Not More Sheep!⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective




A few years ago a colleague I was working with first mentioned the term 'professional courage' to me. She was using it to describe actions we sometimes have to take as educational leaders that might not be particularly popular with colleagues, parents, employers or others but which we still should take if we believe them to be the right actions. I really liked the term, and the thinking that lay behind it. Since I first began considering and engaging with the term, I have extended the definition to include difficult conversations that we sometimes have to have and difficult decisions we have to make. Often deciding the route to take in any of these areas does require a degree of 'professional courage' especially when it can bring us into confrontation with others as a result.

If you are a leader, are there times when you have chosen not to take a course of action that you wished because you knew others you work with, or for, would disagree or not support your intended action? Have you sat in meetings where decisions are being made and 'consultations' are taking place, and not voiced honest opinions or disagreements for fear of upsetting those to whom you might be responsible? I think at various times, most of us have, especially when young and new in post. What I have come to believe and have decided as I have matured, both in age and professionally, is that if we truly believe in something we should be prepared to stand up for this, whatever the circumstances.

The starting point for these decisions and actions are your values, and the principles that underpin them. I am sure all of us do the job we love because we want to make a positive difference to the lives through the education of the young people who are in our schools. We will want to do this in a fair and just way, that shows no particular favour to any one group and which is totally non-discriminatory. We will wish to display honesty in all our dealings and display a level of  wisdom and intellectual rigour in our work and interactions. On top of this will be our professional knowledge, understanding and experience that comes with educational leadership, our expertise. Our values and our professional expertise should be the factors that underpin all our actions.

I do wonder if we sometimes let what we desire for our careers get in the way of what we believe to be right for our learners? I have heard from others,and been told myself, on occasions that expressing a certain opinion, or choosing an action, would 'not be good for your career' if it was seen as being opposite to what others were thinking, planning or wishing to happen. I have heard of school leaders, and have experienced myself, being 'warned' or admonished because they have expressed opposition to some planned action in a meeting or conference. What then results is people refusing to openly engage and debate planned changes and actions for fear of the repercussions for them personally and professionally. Such an ethos and culture is damaging to organisations and damaging to the opportunities we have to improve what we are doing.

Equally, school leaders can be guilty of the same practices in their own schools and leadership practices. There are leaders who really believe only they know what is best for their schools. They make the decisions about what will and won't happen, and then expect staff to carry these out. Change does happen in such circumstances, but it tends to be surface level, with no depth, understanding or sustainability to it. Change is slow and fleeting in non-collaborative cultures, and colleagues are de-professionalised. Plus, we lose the opportunity to harness the strength and collaborative power of the team.

 I would argue that professional courage is required at all levels to challenge what needs to be challenged. If we muffle our voice and our opinions because we are afraid of repercussions, what hope do we then have to develop our learners as critical thinkers and vocal responsible citizens? That is not to say we should be reckless, unthinking and belligerent in our responses and our actions. There are ways of expressing opinions without resorting to downright opposition to every new change or initiative proposed. We need to engage in a responsible, informed and professional way, and in that way our views and opinions are more likely to be heard.

Professional courage and responsibility should be part of what it means to be a leader. Never has there been a time of such challenge, but also of such opportunity, in education. We need to engage and ensure our voice is heard. What education needs at such times are more leaders, not more sheep.


If no one is listening, are you still a teacher? by @TomBarwood⤴

from @ @TeacherToolkit

This post answers the 33rd question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks. Thunk 33: If no one is listening, are you still a teacher? by @TomBarwood If no one is listening, are you still a teacher? My problem is not thinking of thunks, but spending too much time doing the opposite. I seem to … Continue reading

The Tyranny of the Working Group⤴

from @ Just Trying To Be Better Than Yesterday

I’m not sure if you would ever call it pressure but, when you start a new school, or even when you begin a new term in August, there is an expectation that you join a Working Group. That group might have a whole school responsibility; it may focus on one aspect of Learning and Teaching, or many aspects; it may even be something that you, wait for it, are genuinely interested in taking forward in your school. However, in  my experience, the early session enthusiasm you display at the start of these groups doesn’t always last. Why is that? What are Working Groups really for?

