Tag Archives: Reflection

Have you got a minute?

So…..  It’s been a while between blog post and, as always, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since I last wrote.

The short story is that I switched schools (again!) mid way through last year to take on an Acting Assistant Principal role and at the beginning of term 2 this year, I was successful in obtaining the substantive role.

The question I have been asked the most often is along the lines of if I like the change; if I prefer one role over the other or if I miss the classroom. I find this a really difficult question to answer as the work and the role is so different.

One of the biggest challenges has been managing my time. As a classroom teacher in a primary school environment, my day followed a fairly standard routine. Reading would happen in the morning, Maths would be after recess….

Even as a leading teacher, I would make a list of tasks and jobs I would want to get done that day, find a space to work and get them done.

Switching into the Assistant Principal role, this recent video in the Leadership Scenarios series from AITSL really resonated with me.

So much of my work is reactionary.

“This teacher has called in sick.”

“The pipe inside the toilet has burst.”

“This parent wants to talk about an issue.”

I used to be a big believer in having an ‘open-door’ policy; that being accessible was important in building a sense of trust. But I am beginning to shift in my thinking towards this and
reconsider what this may look like practically.

I’m also conscious that often when I make an appointment, I get interrupted with a student issue or something that needs immediate attention. This seems disrespectful to the person who has set aside time to see me.

I also find that my calendar gets full with meetings. There are some days where I can bounce from meeting to meeting to meeting, often without a break in between. I feel like I walk out with my head full,

E-mail and incoming paperwork also takes a huge chunk of time. I’m a big fan of David Allen’s work around Getting Things Done but I seem to spend the bulk of my time getting ‘in to empty’.

I don’t have time at the moment for ‘deep work’; for working on tasks and projects that are meaningful and will drive school improvement.

So…. What am I doing to fix it?

I’ve started to track my work each day by making note of the time I start something and when I finish it.  It was interesting to reflect on the number of ‘interuptions’ to my work and the length of time it took to complete some tasks. A report that I started at 9am didn’t get finished until 3pm simply due to other tasks that interupted the work flow. I have a feeling that most of my day is spent doing administrative tasks and responding to student behaviour and welfare issues but I want to get some qualitative data that supports this. (I’m working on a seperate blog post that explains my workflow for this)

I’ve also been tracking my energy levels throughout the day. Each time I start a new task, I give myself a score between 1-5. 3 is a good average score; anything above and I am in the zone. Anything below a 3 means my focus and attention is fading fast.

I’ve also made a point of tracking small gratitudes each day as it’s often so easy to get caught up in the administrative side of things. Most of them relate to students who have made
achievements or staff who have worked with students to create these achievements.

Finally, I’ve recently signed up for leadership coaching and am keen to work with my new coach on how I can make improvements in this area.

Hopefully I’ll have more to share with you as I go through this process of change and learning… when I get a minute!

Changing the face of professional learning

Several people within my PLN have written recently around the theme of Staff Professional Learning. (See works here by Margo and Edna)  Their articles, combined with conversations at Tweet Ups and Teach Meets (and time to think over the holidays!) have led me to reflect on how I deliver professional learning within my school and changes I would like to implement.

Image from author’s personal collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SO, WHAT WILL PROFESSIONAL LEARNING LOOK LIKE ?

Using data to inform decisions and direction:
As part of our work in achieving eSmart accreditation, one of the domains focuses on the collection of data and makes reference to teacher’s ICT capabilities. To support this, I have used the DEECD ePotential Survey Tool to administer and collect data about how teaching and non-teaching staff view and use ICT. (As a side, I agree that this survey tool is now somewhat out-dated, so if you are using an alternative tool to collect data about your teacher’s ICT Capabilities I’d love to know)

I then export the survey results to Excel and ‘crunch’ the data to produce a report that summarises the survey results and helps me determine where we need to focus our efforts. I hope that by using this data to inform the direction and theme of Professional Learning sessions, staff will be able to see the physical benefits of completing the survey.

One size does NOT fit all.
Just like students in classroom environment, there are huge variations between where staff are at. In a classroom environment, we wouldn’t deliver the same lesson or activity to all; we would provide options that cater for individual learning needs.

