Sunday, September 27, 2020

Perception and being overly critical.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being overly critical.  As an insider you know why things are done a certain way.  Often it is a compromise, where you know there is a better way, but at the time, this was the best you could get consensus with.

As an outsider you look at it without context and think.. boy, that is stupid.

I'm pretty free with an opinion and happy to comment on something if it is either in my domain of expertise or if asked.  It was put to me - "Don't you like it here?" by someone that I really respect.  This wasn't a jibe or a snarky comment, it was a legitimate observation and made me step back and think.  I responded, "What choice do I have? I'm not able to move until I make a success of this."

I know I'm pig headed and will continue long after others would give up. I need a good success to progress my career and this is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference.

Is that how others perceive me? Are my comments overly critical?  Have I become one of those people?

Do I like it here?

I gave myself a break and thought, I've been somewhere that I have great memories of 13 years, transition is hard.  I've been criticised from the minute I entered my new school by the team I need to own - it hasn't always been pleasant.

I wasn't sure.  My enjoyment of teaching has on occasion been from interactions with admin and teachers, but for the most part it has been with students.  Was I getting jaded because I felt like I wasn't making a difference?

Being action oriented I did something about it and surveyed my kids, nothing special, a survey I found on the web.  The results were great and lifted my spirits significantly.  Far better than when I surveyed myself. I could answer a different question now, "could I like it here?"  Absolutely.  If the kids can see benefit in my teaching style, they will provide the impetus for me to follow through on what evidence makes obvious.

I then presented the survey results to Admin.  This is what I have in my classrooms.  Admin need to be confident that I can walk the walk.  This will lead to them backing my judgement when I say something needs doing or in supporting something I have done.

I talked to my team.  You're a good teacher?  Here's a survey - don't tell me from anecdotes, go check and bring back the results.  There are the benchmarks, my classes, the most difficult class of last year and an ATAR class being taught in a different way.  If you're not getting better than that, come talk to me and we can discuss what worked for me.  If yours are better in some areas, I have something to learn too. 

I went and spoke to those I considered experts outside the school on next steps refining our delivery.  We put together a plan of attack.

I had my fire back.

..

I'm beginning to like it here.




Saturday, September 19, 2020

The five year plan

I was given advice when I started teaching - have a five year plan.

It's good advice - like most good advice I've been given it was easy to see with hindsight.  Don't get me wrong, for the most part I've been very lucky with my promotional opportunities and have been promoted to incompetence a number of times through what has felt like sheer luck.  It certainly hasn't been through careful planning.

For those that have come to me for guidance (and for those that could not understand why others with less experience or skill had been selected for positions) I would say the following.

Being a good classroom teacher is not enough.  You need to build a story that highlights you over all of the other applicants.  A five plan can keep you focused on what you need to do and help you through those times when you feel under-appreciated or are questioning what made you think you would be a good teacher.

To begin start with identifying where you would like to go if you were not teaching (yes I know we all want to be in the classroom but there may come a time when you have more to offer the system than getting 30 kids to progress faster than the next bozo).

Common aims are to spend time in student services, broaden your skills into another LA, L3CT, Senior Teacher, remedial teacher, ATAR teacher, as a year leader, teacher in charge, in an extension environment, GAT/GATE, curriculum leader, HOLA, deputy (heaven forbid), Principal (if you wish to shorten your lifespan), return to university, teach at university.

Each has a different pathway and the pathway changes depending on the current political environment.  The five year plan is important as it gives your line manager time to identify opportunities that you lead you to your destination whilst accomplishing goals in line with business plan objectives.

For instance, you wish to be a HOLA.

You need to be able to teach across the whole spectrum of your Learning area.  If all goes to poo, you will need to step in and fill the gap until a better solution is found.  No Specialist teacher - guess who is teaching it, the engagement year 9 class has gone through 3 teachers - saddle up, the ride will be bumpy.  Be the go to guy for your HOLA.  Your CV needs to show you have demonstrated your skills.

Do you understand an evidence based approach and how have you implemented ideas that have resulted in positive outcomes for students?  Can you state what you have done eloquently and will this be backed up by your HoLA when queried during reference checks.

Make sure that your current HOLA is happy with your performance.  Be sparing with criticism (it's easy to fall into this trap if you think you can do it better than your HOLA) and support the initiatives presented - white ant, passively resist and undermine them and they will be brutally honest when queried about you.