In reality, working ‘collaboratively’ with colleagues can cause more friction and stress than it relieves and doesn’t often achieve intended aims. External forces are probably the real culprits here. Lack of time to meet appropriately, imposed agendas from management or local authority, a lack of trust in fellow group members? Perhaps. Getting to the point where you have forgotten why you even bothered to volunteer in the first place might also be true. The problem with formal collaboration, it seems, might be that it is almost impossible in a school context. Yet acknowledging that doesn’t make things better. We still try it. Every year.

I reread some of Andy Hargreaves’ work on collaboration recently. ‘Changing Teachers, Changing Times’ is twenty years old now but it seems that much of what he was saying about collaboration and collegiality still rings true today. Contrived ways of working are rarely successful  as they fail to take into account the individual strengths of teachers. We obsess over outcomes of Working Groups rather than focusing on the process of allowing teachers to work together towards what should be the goal: teacher improvement, not a set of resources to be handed on. Twenty years on, I don’t think we are getting that message.

I’ve come to the conclusion that much of the development work I’ve done over the years has been a waste of time. As both a silent member of a Working Group, unable to implement any of my own ideas, to a leader of a group unable to inspire others, I have learned to keep my mouth shut at opportune times. It appears to me that most development workI undertake is destined to fail unless I recognise that I have a weakness in that specific area and that I am committed to improving. I must recognise that weakness myself, and not by someone else, and undertake my own research, not reliant on anyone else. If I am unconvinced by the goal of collaborative development work then it will be a waste of my valuable time.

As Hargreaves says though, ‘much of the way teachers work together is almost unnoticed, brief yet informal encounters.’ (Hargreaves, p.195) My collaboration comes in the form of staffroom chats, informal corridor meetings, shared ideas on Twitter. The outcomes are often unknown or uncertain but I learn how others are attempting similar ideas and delivering similar lessons. I am trying to free myself from the tyranny of the Working Group. That freedom allows me to collaborate in a far more effective way. ‘There is no such thing as ‘real’ or ‘true’ collaboration or collegiality,’ said Andy Hargreaves, twenty years ago. I’m not so sure but we need to think very carefully about what it means first.

Hargreaves, Andy (1994) Changing Teachers, Changing Times. Teachers Work and Culture in the Post Modern Age (Cassell, London)

35,000 Images.⤴

from

There are over 35,000 images which you can freely download  from the National Galleries website. This is a great resource and has loads of uses in class. I’ve always found that children really enjoy looking at different pictures and whilst not as good as a trip to a gallery, it’s a great resource.

Curriculum for Excellence event for universities and colleges⤴

from @ SQA Computing blog

I received an invitation this morning to attend an event for university and college staff, who teach HE awards, which seeks to explain the changes that will be introduced in schools as a result of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). The event will take place on 15 May and will explain the changes in learning and assessment that are taking place and how these changes will effect the students who will be coming to universities and colleges in the future. Although the event covers all STEM subjects, the afternoon workshop is specific to Computing Science.

It sounds like a good event. Your SQA Co-ordinator should have received an e-mail about it, with details of the programme, but you can find out more by contacting cfe.events@sqa.org.uk or book directly here.

Headship: Can you engage with the internal and external school community? #360Review (Part 6 of 6)⤴

from @ @TeacherToolkit

In my sixth and final self-refection on leadership, I offer an insight into my own school leadership appraisal. In this post: Strengthening the community; I pose a series of questions for the reader and offer my very own public #360Review. I also answer if I am ready for Headship … You are reading part 6 … Continue reading

Beyond the 140s⤴

from

Whoiamwhatido…

Inspired by the many wonderful stories I have read, painted with the many emotional colours and insightful brushstrokes, the person that I am, and still becoming, is such a melting pot; full of many diverse ingredients. Some have induced moments of incredible happiness and joy, others- less so. But they all help define me, so I don’t think I would change any of the ‘how’ I have become me. Through the ups and downs, the unknown twists and turns that we encounter, I have grown, slowly at times, awkwardly at others, to like, appreciate and grow ever more comfortable with the person that is called Mark Healy.