Where possible and appropriate, I see the professional learning sessions operating as workshops that teachers will be able to ‘sign up’ for that meet their particular interests or professional learning needs.

Drawing upon ‘inside’ knowledge….
The Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders talks about the need for “teachers take responsibility for, and actively engage in, professional learning in order to build the capacity and that of others.”

As the ICT leading teacher, I am the one at the moment delivering the majority of profession learning that relates to ICT. As we are a new school, the majority of our staff come from previous educational environments and bring a wealth of experience and expertise. I have previously tapped into the experience and expertise of others, but I’m hoping that this model for professional learning will do more of that. I also see it as a chance to empower and increase the capacity of others by give them opportunities to lead and the experience of presenting in front of others.

….whilst bringing in “outside world”.
Whilst there is a great deal of knowledge within my school, I also think it’s important to acknowledge that we do not have all the answers and tap into the knowledge and experiences of others outside your environment, to prevent becoming insular and to provide an alternative perspective.

In an interview with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, Fredrick Brown had this to say on the use of social media to support Professional Learning:

People learn best when they are learning with others.  Social media gives them an opportunity to do that and make their learning very public; so all of a sudden you are not learning in isolation.  If you have a question, you can get answers to those questions from others who have experienced the same issues.

All of a sudden you have access to a community that goes beyond your School.  So what a wonderful world it is when you are no longer sitting there is that class-room, like I remember doing my first (1st) years of teaching alone and not really knowing the answer, afraid to reach out to some of the teachers who are around me, because as a new teacher, I didn’t want to appear like I didn’t know – he should know, he’s just graduated from the University – why doesn’t he know?

Social media allows me to reach out and to gain access to knowledge and expertise beyond my school walls.

I have a fantastic PLN through Twitter and other online networks that I would love to ‘bring in’ either physically or digitally via Elluminate and Skype to share their knowledge. I would also love to educate teachers about the power of twitter and other social networking sites to connect with others, form their own personal learning networks and continue their own professional learning journey.

Briefing the presenters:
Initially, I see the need to meet with those presenting to make clear what would be expected from their workshop sessions. Providing support materials (checklists, presentation templates…) will also help with this process.

“Selling” the idea:
For many, this will be different and a change from what they are used to. It will require some selling (I’m thinking of a video) and pitching of the idea to get people on board. It will also take some wording up of others who have been previous supports to help get others on board (Think: “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy” video) and help sell the idea.

Managing the ‘sign up’ process:
I’m trying to think of a way to manage the signup process for the workshop sessions. I want it to be digital so staff can sign up at a time and location and suits them. I’ve been looking into Eventbrite allows you to create an event for free (on the condition that you don’t charge admission for it). I also like the way it “looks” – it comes across very professional and feels very much like a major event or conference.

When setting up your event, the process allows you to create different ‘tickets’ for your event. I see each of our Professional Learning sessions being ‘an event’ and the different workshops offered being available through different ‘tickets’. The software allows you to limit the number of people who can obtain tickets for a particular event; this would be handy for some sessions in terms of limiting numbers to ensure a more personal and intimate learning experience. It is also possible to include additional information about each of sessions. This would be a chance to explain the learning intention, success criteria and any pre-requisites or actions required prior to attending the workshop session.

With the session created, you can then generate e-mail invitations for staff to log in and register for their sessions. The site also allows you to print your ticket or if you have the app installed in your mobile device, you can download it to your ticket.

On the day of the event, you can print a list of the people who have registered for each workshop.

Prior to attending….
Professional Learning time within schools is limited and often a lot of time is lost in getting people to sign up and register for new online tools or download new programs to use.

Presenters will need to specify what needs to be done prior to session in order to maximise hands-on learning time. This knowledge could be communicated via information sheets that include screen shots or through creating screencasting videos.

Hands on, social, collaborative:
Sessions will not be “chalk and talk” or “death by powerpoint”. There will be opportunities for participants to engage with each other and practice skills that have been taught with the support of others around them. I’d like to see the use of a a shared Google Doc for collaborative note taking and a twitter hashtag for people to share their thinking and their learning as the presentation is taking place.

Have a “Call to Action”:
The professional learning session won’t be a ‘one off’; a requirement of each session will be a ‘call to action’ where participants will need to utilise their new learning back in the classroom environment.

