For the past 18 months I've been finding it easier to tap into communities on Medium, the blogging service, and our team have a 'Magazine' blog where I've taken to writing a lot more frequently than here. Please have a look, and you'll find out that far from neglecting this blog, I've really got back into loving writing!
In this post I am thinking mainly about Headteacher or Principal roles in our schools. Though we should never lose sight of the importance of teacher leadership as well as other formal leadership roles, and their importance to the wellbeing of our schools and systems. Having stepped down from my own position as a school leader in 2017, I have had the opportunity to consider my own role and performance as a school leader over eighteen years, as well as the reading and research I have engaged with around leadership during my time as a leader, and since. The basis of this post is a talk I was asked to give on leadership to school leaders. I never actually delivered the talk but came upon the slides and messages I prepared just the other day, and thought I would share some of them on here.
As a leader we can sometimes act like lemmings. We are swept away by the crowd round about us and all the activity that everyone mimics, heading full pelt towards our inevitable fate. We are all incredibly busy, and being busy sometimes can stop us from getting our heads up to consider where we are actually heading. As a school, and as a leader, being busy is not enough. We have to think about impact. No, not that at the bottom of the cliff that our lemming analogy points us towards, but our impact for our learners and communities in the schools we lead. To do that, I have always contended, that we need to get our heads up to see what is coming and to plan a way forward, as well as to see what is happening currently. It is important that we are always asking the questions, what is the impact for our learners, staff and ourselves of all this busyness? If it is not positive, the sooner we stop doing it, the better for everyone and the less the likelihood of everyone disappearing over some metaphorical cliff edge.
I, and many others, have recognised the importance of relationships in human organisations and systems like schools, for them to have the greatest positive impacts for all their members. The Scottish government produced a document in 2012 entitled 'Better Relationships, Better Learning, Better Behaviour'. Whilst this was document was aimed at pupil behaviour, it did recognise the importance of positive relationships to all aspects of school work. This always seemed a no-brainer to myself and most primary school educators, so it can be disturbing when we see some of the approaches that are taken by some of our secondary school colleagues. As a school leader, you neglect the importance of positive relationships in all that you are trying to achieve. Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan explored this further in 1998 in 'What's Worth Fighting For Out There?' In an article for the National College for School Leadership, written in 2002, Alama Harris noted in her study of a group of secondary schools in challenging circumstances 'The empirical evidence from teachers, senior managers, pupils and headteachers point towards a model of leadership that is fundamentally concerned with building positive relationships and empowering others to lead.' (Busyness, or intiativitis as Michael Fullan has called it, puts relationships at risk and may in fact find little time or importance attached to them. As school leaders, we need to think about the implications of this.
Relationships are amongst the important key areas that school leaders need to focus on, and they permeate everything else we are trying to achieve.. Others I have identified would include the following; Keeping the main thing the main thing. The main thing is always learning and teaching, and we should ensure that all that we are doing, or are focused on, deals with this in a completely holistic way. We are aiming to develop the whole learner, so our systems, structures, practice, values and attitudes should all reflect and contribute to this aim. Be driven by your values. It is easy to speak of values, or to even write them down or display them. However, if you are not living them, or bringing them alive in all our actions and inter-actions, they are not your true values. We have to avoid agendas driven by others, driven by data, driven by research, driven by test results, etc. All of these are important and they should help inform our actions. It is our values that should be the true touchstone for our leadership actions and decisions. Build trust. It is crucial that school leaders build trust across the whole school community. The impact of a lack of trust includes surface-level compliance and a lack of innovation or taking of risks. Without these characteristics, it is hard for any school to move forward in any meaningful way, no matter how you might like to 'spin' you story. Seek to develop and promote teacher agency and adaptive expertise. As a school leader, you cannot do it all yourself, but as a coherent and collaborative team you can achieve much. When staff have true agency and adaptive expertise, you are equipping them to be self-improving practitioners, which in turn develops into a self-improving school culture. On