Category Archives: Student Leadership

How will you make the world a better place?

Close friends and long time readers of this blog will know that Student Voice and Student Leadership is a passion of mine.

Most schools have some form of student body; be it a student representative council, student leadership council, a junior school council, a student congress, student voice – the names for these organizations are varied, but ultimately, there is a group that represents student within the school.

But… Why is such a having a student council important ? And what sort of things should we be working on ? I mean, we raise money and stuff, but how can we move to that next level ?

By having a student council within your school, you can draw upon their knowledge which will ultimately lead to better decision making.

At a global level, this is recognised through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with Article 12 stating that a child should be given an opportunity to express their viewpoint. That age should not be a barrier in their participation in matters they have a degree of understanding and comprehension over.

But more locally….. Often there are things that students know about the school that teachers and parents just are unaware of. By involving all stakeholders, it ensures that all viewpoints are heard and in turn leads to more informed decision making.

By involving students in how decisions are made, it provides them an understanding and point of reference when wanting to be active citizens beyond the school context. Research also suggests that schools who involve students in decision making, will in turn, have improvements in student learning.

By having a student council, you will improve relationships and connections between staff, students and the broader community

For me though, the reasons behind having a student council are somewhat more personal. I have been involved in student leadership since I was in Grade 5 in 1993. I continued to be involved in student council throughout my time and secondary school and once commencing my teaching career, I quickly took on the role of SRC Teacher Advisor.

Had it not have been for some great teachers who saw student councils as something important; who gave their time freely to support what we were doing; who coached, mentored and guided me through the process,  I would not be the person I am today.

Images from author’s collection.

It is my hope that I can provide the same opportunities for my students. That I can pay forward the experiences and the lessons I have learned.

The road to a Victorian Junior School Council

It is with this in mind that one project I would love to establish would be a  state wide Junior School Council for primary school students.

Within my role with the Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisers Inc. I volunteer as a supporter with the Victorian Student Representative Council. I am excited that they are considering a primary school networking event in 2015 to explore the appetite from schools and the possibility of such an organisation existing.

 

A colleague and friend of mine recently said that “too often in life we place our own obstacles in the way of our dreams, be it excuses, time, etc…I say to you, no more!  Take that great idea, challenge, relationship, learning that you should do and “just do it”.  The world needs dreamers and doers and the best is the combination of both.” 

I look forward to being part of the team that turns this dream of mine into a reality. I hope to share the journey of this exciting adventure with you through my blog.

Image generated author.

Image generated by author.

This post is the second in a series as part of the #youredustory challenge. For more information visit their website.

Get your SRC meetings in order

Over the last few weeks I have been coaching another teacher who is new to the role of SRC Teacher Adviser. They have gone about the process of recruiting their team and are now trying to get their student council functioning like a well-oiled machine. Meetings play an important part in helping that machine to function. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your meetings with your Student Council.

BEFORE THE MEETING:

Organise a chairperson – The role of the chairperson is to direct the flow of the conversation. Your SRC may have a set student who chairs each meeting or may decide to rotate the chairperson to give all students the experience.

Develop the agenda – An agenda outlines what is going to be discussed during the meeting and in what order. As the SRC Teacher Adviser, I like to develop the agenda in consultation with the student\s who will be chairing the meeting. This allows me to ‘brief’ these students on some topics prior the meeting so they are aware of any background information that they can share when they are running the meeting. (The less talking I can do as the Teacher Adviser; the better!)

Confirm the date\time\location – You may need to let others know about your meeting in advance. Depending on your school, you may also need to book the room you are using to hold your meeting.

Prepare the materials – Make sure copies of the agenda (and previous meeting minutes) are available for all attendees. Depending on the number of people attending the meeting, you may like to have a sign-in sheet to assist you in taking attendance.

As a person attending a meeting, it’s also important that you come prepared. Bring along any information, facts or details based on topics on the agenda. Read through the previous meeting minutes so you are aware of what was discussed and any tasks you needed to undertake have been completed.

DURING THE MEETING:

Start the Meeting – Make sure the meeting starts on time. Both students and teachers are busy people with lots of other commitments. Starting the meeting on time values those who have turned up on time and helps to ensure the meeting finishes at the agreed time.

