject area.

Segmented learning via timetables will soon be a thing of the past in our school.

 

 

 

 

What is all the fuss about BYOD?

I’ve been reading a lot of material lately about Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) as though it’s the next big change in education to revolutionise learning. It seems the end of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution Program in Australia has caused educators to rethink what types of devices will be suitable for school and how the implementation of BYOD will work. It seems incredulous that we should be reflecting on this issue in education as we’ve never considered BYO for many other resources that students brought to school in the past.

For me in a primary school context, BYOD is a seamless transition point in education with students taking ownership for bringing in devices to use at school. If a classroom teacher’s pedagogy and the overall school vision is about the incorporation of Information and Communication Technologies for learning, then students will be the greatest advocate for BYOD. If on the other hand, a classroom program does not have a pedagogical backbone as to how devices are used in learning programs, then the implementation of BYOD for learning will invariably shift more towards socialisation.

At Merrylands East Public School, many teachers are shifting towards genius hour and project base learning with the incorporation of devices to create and design. We started off with desktop computers and a few purchased NSW DER laptops. Students were given opportunities to explore and solve authentic problems in collaborative situations over the limited number of devices. Students would mull over the students who were creating with the limited devices and contribute to the task at hand, while at the same time lurk and learn from each other.

We also supported students by changing our school environment with a lot more agile and mobile areas for students to learn. Not every student needs to sit on a chair or at a desk at the same time, and not every student needs to be on a device at the same time. We still use pencils, pens and paper when the task is much easier to complete.

Over the past year, I have noticed that students have started to bring in their own device and connecting up to our school’s Wi-Fi without any major announcement or push by the school to do so. As a school, we’ve responded by permitting students to take their devices outside for use or securing them during our recess break. We’ve also responded by making sure that additional small sets of devices are available for class borrowing to complement the existing desktop computers so that students are not disadvantaged within the school.

However, with all transition processes, our school has experienced the occasional missing device but students often find and return them to their rightful owner. Again, there hasn’t been a huge fuss made over a lost device.

BYOD is not a major fuss for our school but a self-regulated process whereby students see a genuine learning need for the use of devices in learning programs. It is not a huge take up process at the moment, but slowly growing. I am sure that this means the process of BYOD will take longer but at the expense of knowing that whatever is brought to school and compatible with our Wi-Fi will be used in a meaningful context.

Create or Replicate?

Yesterday, I participated in the Australian Institute of Teachers and School Leadership Professional Practice Symposium. It was humbling to be invited but also to have our school being presented to a room full of policy makers from across Australia. One of the key questions from the gathering that resonated through my mind is whether we create or replicate our pedagogies to cater for our students.

Over the past few years, I have noticed the proliferation of packaged literacy and numeracy courses being churned out as though they are the panacea for school improvement. Far too often, it is easy to pick up one or more of these courses and make the assumption that it will improve our school results without taking into account our environment, our teachers and our students. The end result is that we can treat professional learning as a tick a box only to wait for the next package to come along.

For Merrylands East Public School (MEPS), the issue of creating instead of replicating is about taking ownership and having an understanding of our local context, and what we need to do to improve our student outcomes in a sustainable manner. Instead of over relying on the professional learning packages, our staff have taken ownership for building up their research knowledge base by using professional readings to dialogue with each other, and to discover the possibilities that lies within their learning environment.

Today I visited Silverton Primary School and marvelled at their wonderful incorporation of technology as part of their learning program. Seeing student self-regulation in practice, open and integrated learning environments and the diversity of programs, one cannot be tempted but to replicate. After all, how extraordinary would it be to have playstation on the outside of toilet walls, a dedicated media centre room for chroma key video production and a  radio station. However, Silverton was created for their local community and takes into account the context of the school environment. The buildings and their layout at Silverton are different to Merrylands East, along with the available land space for learning.

So what was the purpose of my visit? First of all, I wanted to observe why Silverton was a worldwide Microsoft Partners in Learning Mentor School and glean some principles of curriculum design. Second, I wanted to observe how students used a diverse range of devices to assist them in learning without the need to be a one to one device school. Third, I wanted to observe how students engaged in a transformed sustainable environment and to discover how research and evidence based data was driving the teachers’ pedagogies.

My invaluable visit provided an opportunity to self-reflect on the transformation at MEPS via a rich discourse with visionary principal Tony Bryant. Along with discovering further learning potential for students in an open environment, the visit provided an exchange of school curriculum and organisational leadership strategies within the confounds that both our settings are different.

Instead of replicating Silverton, I rather take some underlying principles and continue the collaborative process of creating MEPS with our school community, and make the changes necessary in learning anywhere anytime, learning spaces, learning staff and most importantly, learning pedagogies that takes into account the learners in our school.

Returning back to the AITSL symposium, it was refreshing to hear the voice of Innovation Unit, Valarie Hannon and her provocative comments and questions that challenged the participants’ pedagogical values and beliefs. I was delighted to hear the challenge put to policy makers about the purpose and place of schools in a technologically interconnected world, and the need to innovate and discover new pedagogies due to the changing nature of information accessibility by contemporary students, rather than to replicate the vast number of frameworks that are already in circulation.

