Ideas to anchor school change

Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken. ~ Frank Herbert

NYC art journal page by @debsnet https://theeduflaneuse.wordpress.com/

One of my art journal pages: ‘Don’t quit your daydream’

I recently completed the Adaptive Schools Foundation Seminar during which some of Garmston and Wellman’s foundational ideas really resonated with me in terms of school change (these are outlined in the course and in the source book The Adaptive School: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups, 2nd ed., 2013).

1. Centrality of identity, beliefs and values

The Adaptive Schools book and course place emphasis on the importance of being conscious of teachers’ identities: their core beliefs, values and senses of self. These, rather than being set aside, are acknowledged and drawn upon in collaborative school practices. Graceful disagreement is seen as a path to developing group cohesiveness, empathy and shared identity. The teacher as person is honoured as an individual within the school, and a part of the school group.

2. The importance of talk

How we talk in schools, say Garmston and Wellman, influences our schools and our personal and collective experiences of them. Talk creates reality. This is why at my school we are using the Danielson Framework for Teaching (to provide a common language for talking about teaching) and Cognitive Coaching conversations (to provide a common way of encouraging teachers to think about their own teaching, in a way which allows the coach to facilitate the development of a teacher’s thinking, while at the same time getting out of the way of that thinking).

3. Tiny events create major disturbances

This is Garmston and Wellman’s third underlying principle of what they call ‘nonlinear dynamical’ systems, like schools. This principle affirms my experience of the unexpected, chaotic butterfly effects of incremental changes, which are sometimes unnoticeable or unmeasurable.

Teachers involved in our coaching cycle have commented that seeing another teacher’s lesson impacted their own practice in the following days; that reflecting on their teaching against the Danielson Framework brought foci and deliberate intent to their subsequent lessons; and that coaching conversations sometimes impacted their thinking long after the conversation had finished. Teacher coaches have noted that their Cognitive Coaching training has shaped the ways in which they communicate, not only with colleagues, but also with students and even with their own friends and families.

The Cognitive Coaching course has also impacted on my thinking around teacher growth and school change.

4. Holonomy

The notion of ‘holonomy’ is not from Adaptive Schools, but is from Costa and Garmston’s Cognitive Coaching (see Cognitive Coaching: A foundation for Renaissance schools, 2nd ed., 2006). It is the conceptualisation of the bringing together of individual (teacher) and organisation (school). The teacher is both influenced by and influencer of the school, involved in a continuously responsive relationship. The teachers as parts, and the school as whole system, work organically and symbiotically together.

For me, this notion of the interdependence between human individualism and organisational systems should be a key focus in school change initiatives. For my school, part of our approach has been designing a professional learning cycle based on the school’s strategic vision, and then having teachers pilot, drive and design the change. For us, the importance of honouring both organisation and teacher in a slow and deliberate process has been more important than fast change.

This coming week I will be at the Australian Council For Educational Leaders conference, sharing our story with other schools and departments who are working to develop the capacity of their teachers. And this time next month I will be in the middle of my visits to New York educators and researchers. I’m looking forward to having face to face conversations with those with whom I have connected via email and online, and seeing how they negotiate the tensions (and connections!) between teacher and school.

New York Is Always A Good Idea by @debsnet https://theeduflaneuse.wordpress.com/

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New York as a site for insights around teacher growth

A collection of superstar teachers cannot produce the results of interdependent colleagues who share and develop professional practices together. ~ Garmston and Wellman, 2009

NYC snow dome by @debsnet https://theeduflaneuse.wordpress.com/

As I mentioned in my first post, New York is an apt place to conduct my professional learning visits – next month – which are focused around the roll out and implementation of a growth model of teacher professional learning. Our teacher growth model emerges out of the strategic vision, mission and values of the school, and uses:
– non-judgmental classroom observations
– the Danielson Framework for Teaching; and
– a Cognitive Coaching approach to professional conversations around practice, reflection and growth.

NYC has been rolling out the Common Core Learning Standards and Advance, the NYC system of teacher evaluation and improvement. 2011-13 was the preparation phase, including research such as the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching project. 2013-14 was the enactment phase and 2014-15 is the phase for reflection and refinement.

The NYCDOE’s 2014-15 Citywide Instructional Expectations call on schools to:
1. Ensure knowledge of students and their work, and use this knowledge as the starting point for planning;
2. Integrate policy into an established, clearly articulated instructional focus; and,
3. Develop a culture of collaborative professional learning that enables school and individual development.
There is a focus on supporting schools in building coherence among their culture, structures, and instructional core and supporting them in reaching the benchmarks for school quality described in the Quality Review Rubric.

The primary NYC teacher evaluation model – Measures of Teacher Practice (MOTP) – involves each teacher:
– Assessing their own practice against the Danielson Framework for Teaching;
– Being observed multiple times by a principal or administrator;
– Reviewing evidence and artefacts which demonstrate their teaching practice; and
– Receiving feedback on these observations and evidence;
– Receiving student survey feedback.

I enjoyed Lisa Nielson’s post on using digital portfolios to ‘capture practice’ and showcase teacher effectiveness. Lisa says that putting together a portfolio on the four domains of the Danielson Framework is “an incredible opportunity to do something that is rare in the teaching profession. It provides an opportunity for teachers to release the great work they are doing from the classroom and share it with the world. It also provides a common language and method for looking at and sharing the work we do.” My hunch is that many teachers do not see the Framework as an opportunity for growth and connecting through professional conversation. Perhaps this depends on the context in and focus for which it is used?

