Tag Archives: team

What leadership has meant to me

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This year, by default, I’ve been head of library at Melbourne High School. At no point have I desired this position, and I’m happy to say that we have a wonderful head of library all set to go next year, Pam Saunders, who is currently head of library at Princes Hill. However, despite the trials and tribulations of being default head, I have to admit that I’m grateful for the new experiences which I would never have deliberately chosen but appreciate retrospectively.

I came across this paragraph about a particular style of leadership which describes the my style perfectly – only I didn’t know it was a style; I was just following my gut feeling –

In teams one of the more effective styles of leadership is the participative style. This style of leader seeks to work with team members and encourages collaboration. The participative leader consults and looks for consensus when making decisions. This style of leadership welcomes suggestions from the team and does not respond by merely paying these suggestions lip service but genuinely considers how these suggestions can be used.

In terms of the participative style of leadership, I’m glad I went with my gut feeling and amazed by the diverse talents of my team. You really don’t know the extent of what people are capable of until you trust them (and thus empower them) to take responsibility for their areas of expertise. I think it may have taken a bit longer for them to trust me, and the time is takes for each person can’t be rushed. At this point, despite the dramas we’re experiencing every day in the midst of our refurbishment and changes to stocktake since we’ve adopted RFID, I’m feeling quietly happy knowing that we’ve had an awesome year, and that so much good has happened as a result of our collaborative efforts.

Next year I hope to focus more deeply on a meaningful use of social media in student learning. I’m also keen to develop my research skills to a stage where I feel qualified to prepare our students for university. I’m in two minds about whether I should contact research librarians at universities or Masters students who would have deep knowledge of the research process. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Our own process

I’ve been talking a lot about process in the learning journey, so it’s a little surprising that process has flown out the window for me in my conception of what our team is doing for the PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) project.

Tonight the Australian teams had a live meeting with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and I decided to cast aside the old familiar feeling of being seen as the idiot in asking a question, a question which I probably should not have been asking so far into the session, but one which I was certainly glad I asked.

21st century learning is the theme for schools involved in the PLP learning journey, and each school presents their 21st century project to the entire cohort. I must say, I’m a little apprehensive (so what’s new?) about our project, as I explained during our Elluminate meeting tonight. Yes, we’re creating a ning, and the ning will be testament to what we’ve done using Web 2.o technologies, and to ways we’ve enhanced teaching and learning in the school. As I said to Sheryl and others, I don’t know if that’s enough. Maybe we’re just putting up disjointed projects, and we need a unifying one. Is the ning this unification? Do we need connections outside of the school?

Sheryl’s answer was loud and clear (and I had trouble keeping up with my notetaking, but it doesn’t matter because the session was recorded). She said that the project was not the ning, and we should stop thinking about it as the ning. The project is about the learning. It’s about what we are trying to change and accomplish in our school community, whether that ‘s building community, creating an awareness of 21st century learning, helping start conversations, etc.

It’s about the big goal.  We need to look and see what others have done, then work on developing a comprehensive action plan. Our team should be having regular discussions about how to manage change, and we should be looking at strong evaluation at the end of the journey. Have we accomplished what we set out to do? The success or lack of success is not the aim of the project, it’s the evaluation. Haven’t I been saying this to students all this time? I need to remember that I’m a learner first, and teacher second.

How will we prove mastery? Will we use computer-mediated analysis? Could we, for example, look at blog posts for evidence of teacher discussion? Could we track/count how many times people have posted? How are we going to measure our big picture project?

We need evidence of change and successes in the way teaching and learning happens in our school. We need to be able to show the principal and school leaders evidence and examples of how we’ve grown, how much we’ve shifted, and what we still want to do.

At the moment, I feel that we are still treading water. Good things are happening around the school, but we are yet to come together and have a deeper conversation. We are yet to fuse. I’d like to have more discussions, not just with individuals, but with the whole team. This is part of the process. Realising what isn’t happening, what needs to happen, is part of it. Our last meeting was productive, and we need to do that more often. It’s not easy, but it should be a priority.

Having thought about this overnight, I think we should focus on what we always tell our students –  QUESTIONS.  Too quickly we run to embrace answers, to set things in stone, convince ourselves we’re there. Questioning broadens the scope of our vision, helps to unpack and redefine.

As for me, I’m hoping that my lack of clarity at this point is a good sign that I’m still on the way.

Ever felt you’re waiting for the click?

Just do it – together

Allanah King  has made a lot of people smile with her collaborative project dance video. See if you can keep a straight face.


Allanah commented:

The project started out as a bit of fun – it ended up that way too. We thought we would make a collaborative video in a similar style to the Where the hell is Matt video that is wildly popular on YouTube. By having a collaborative dance video we were able to transcend cultural and language barriers as everyone loves to move and dance- it is pretty universal.

Allanah collaborated with schools across New Zealand, as well as Canada, Bangkok and the United Kingdom. She talks about her process on the Time 4 Celebration site.

Why does this kind of thing make me stop in my tracks? Allanah said that she did it for a bit of fun. She also said that it transcended cultural and language barriers since dance is universal. I think it’s a simple example of what makes us human – just getting together and enjoying each other. The fact that there are things like dance or music that we can share across cultures gives me a clue about engagement in schools. It just takes a simple thing, a happening, celebration – as long as it brings us together as a group and gives us a sense of belonging. Great things can come from this.

I like Allanah’s blog title: Life is not a race to be first finished.

It shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be aiming for good marks in a test. It shouldn’t be focussing solely on a result. It’s about enjoying the process and sharing it with others. I love the idea of creating online learning spaces to support, connect, share and celebrate. Learning shouldn’t be a lonely road. Not a journey kept to yourself. Never an experience without good fun.

I’ve been privileged to do some collaborative teaching with Maria Toomey in her English classes at school. Maria understands this instinctively. Understands and lives this. What her students learn in class they do with a sense of being valued as part of the group. She teaches the whole person, and gives of herself in the same way. She and the boys come together to think, discuss, review, display and celebrate. She shows them the value of learning beyond academic content, and they will remember her beyond the classroom.

By the way, do yourself a favour and read some of Matt’s dancers’ comments here. You can also get a Google Earth tour of some of Matt’s favourite places around the world. I loved this.

Captain Planet and Powerful Learning Practice

Did you ever watch Captain PlanetMy older son, now 18, used to love the show, and for some reason I’ve had an image in my mind of our PLP team as Planeteers. This Monday a small team from our school will be embarking on the Powerful Learning Practice journey led by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach from USA, and within our own sphere, Jenny Luca. I can see our only male member, Kevin,  as Captain Planet and the rest of us as Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart. We will join rings and sing in unison (or polyphonically), only one of us will have to rewrite the words so that they cleverly express some kind of transcendentally splendid PLP message. Any suggestions? 
Why am I raving? I suppose I see this as a mission of sorts – a mission I have some idea about but also many questions; a journey that equips us with new understanding and skills for 21st century learning and teaching which we will pass on to the rest of the school community.  What’s important to remember is that behind the small team is the larger team – the rest of the staff: talented, hard-working, and committed people. Although we, the Planeteers, are excited about meeting the rest of the cohort, and taking part in the program on the first level, we are not doing it for ourselves, but will return to the larger team with our new learning, making a difference to the whole school. You see why Captain Planet comes to mind? We’re on a mission – hopefully not as pushy, holier-than-thou converts, but people who are priveleged to draw from the experience of others and eager to share with our colleagues. As the good captain says: by YOUR powers combined, I am Captain Planet!
Now excuse me while I find my lycra superhero vest.