In all honesty, I’m not even sure the direction this post will take, other than it will most probably rekindle many emotive memories; some will make me smile, laugh and click a mental flashbulb of special moments frozen in time. Others, equally emotive, may even induce a level of introspection that causes discomfort- but that’s ok; aren’t challenge & discomfort at times, part of a learning process?

Some defining moments of me…

May 31st 2008- I remember every second of the day, it passed so slowly…

I had been coaching my son’s football team. It was a beautiful, hot sunny day in Glasgow (strange feeling that), and we returned home victorious having won the final. The phone rang at 1.38pm just as I pulled into our drive. My wife was at the door, and I caught a glimpse of her face, for a quick moment. Worry and concern. The number was 0131…an Edinburgh number, and all I heard was. “He’s gone”.

He was Grant, my best man, my best friend, and a father and a husband- 38 years too short a life. We had gone from Edinburgh, Glasgow to Abu Dhabi and back, together. We laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced, we joked, we cuddled, we hoped, we dreamt: and there is not one day goes by when we still don’t ‘talk’.

He taught me to like Mark Healy more, and instilled a self belief in me that I was rather ‘special’- I’m not, but he thought I was. That mattered, so much. Still does, so much.

My Papa Gino. He was the funniest person I have ever met. We lived in Glasgow, they lived in Tottenham, London. We didn’t see each other too much, but we didn’t have to. Even thinking about him drew a smile on my face, and even made me burst out laughing at times, for no apparent reason. I loved being in his company, and when my mum told us that we were going to London on holiday, I was the happiest person in the world. He didn’t go to mass with us when he visited, when I asked, he said the priest stole his job. That day, as we left Mass, Father said goodbye to us all as we exited, and I took this opportunity to let Father know that he was a complete b*****d for stealing my papa’s job. 10 Hail Mary’s and swift clip round the lug from mama, and that lie was resolved.

I’m a hybrid of traveller genes meets Irish Immigrant- wonderful fusion of chromosomes. My papa Gino wasn’t educated in the formal sense of the word. But he told me that intelligence was being able to read & understand Plato whilst reciting it your friends in the pub, maybe even making them laugh- but making them think as well, without putting them down for what they didn’t know. Clever Papa Gino, I so miss him.

Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Hong Kong meets PRU & Residential

I have been privileged to teach with some amazing teachers, who helped shape both the person I am, and the teacher I hope to become. I have taught in some of the best ‘leading’ international schools, & I have been in the privileged position to have PD with some notable Educational theorists and thinkers. I left my recent VP position in HK with a severe reluctance- but my ‘babies’ were not as happy as they could have been, and that is too important to get wrong. I grew enormously as a senior leader, teacher and person under the guidance of the best HT I have ever worked with- he trusted and allowed people to grow. Noticed my rather ‘narscassitic ‘ leadership at times and said, “lead from the front too much, too many people fall off the back”…

Kids are kids are kids are kids…the world over. I have been privileged to teach and learn with some of the ‘brightest’ in the world, some of the most ‘engaging’ in the world, some that worked their way into my heart, some I would worry constantly over, until I realised a ‘switch off’ mental valve was needed. Teachers are teachers are teachers…the world over. Yes, they are. And that’s why the ‘one way’ traffic sign, the ‘roll up, roll up’ bandwagon of what we can learn from Finland, China, Singapore, Hong Kong rather misses a key interlocutor: UK teachers. It rather neglects ‘the gift of reciprocity’: an intention to enrich everyone’s skills, open everyone’s mind and critically question all practice from a strength base, NOT paint a deficit of what we NEED to do. I have come to deeply mistrust the sentiments, “teachers NEED to…”

I left home at 17, went to university in Edinburgh, never to return. I do not enjoy close relationships with my own family. To be honest, I fluctuate my thoughts on that; I listen to Mike & The Mechanics- “The Living Years” & U2- “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own” and can become a little overcome. Other times, I sing without thought or emotion. Perhaps it leads to my ‘compensatory parenting’ style. Like the flooding of synapses with serotonin, I can be overly protective and overly intrusive in the lives of my own children; I think I do it for the right reasons, but this does not always lead to the ‘desired’ results. But. With my wife, they we are as a family, the single most important aspect of my life. I adore them, quite simply.