Finally, I was full of admiration for my twitter PLN co-presenters at the symposium Alice Leung and Bianca Hewes for their pedagogical creation.  They just don’t take project base learning and follow it as a check list but continue to evolve the process of learning to cater for their students and environment.  Likewise, my staff and I are learning to create rather than replicate.

 

How do we supervise the facebook teacher?

This year I was fortunate enough to be involved in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Program (MSPIL) and collaborate with 19 fabulous schools across the nation. The opportunity of being involved in an extraordinary program has given my school a theoretical underpinning for wholistic change.

My last blog was about how I work. Now it’s time to look at middle management in a school and how they work. The traditional primary school will have supervisors looking after stages. I guess this model came about by the stage segmentation of NSW Syllabus documents. However, I can recall the same model since the start of my teaching career, and still replicated in many schools across the nation. This model is fine if it works well in a school. However, after I presented recently at Sydney University on the final day of an undergraduate teacher education course, I realised the teachers coming out of university are vastly different from when I left in the 80’s. They are connected via social media, know how to access information and can readily self-direct their own learning. Sounds familiar!

The changing nature of teachers has meant that we really need to look at the supervision practices in our schools that reflects a 21st century learning environment. We cannot get away from policies, practices and procedures that requires teachers to be supervised but it is how middle managers go about doing it that needs to change.

Teachers today need a supervisor that acts more like a mentor and coach rather than a line manager who will clinically goes through a checklist. Being part of the MSPIL program has enabled me to undertake the Microsoft Peer Coaching course. The emphasis of this course was about asking reflective questions, steering teachers to resources and professional readings, and to provide an environment where innovation and creativity are all valued, celebrated and shared. This doesn’t mean that we have a free for all. Rather, it’s about providing teachers with the opportunity to build their pedagogy that meets their learners need, and to utilise data to support what they do in the classroom.

Teachers today need a supervisor that they can discourse with, and help them scaffold their understanding of pedagogy. As self-directed learners, teachers know the difference between advice and ‘advice’. They can easily go on line and surf the web to verify the advice given to them or even collaborate with other colleagues for a second opinion. Instead of providing words like, “this is what I do” or “attend this course”, supervisors are better served by asking “why” questions to facilitate discovery learning, understanding and reflection.

Finally, teachers today need supervisors who utilise 21st century skills and ICT as part of their daily work environment. Far too often I have attended conferences and heard the buzz words from leaders such as ‘innovation’, ‘creativity’, ‘thinking outside the square box’, ‘getting outside of your comfort zone’ and ‘risk taking’. However, it’s not the words that count but the ability for supervisors to demonstrate the words in action that’s credible. Teachers need to see supervisors as being innovative and creative in their own teaching and learning. They need to see supervisors working through processes, reflecting on their program and prepared to make changes when difficult classroom moments occur. They need to know that by supervisors demonstrating, they too can have the presence of mind to be innovative.

 

 

Mobile Principal

Have you ever wondered what principals do in their office all day? As an aspiring principal, I often wondered that myself until I finally crossed the line 8 years ago and made it through the door. My joy and satisfaction of having my own office and space, and a desk and chair that looked like managerial material seemed to be the pinnacle of my career.  However, is that what being a principal is all about?

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity of visiting the  Microsoft Australia Office in Sydney and noticed a totally different working environment. For a start, there was no managerial office or any office for that matter that signified a hierarchical structure and having one person more important than another. Secondly, the open space enabled staff to work anywhere and anytime depending on the tasks at hand. Thirdly, the work areas were free from clutter and all the paper files that are often attributed to an office work environment being eliminated. Finally, the spaces were engaging with different types of furnishings to enable staff to be in a relaxed environment while working.

Being a principal is about being a leader of a school and quite often we get the balance of time wrong, and spend more time tied up in red tape in our office. After reading an article on http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/6520 and http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/6344 it finally hammered home that principals need to be visible and have a presence in a school, not the roaring lion that students see as nothing more than a disciplinarian, but rather an innovative creative who is prepared to support teachers and engage them to achieve their aspirations and goals.

From my reflections from both Microsoft and the Connected Principals articles, I realised that the only thing that held my in an office was the desktop computer. Everything from an administrative purpose could be completed easily on line and all my meetings with staff, parents and students could be held in various areas around the school.

This term, instead of having a no office day, I went one further and totally reconverted my office into a learning space for small group student work or parent meetings. Idea paint adorns one of the walls for planning purposes and a range of lounges and ottomans provide the seating in a relaxed atmosphere.  A generation of students will never be sent to the principal’s office in our school anymore for breaches of school rules.

The liberating effect of not having an office has made a tremendous difference in how I perceive my role. The focus is firmly shifted back to teaching and learning, and supporting teacher development – after all, that’s how teachers become the future principals. Now instead of being tied to a desktop, a smartphone and a slate provides the tools that I need, along with skydrive and access to our school fileserver.

While still at the infancy stage of having no office, the joy of seeing children succeed and working in a range of spaces also sends the message to all students that they do not own spaces but share learning spaces too.