the back of this you will find that you the development of teacher leadership and dispersed leadership easier to achieve, with benefits for individuals as well as for the school as a whole. Promote and develop collaborative and collegiate cultures. The school leaders has a responsibility to help coalesce the individual and disparate talents and expertise of the school team into a whole that is greater than the sum of its individual parts, the gestalt of school development. Gate-keep on behalf of your staff. I gave up a long time ago waiting on someone from above in the educational establishment and hierarchy to recognise that not every issue or idea can be immediately cascaded down onto schools and their teachers. Therefore, I decided I needed to protect staff from the constant stream of demands and expectations from elsewhere. We achieved this by referring to our values and sticking strictly to our School Improvement Plan, which became smaller and more focused as I developed my own practice in this respect. Be informed by research and data. School leaders need to know how to critically engage with research and data to help inform their actions, which will be context specific. I have always believed that all teachers, never mind their leaders, should read and engage with research, otherwise they are subject to the demands and whims of others constantly. As a professional, you should be able to explain your actions and decisions based on sound research, informed by school data. As with everything, you have to be realistic in this and keep your engagement proportionate and manageable. Support and be an active participant in professional development activities. If we want to develop as individuals and as a school, we should commit to a career-long engagement with professional development. This does not mean going on, or sending people on, lots of courses. This should be grounded in your particular context and measured in terms of improvement for learners. Be professionally curious. it is important that school leaders do not get swamped by all they have to do, so that they do not have time to be curious about their role and their impact. Professional curiosity can lead to major insights and development, which is self-initiated rather than imposed or directed by others. Lead more than manage. There is no doubt that to be an effective school leader, you also have to be an effective manager. The trouble is, we can devote all of our working day, and more, to management activities, so that their is no time left to lead. As a school leader you have a responsibility to act leaderly, to do that you have to think in a leaderly way. You role is bigger than the here and now, you have to consider and prepare for the future, and to how you can deliver on your vision for your school community. Despite all of these aspects you have to think about and deal with, slow down! One of the insights I gained as a school leader is that by slowing down it is possible to achieve more, and your achievements are likely to be deep and sustainable, rather than shallow and fleeting. We have cultures in many education systems and schools that promote busyness and the flitting from one 'thing' to another. When you have a deep learning culture, development and growth is seen as a continual ongoing process that all can commit to, and which you, as the school leader, can actively support. Lastly I would say smile and remember to say thank you. When you get swamped by all that you have to do as a school leader, you can lose sight of the little things that can make a big difference. Amongst these is smiling and showing your appreciation for all that your staff do. How much of your time would this take? But, the impact is immense. It was pointed out to me a while ago that teacher working conditions are also pupil learning conditions, this is so true. Never lose sight that it is a privilege to lead a school and, despite all the challenges, it remains one of the best jobs you can ever be lucky enough to experience. Show it!
I will finish with what I think might be considered as the 'seven deadly sins' of school leadership. No matter the circumstances or reasons, you should try to avoid these at all costs. Many of them produce the absolute opposite of what I have described above, so not much further explanation is needed. They are; Micromanaging everything. More common than it should be and a sign of lack of trust. Saying one thing and doing another. You are what you do, not what you say you will do. Again destroys trust and relationships. Following the latest fads and trends. Leads to ever changing focus and increasing workloads for frazzled staff. Searching for 'silver bullets'. There aren't any. The only thing that works is the long hard slog of a focused, connected, development process. Letting people down. This is not about trying to please everyone, but more about betraying your professed vision and values, at the cost to your community. Compliance at the cost of doing what is right. Leadership is not easy, but it helps if you are clear about what your lines in the sand are, beyond which you will not move. Always put the learners and community first. Being invisible. Highly effective leaders are visible and active participants in all that the school is involved with, especially learning in classrooms. You can't achieve this from your office!