Time for feedback, reflection and sharing:
A follow-up session in future weeks will allow participants the opportunity to share their experiences with others, discuss problems they encountered and ask further questions. I also feel this expectation will hold people accountable for taking action.

At the conclusion of each session, the participants will complete a short survey to provide feedback to the presenter about the content and style of their presentation, details of what they learnt and ways they can use the new learning. (The eventbrite software also allows manage survey responses following an event) The presenter will also complete a self-reflection on their session to identify strengths and areas of opportunity for future presentations. I’d also like to see some sort of coaching\reflection conversation to support the presenter, reflect on the experience and identify possible areas for improvement.

 

How do you\does your school deliver professional learning ?

Do you use a workshop model like this ? What have you found to be the strengths\challenges with an approach like this ?

Do you have a totally different model for professional learning ?

 

Timetable Challenge: Part 3

In earlier posts, I wrote about the challenges our school was facing as we continue to grow in size and deal with the issue of timetables and our response to this by moving towards a 7 day timetable.

One of the issues I encounted was around the use of calendars (specifically Microsoft Outlook and the Ultranet) to schedule events and create my work program:

 I am struggling at the moment to find an efficient and effective way of managing this 7 day cycle. I use Microsoft Outlook to manage my calendar\work program and set each of my classes to repeat weekly. Under this new 7 day cycle, I am unable to create a re-occuring appointment that occurs 7 days apart, as weekends are included in the cycle. Given it takes 3 weeks for the cycle to return back to Day 1 being on a Monday, I had thought I could create a reoccuring appointment to reoccur every 3 weeks, however with days taken our for public holidays and other events, this confuses the cycle and makes it difficult. Other than entering each class I teach individually for the term, I’m struggling to find a way to do this.

I am pleased to report that I have found a solution to this problem (thanks to a Google Search and these instructions) by using Microsoft Excel to create a list of my events and then import these into Outlook. Who knew you could import events from Excel into Outlook!

I’ll attempt to explain the process:

I started by creating a spreadsheet in Excel that used the Outlook fields as the headings for each of my columns.

I created a sepearte worksheet for each of the times I teach (9am, 10am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 2:15pm)

I entered all of the classes that I taught at that time over the 7 day cycle (eg: Day 1 at 9am, Day 2 at 9am, Day 3 at 9am etc..) with the class being in the subject column and the room being in location.

Not wanting to enter each date individually, a google search found a formula that produced what I needed.

=IF(WEEKDAY(C2)=6,C2+3,C2+1)

In an attempt to explain what the above means, the formula looks at the day in C2 (in this case Monday). Using the WEEKDAY function, Excel can count each of the days of the week (1=Sunday, 2=Monday, 3=Tuesday etc…). When it arrives at a Friday (the 6th Day using the WEEKDAY formula) it is set to add 3 days to the next date that appears. For all other days,  it simply adds 1 day; thus removing weekends from my list of days.

Once I had entered the first 7 classes of the timetable cycle, I used the fill down function to obtain the rest of my classes for the term. To set the event in my calendar to appear as busy, I entered “2” in the Showtimeas column.

I repeated this process for the classes I had at the other times throughout the day.

I then collated all these classes onto 1 worksheet of a seperate spreadsheet.

The next step was to select which area of the spreadsheet I wanted imported into Outlook. This involved highlighting all of the cells that contained data (including the column headings) and naming this range. The easiest way to do this was to enter it into the box next to the left of the formula bar.

From here, I saved the file (I had to save it using the 97-2003 version of Excel to import it), closed Microsoft Excel and opened Microsoft Outlook

From the File menu, I selected Open and Import.

I selected Import from another program or file and selected Microsoft Excel

Using Browse I selected my file and made sure I set the options to Allow duplicates to be created.

I selected my calendar as the destination

It then informed me that my DATA range would be imported.

This has now meant that all of my classes now appear on the correct days of my calendar !

It has also saved me the pain and trouble of entering each class individually. As I have my outlook calendar linked to my iPad and my iPhone, this has also been very handy as I move from room to room this year for my lessons.

Now… If I could just work out a way to import events into the calendars in Ultranet Spaces…… 🙂