It is the role of the chairperson to start the meeting. Having some formal process in place for starting the meeting makes it easy for the chair to get the attention of those present. For example, the chairperson may have a gavel or gong that they sound to get everyone’s attention. The chair then like to call for order and ‘declare the meeting’ open.

Keep the meeting moving – Again it is the role of chairperson to help keep the conversation flowing throughout the meeting and manage the process of making decisions. A useful format for facilitating discussion and decisions is:

        • Present the proposal\idea and provide information
        • Opportunity to ask questions
        • Discussion
        • Decision
        • Next Action

Record the discussion and the decisions – that takes place at the meeting. This document is referred to as the ‘minutes’ and will help ensure everyone present remembers the decisions made and also lets anyone who couldn’t make the meeting what was discussed and decided.

Close the meeting  – Most SRCs will have a set date for their meetings, however for groups that meet infrequently, you may wish to lock in the date for your next meeting to ensure everyone is available.

AFTER THE MEETING:

Reflection – Spend some time reflecting on how the meeting went. What worked well? What strategies did the chairperson effectively use to facilitate the discussion and decisions? What changes may need to be made? 

Share the minutes – Once the meeting has finished, aim to get the minutes out to people as soon as possible. This will remind them to complete any tasks they needed to complete and allow people to check that the document reflects the conversation and decision made while it is still fresh in their memory.

Follow through – If you received a job to do at the meeting be sure to complete it before the next meeting. There is nothing worse sitting in a meeting when nobody has completed any of the tasks as it prevents things from moving forward.

As the SRC Teacher Adviser, I have found it useful to offer a ‘workshop’ or check-in time where SRC members can seek support or touch base with me regarding any tasks they need to complete between meetings.

RESOURCES TO SUPPORT YOU:

Section 3.5 of the VicSRC Resource Kit, “Represent” explores effective meetings in more detail.

The Meeting Procedure” Resource Kit developed by Second Strike also contains further ideas and suggestions about how to improve your meetings.

VISTA has some great resource that can assist you in running effective meetings.

  • Developing an agenda flowchart
  • Guide to facilitating a discussion in a meeting
  • Agenda and Minute Templates

Joel Aarons and I discuss meeting processes in Episode 6 of “The VISTA Podcast”. Download it from iTunes or from vistapodcast.global2.vic.edu.au


This article was written and published in CONNECT Magazine (Edition 207). To view the full edition online or to obtain a free subscription, visit their website.

 

 

11 questions

In a recent blog post, Steve Brophy was challenged to respond to a series of questions and then set the following challenge to me and other members of my PLN. Here are my responses.

1. If you had the power to make one rule in your school that every teacher would follow, what would your rule be and why?

My rule would be that teachers need to be networked with others outside of their school environment through some form of professional learning network.

As teachers we expect our students to be independent learners; to follow their passions and seek out new knowledge, yet it continues to amaze me how so many teachers work in silos and believe that professional learning is something that is done ‘to’ them.

Whilst technology helps greatly in facilitating these connections, I would necessarily mandate for this to occur. As they say, it’s not about the tool, but the outcomes. In this case, the outcomes I would be looking for would be the professional conversations and the thinking, reflection and possible changes in practice.

2. What is your learning process?

This varies greatly depending on what I’m trying to learn.

Most of the time, the things I want to know are ‘google-able’ questions meaning a quick online search will usually give me the answer to solving a problem.

Other times I need to ‘see and do’ something being done or work along side someone guiding me through the process. I am finding this to be the case as I try to learn more about ‘Google Apps for Education’. The recent Melbourne GEG MeetUp was a great chance to talk with those who had ‘been there and done that’. Being able to stop and ask questions as we go really helps my understanding of something new.

I also love ‘informal’ learning – teach meets, beer pedagogy, tweet ups and other informal gatherings of teachers that following a very unstructured approach can lead to new learning and thinking.

3. Where do you see education in ten years ?

The optimist in me sees education changing dramatically in the next ten years. I think more people are asking questions as to why we continue to do things the way we have always done them. The ringing of a school bell to signal the start and end of learning, lining up and walking around in two straight lines, ruling margins in books and the progression and grouping of students based on their age are just some examples of this.