Connections, rapport, relationship building, the opportunity to model emotional regulation- trust and hope. There is many a discussion on twitter that looks to the evidence base of attachment theory. For the sake of the record your honour, I would point towards these as a ‘delicious starter’: Attachment Theory-Child maltreatment and Family Support- David Howe or “Attachment across the Lifecourse”. Juxtaposed against the trend towards performativity, ‘dataveillance’ and EB research, I think sometimes the intuitive part of being a teacher, of trusting ourselves, our experiences, our judgments, our ‘spider tingles’ are all perhaps in danger of becoming marginalized as ‘un-scientific’ and unwelcomed. NO. Teaching walks the tightrope of art and science, with a wide array of balancing aids. We need them all to maintain the steadiness and courage of our convictions. Teaching is very much for me, ‘the Sum of the Whole is greater than the parts.

I love teaching Psychology. I love Psychology. I love teaching my kids at school Psychology. I walk along the corridor towards class with the excitement of a  “wee boy running down the stairs on Christmas morning”- full of awe, wonder and excitement of what may happen. My class is my sanctuary at times from the mundane that can overtake the real meaning of being a senior leader in schools. I want to leave legacies, to leave special memories of connections, of hope, of dreams, of aspirations; agitate a better tomorrow and excite the possibilities of how.

Being a teacher is such a crucial aspect of my identity, of who I am, and who I will become. I love it. I don’t always get it right, but that’s ok. My intentions are well intentioned, and my decisions and my choices I sieve through my values filter as consciously as I can. I think I get more things right than wrong, and I welcome that the ‘Mark’ of tomorrow wont be the ‘Mark’ of today- and maybe that Mark will get even more right.

Many thanks for taking the time to read these thoughts. They represent a mere pixel of the ‘HD picture’ of special people and special moments that have shaped the person and teacher I am.

A special thanks to Rory for inspiring me to write these words- he is an amazing guy who I smile when I think- “he’s my friend”.

For me, we are full of many layers, some we can see, some we can’t, some we allow others to see, some we don’t…as Tennyson reflects:

Words, like Nature, half reveal

And half conceal the soul within.


Coding…⤴

from

There’s a lot of talk, documentation and directive about coding in schools currently. My opinion is that it’s something that can be learned by children, can be taught by teachers and for some of our children (like all subjects) it will be ‘their thing’ for life.

How to learn coding…there is another question.

I was lucky enough to come across Erase All Kittens at Mozfest last year and Doug Belshaw nudged it my way again in his weekly newsletter.

It’s a great program which introduces coding to children in the form of a game. To complete the game, you alter the code of the game itself. (For example, you can’t jump that chasm, alter the jump parameter, or the size of the chasm from the code). E.A.K. shows you where to change the code and suggests the change you might make.

The developers are keen to get children testing their program out and keen to observe what children make of it in person.

Children should enjoy this approach and find it a good introduction to coding and programming. Have a look, and see if you and your class might use it.

 


 

Day 100 of 365⤴

from @ Gordon's Ramblings

Day 100 of 365

I have made it through the first 100 days of the photo challenge for 2014.  There have been good days and bad days.  There have been days when I have taken the time to think, compose a shot and edit it properly.  There have been many others that have just been a quick snap with my iPhone.

Today's shot is nice.  I am quite pleased with this closeup shot of a dandelion in the back garden.  It was taken with my new Lensbaby Fisheye lens.  It allows me to focus in on objects that are only about 1mm away from the surface of the glass. 

You get a very different view of things when you get in close.  Sometime seeing the wide open horizon is what we need to see.  At other times a very close view can give a very different perspective.

A photo a day for 2014.