In the recent book 'Flip The System UK' headteacher Rae Snape asked us to stop being 'Lemmings of Despair' and instead look to become 'Flamingos of Hope'. Which are you?
- If it would not suit the ability or aptitude of the child;
- If it would negatively impact the efficient education of other children in the school
- If it would be too expensive, resulting in unreasonable public expenditure
- Constructive challenge to attitudes
- Evaluation of planning process
- Capacity to deliver inclusion
- Parental and carer engagement
- Early intervention, prevention and strong relationships
- Removal of barriers to learning
Unlike Safari’s ITP, however, Chrome’s adblocker has been created in partnership with the ad industry. The feature only blocks what the company calls “intrusive ads”, such as autoplaying video and audio, popovers which block content, or interstitial ads that take up the entire screen.
The whole article is interesting. Especially the anger from the ad companies about Apple blocking tracking.
I’ve stuck with Safari as my main browser over the years. First because it was quick, then AppleScript. I got used to the developer tools, as a non-dev they seem the simplest. Next the integration with mobile Safari. Now it looks like there is another reason.
And if I do want to use a different browser I can open pages from Safari in another browser from the develop menu.
What is it?
Microsoft Teams for Education brings together in one tool (accessible either online, via desktop software or mobile device app) class conversations/discussions, file storage (with online collaborative editing or tools already familiar to teachers and learners such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel), video-conferencing, OneNote Class Notebook, assignments calendar along with a host of settings controls for teachers to manage their Class Teams space the way which works best for their class or classes.
Why would I want it for my classes?
Imagine a OneNote Class Notebook for every class with no additional setup administration – everything is controlled from the Microsoft Teams for Education team settings panel. There is a social-media-like conversations section for each class (with a range of different settings which the teacher controls to best suit what will work best for them and their class). Teachers and pupils do almost everything without leaving Teams such as setting tasks/homework as assignments or through Class Notebook – perhaps completely reducing the need for much photocopying. And nothing is lost or forgotten.
School Data Sync for automatically creating classes in Microsoft teams for Education in Glow
For schools using the data management system Seemis (as all Falkirk schools do) the classes are automatically set up as Class Teams once a school has requested School Data Sync is enabled (this can be requested by a member of a Falkirk school’s leadership team by logging into Glow and then clicking on this link). And by doing this any changes are automatically updated throughout the school year as soon as changes are made by the school to Seemis records. Click on this link for more information about School Data Sync for Glow users
Microsoft Teams for Education should save time and simplify everyday classroom organisation in sharing resources with learners, assigning and providing feedback on learner tasks, which a teacher can do from various devices and in a range of additional ways from normal, whether handwriting on OneNote, or typing feedback (with the option to use inbuilt dictation tools) or through audio or video, or using customisable sticky graphics tools. And, of course, benefits for learners also include the integration of Learning Tools and Immersive Reader in OneNote Class Notebooks bringing a range of accessibility tools to all of your learners in your class to use whatever supports them best.
Click on this link to see a video where a teacher explains on the Microsoft Educator Community how they use Microsoft Teams for Education with their class – including assigning tasks for learners and providing feedback on work completed.
Click on the video below for an introduction to getting started with Microsoft Teams for Education. This is the first of a series of videos in the playlist linked from this video – the other videos cover different aspects of using Microsoft Teams for Education
Okay, okay, so how do I start to use it?
Microsoft teams for Education is part of Microsoft Office 365 for Education so you can access it from any part of Office 365 (whether you are already in Outlook email, or OneDrive, Sway or other parts of office 365): simply click on the 9-square waffle at the top left of Office 365 and choose the Teams tile. Any Class Teams which are already set up for your school, and to which you have access, will appear in the teams navigation column. And you can add additional Teams manually (such as for groups of staff or for school clubs or groups).
You can also log in directly to the Microsoft Teams portal https://teams.microsoft.com/ – simply use your full Glow email address (which will likely be something like: firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you decide to manually create a new Microsoft Team then you will have a choice of different types of setup – whether a class, a staff group, a professional learning community or a club or group. The features of each of these are described at this link.