I am also hopeful that as technology becomes more accessible and affordable we can see more students with their own devices and using them in classrooms. Much like now how students (particularly my Grade 5 girls!) bring in their own pencils and textas and gel pens, I see students bringing in their own technology to allow them to work. The challenge then for us working in school environments is to create the environment for this to occur and having the policy that supports this.

I am also hopeful that student voice and student participation becomes the norm within schools. That student councils and organisations are involved in school wide decision making processes such as curriculum development, facilities, staff recruitment and professional learning rather than being fundraising organisations or event management organisations.

On the flip side, the pessimist in me doesn’t see much changing in education at all. Change in education seems to happen as a glacial pace and bureaucratic red tape will slow down the process.

4. Why are you a teacher?

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would ‘play school’ with my friends at any chance I had; creating my own class roll and writing up ‘work’ on my little chalkboard.

Growing up, I also had some terrible teachers and I remember thinking ‘I could do better than this’. Fortunately those teachers we the minority and for the most part I had some amazing teachers who really inspired me. Had it not have been for these great teachers who gave their time freely to support what I wanted to do; who coached, mentored and guided me through the process,  I doubt I would be the person that I am today. It is my hope that I can provide the same opportunities for my students and that I can pay forward the experiences and the lessons I have learned.

That light bulb moment when you see a student understand or achieve something new gives me goosebumps each and every time and this is why I continue to teach.

5. How should a technical team support teachers?

By making sure that things work the way they should. Too often teachers abandon technology in their teaching and learning simple because of the fact that things don’t work the way they should. Sadly this is not the technicians fault. They are often over worked, under paid and work in terrible environments. If we really believe that technology is a key part of education today, then we need to support schools with adequate tech support.

Technical teams can also support teachers letting them do what they want and by not being roadblocks. I have seen many technicians who over complicate systems and processes and make it much more difficult than it needs to be. They often talk in “techy-speak” language and forget that teachers are not technicians. Similarly, technicians are not educators. They do not have an understanding of pedagogy and what life is like inside a classroom. In a perfect world, both of these groups would meet somewhere in the middle and create an environment that supported teaching and learning whilst following process and capitalised on effective ICT use.

6. If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

Growing up I was quite active in my local community, so I’d see myself working in local government to make a different in my local community. (Early on in my career, this nearly happened)

7. What is the hardest learning experience you have ever had?

In Grade 6 I was terrible at Maths. I remember struggling with this and the huge amount of help and support I got from my teacher and my parents and amount of practice I did to improve.

Six years later, Maths would be my highest study score when I completed my VCE and is now one subject I really enjoy teaching.

8. What three books changed your life?

I don’t know if I would consider these books ‘life changing’ but they are books that I frequently keep revisiting and referring to.

David Allen’s, “Getting things done” has really helped me as I’ve moved through my career and stepped up in to positions of responsibility. His process for managing all the ‘stuff’ that comes in to your life has really helped me to organise how I work. When I feel overwhelmed with the amount of things I need to do, I often return to his book and revisit his approach to feel a sense of control again.

More recently, “Crucial Conversations” by Susan Scott has given me a framework to have difficult conversations with others. I was once told that “a behaviour excused is a behaviour accepted” and this book offers a structure to conducting these conversations.

The five dysfunctions of a team” by Patrick M. Lencioni was a great book recommended to me that explores the elements that are needed to makes a successful team. It’s been interesting to reflect on teams I have been involved with whilst reading this book.

9. Who inspires you ?

My PLN (Personal Learning Network) continues to be my source of inspiration. I am always inspired by the amazing things that some of these teachers are managing to implement and achieve in their classrooms and in their schools.

10. What strategies do you use to bounce back from the tough days in teaching?

Debriefing with colleagues at the end of the day really helps. Forming strong professional relationships with those I work with allows for this to happen.

Inspirational quotes on my screen saver and letters from students and colleagues can also be quite motivating and remind me of what’s important.

Early on in my teaching career, we participated in an activity based around the ‘Warm Fuzzies’ story. I still have mine and when things are getting rough I like to pull out these comments and remind myself about what’s important and why I do what I do.

(A nice glass of wine also helps!)

11. What is right with education in 2014?

The fact that many of us are asking questions of what education and school is and what education or school should be. Whilst we all have differing opinions about what it might look like, the process of reflecting and justifying our these opinions and beliefs helps to reconfirm what is important, what we truly value and what kind of learners we want to create for the future.