Do the extra - all schools ask about the commitment a teacher has to a school.  If you leave school at 3pm and arrive at 9, for kids or your own business and don't volunteer for anything other than core teaching - you are not showing the qualities desired by admin to inspire a staff.

Make connections in the community - find the Rotary, Lions or other community group that is knocking down the doors. 

Get involved in PD, bring the knowledge back to the school and implement the ideas.

Create a CV that screams hire me.

Be familiar with trends in education - direct instruction is the current go to, hattie's visible learning, zbar, There are some great models for mentoring and leadership - know a few that align with (or have formed) your thinking.

Have a go to project to talk about.  Worked with low ability students, low mood/mental health, remedial students and SEN reporting, streaming, increasing access to ATAR, running summer schools, tutoring programmes, improving engagement through instructional techniques, mentoring grads or prac students, running an afterschool music or boardgame programme and make sure you can discuss the evidence of success associated with it and that your referee can back it up as your project.  None of these require promotion to be run and can attract FTE if successful.

Volunteer for short term roles that align with your direction. Especially if no one else wants to do them.

If you don't know why you are doing something it can cause resentment and loss of motivation.  Especially when classes are not going well or providing the motivation needed to drive the next class activity with full throttle.

It should look something like this:

Year 1: talk about opportunities with line manager. Identify the qualities required to be competitive in the desired role/position. Update CV. Set goals that lead to desired role.

Year 2: Get involved with projects identified with your line manager. Update CV. Revise goals.

Year 3: Evaluate what is currently available at the school and other schools. Increase involvement in roles aligning with direction. Discuss successes with Line manager. Seek recognition of some sort of significant successes.  Seek to increase your network in the desired field. Update CV.  Seek others in the desired field to see your CV and make suggestions as to how to improve it/be more competitive. Revise goals. Revisit your goals, set some new ones and drop the ones you will not achieve.

Year 4: Be actively discussing your aspirations with your line manager and network about opportunities. Update CV.  If the school does have roles available for you, start applying for roles outside the school.  Get feedback about what you need to do to be more competitive. Do not get downheartened - this step is part of the process.

Year 5: Actively review available opportunities regularly. Discuss with your line Manager and admin about possible roles in line with aspirations - actively show that you are looking for opportunities and have developed a competitive CV in the field desired.  Use your network to validate your successes.  Celebrate the new role when it comes! Set the next plan.


Monday, September 7, 2020

HOLA Duties

As a HoLA there are a range of tasks you need to perform.  As part of a mentoring course a model was put forward that described these duties quite well.

"Tell, Sell, Collaborate, Coach"

We were all tested for our mentoring style and my initial response was "collaborate" as my preferred strategy with the proviso that we needed to do all of these depending on the particular task we were undertaking.


Four situations:

Situation 1.

A teacher has not given an assessment schedule or course outline to a class.

Action: (Tell) Teacher is gently reminded that this is a requirement of SCSA and given a compliance date.  If not complied with, needs to be followed up as it is a requirement of a HOLA to ensure this is done.  If possible assist with any roadblocks preventing it being done.  Escalate issue if not complied with as it has the potential for issues with parents and SCSA.


Situation 2.

School would like to implement a numeracy week

Action: (Sell) Consider all the benefits of a numeracy week, discuss the benefits with the team and propose to delegate the duties in a way that does not impact on learning.  Identify champions  that are enthusiastic and able to get the project off the ground (and reward them to encourage others to champion projects in the future). Attempt to achieve team consensus to limit white anting.


Situation 3.

Issue identified that programmes need a review through analysis of student results.

Action: (Collaborate) Discuss the issues with current programmes with the team, delegate year groups to sets of teachers.  Set a deadline for completing the programme review and allocate templates to ensure a consistent review is completed.  Set a long deadline and have teachers report back on how the review is going at each learning area meeting. Emerging leaders should be identified for future projects and advancement.  Create a transparent environment to prevent social loafing.


Situation 4.

Staff member identified with potential leadership capacity.

Action: (Coach) Work with the teacher on their five year plan and identify opportunities to challenge their existing understanding of leadership.  Identify opportunities for them to work with other departments, to lead small groups within the team and to work with admin to develop their capabilities.  Provide an insight on decision making strategies used within the department and provide opportunities to contribute to the decision making process outside of team consensus.