If you like to have a downloadable document you can edit or simply print out to help you get started using Microsoft Teams for Education then click on this link for a downloadable guide for educators to getting started in using Microsoft Teams for Education
There is a help site specific to Glow users for Microsoft Teams for Education – this provides Glow-specific advice about settings and what’s available to learners and what’s available to teachers.
Looking for support in learning how to make use of Microsoft Teams for Education?
If you’d like an interactive way to get a feel for the main features of Microsoft Teams then there is a neat Teams Demo site at the link below. Simply add a fictitious name into the first box and then follow the prompts to see what happens when you follow the steps. This will give a good outline of the main features of Microsoft Teams (but not that this is not education specific so makes no reference to additional classroom-specific features in Microsoft Teams for Education (so, for instance, there is no mention of learner assignments or of the education-specific version of OneNote, OneNote Class Notebook which is included in Microsoft Teams for Education).
Interactive Teams Demo: http://teamsdemo.office.com/
There is also a free online course in the Microsoft Educator Community (sign in with your Glow email address to gain a certificate, points and a badge!):
And there are guides which can be downloaded and printed if desired from here:
Some tips for using Microsoft Teams for Education
How to add a shortcut tile on your Glow launchpad
How to create a read-only folder in the files section of Microsoft Teams for Education
To change permissions in Microsoft teams on Files tab to have a folder which is read-only for members:
- Log in to Glow – choose OneDrive tile – click on 9-square waffle and choose “Teams” tile
- Click on class team name and “General” channel below name
- Click on files tab – create new folder and name that “Read-only files”
- Click on the 3 dots (ellipsis) to the right of the folder name you create OR tick in the box to the left and choose “Open in Sharepoint” above the files
- Once in SharePoint tick in the radio button to the left of the “Read-only files” folder then click on the i (letter i inside a circle) icon at the top right then click on “manage access”
- You will see a list of users or groups – select members and change permissions from “Can edit” to “view only” by selecting “change to view only”
How to set assignments and provide feedback in Microsoft Teams for Education
Click on this link for step by step guidance to using the assignments features for setting tasks for learners, tracking completion, reviewing assignments, and providing feedback.
How to retrieve deleted files and other frequently asked questions when using Microsoft Teams
Click on this link to access a Frequently Asked Questions support page for Microsoft teams on Microsoft Office Support site
How to manage a OneNote Class Notebook created within Microsoft Teams
To manage a OneNote Class Notebook created within Microsoft Teams for Education (for instance to switch on/off collaboration space or to enable the teacher-only section) click on the three dots ellipsis … beside the team name in Microsoft Teams – click on “view team” – choose “settings” tab then “OneNote Class Notebook” and make choices as you require.
If you choose to manage aspects of a OneNote Class notebook through the management panel for OneNote you will find OneNote Class Notebooks which have been created in Microsoft Teams show up under “Co-owned notebooks”
How to manually add an additional teacher or pupil to Microsoft Team class
To manually add additional teachers (or pupils) in Microsoft teams for Education click on the 3-dots ellipsis … beside the team name – select “add members” – choose teacher tab (or student tab for pupils) and add the usernames for the members of staff or pupils you wish to add.
The report on last year’s significant progress and a continuous commitment to embed the Career Education Standard across learning and teaching is now available .
The Scottish Education Awards recognise early learning and childcare settings and schools that have developed a vibrant and progressive culture and climate of continuous innovation in relation to Gaelic Medium and Gaelic Learner Education. The culture and ethos should promote respect, ambition and achievement in Gaelic Education while improving outcomes for all learners in ways which eliminate inequity.
Do you know an early learning and childcare centre or school that can respond to the above statement? Then why not nominate them for the Gaelic Education Award?
Nominations close at 12 noon on Wednesday 14 February 2018
PLEASE NOMINATE AT