The immediate difference I can see between the model being developed by my Australian school and the NYC Advance program is one of emphasis. Advance seems focused on evaluation, whereas our focus is on teacher growth. That is, our deliberate default position is one of focusing on self-directed growth, rather than on external evaluation or performance management, although in some situations consulting, collaborating and evaluating might be appropriate.

On their website, the Danielson Group outlines the tension between evaluation and growth: “tension between these two purposes; a system of accountability can feel like an ‘inspection’ to teachers, while one entirely focused on professional learning can result in underperforming teachers not receiving important information about their teaching.”

Charlotte Danielson talks about her framework not originally being designed as an evaluation system, although that’s how it was quickly adopted around the world. Her video on The Collaborative Observation Process explains Danielson’s focus on growth rather than inspection. For my school’s context, this was central to our approach to using the Framework. I look forward to exploring this further with Charlotte when I meet with her next week and later next month.

Certainly my school is passionate about developing the culture of professional learning and protecting the meaningfulness of a formalised reflection process for teachers. Our approach is one in which the teacher is in control of the process; they self-direct their own foci and are Cognitively Coached through their thinking about and reflection on non-inferential data, collected from their classroom practice by a teacher-coach (that is, someone without an administrative position, whose role is to observe, listen and facilitate thinking).

Do any educators have experience with how Danielson’s Framework for Teaching is being used in their schools or districts? I am very interested in successes, lessons learned and stories of schools, leaders and teachers.

Applying the travelling mindset: embracing creativity

What, then, is a travelling mindset? Receptivity might be said to be its chief characteristic. We approach new places with humility. We carry with us no rigid ideas about what is interesting. We irritate locals because we stand on traffic islands and in narrow streets and admire what they take to be strange small details. We risk getting run over because we are intrigued by the roof of a government building or an inscription on a wall. We find a supermarket or a hairdresser’s unusually fascinating. ~ Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton described the traveling mindset as one of receptivity and openness. In 1794, Xavier de Maistre applied this mindset to his own everyday space. In my own experience, of traversing thirty three countries so far, travel is learning. Being submerged in the unfamiliar brings to the surface captivation, imagination and vulnerability.

I think being abroad is sometimes where we feel we can be most ourselves, untethered by daily routines, obligations, expectations and the mundanity and productivity of daily life.

So how is an educator to bring this outlook to professional meetings and visits abroad? My approach is one of embracing creativity.

@debsnet New York Journal

Research connects creativity with productivity, adaptability, novelty, divergent thinking, idea generation, flexibility and problem solving (see Dr Mark Runco’s 2004 article on ‘Creativity’ in the Annual Review of Psychology). For me, writing, drawing, painting, doing and making are physical mind-body processes which facilitate right brain thinking, foster creativity and enable authenticity – of thought, of action, of being.

Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED Talk on how schools kill creativity has been viewed almost 30 million times. In it, he champions the cultivation of creativity and questions the rigidity of education systems which encourage conformity and compliance.

The #makered hashtag on Twitter and http://makered.org/ have plenty of ponderings, resources and perspectives on the meaningfulness of making and doing for our students.

Of course social media and this blog are 21st century extensions of traditional creative media but I am intending largely to ‘go retro’ on my October professional journey: reading print novels, keeping a visual journal, collecting tactile ephemera and enacting mindful pen-to-paper thinking. Using the camera and a journal to explore thoughts and experiences is a method of creative, reflexive, deliberate inquiry, as well as a way of recording both professional visits and New York herself.

New York #artjournal page by @debsnet

I hope this flânerial approach – that of the wanderer who is finely attuned, keenly observant and totally immersed – will help me to be at my most receptive, flexible and open to new learning.

A life lived learning: a tribute to my grandfather

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. ~ Jorge Luis Borges

New York Public Library by @debsnet

New York Public Library ~ ‘A good Booke is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, imbalm’d and treasur’d up on purpose to a life beyond life.’

In education, we talk a lot about lifelong learning, and about how to inspire in our students (or perhaps preserve in our children) curiosity, passion and the desire to know, to discover, to push at boundaries. To be continuous creators, thinkers, questioners and enactors of their thinking and beliefs.

As an English and Literature teacher, and lifelong reader, who grew up surrounded by books, the physical book is for me a symbol of self-directed, voluntary learning. As a girl I was able to peruse bookshelves throughout my childhood home and pull books from the shelves, at will, to read and re-read. These books were not vetted for age-appropriateness but were a range of children’s books, novels, classics and encyclopaedias to which I had unfettered access.

Other vivid memories are of being in the study of my grandfather, who was a collector and binder of rare and beautiful books. His study was wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling wooden bookcases, saturated with the overwhelming smell of old paper, worn leather and decaying adhesives. It was a paradise for the book lover!

Overnight my grandfather quietly passed away in his bed, at ninety years of age, his spectacles on and a book in his hand. He was a Doctor of Philosophy, a scientist, a professor, a poet and a thinker, who was reading and writing narratives, scientific writing and verse until his last breath. He was the epitome of a lifelong learner, a deliberate scientific questioner of knowledge and someone always willing to engage in hefty intellectual debate. Only yesterday he and I were discussing strategies for academic, thesis and poetry writing.

I discovered today that my grandfather has left me two of his prized books: an early copy of Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World and an antique Chinese text which is a concertina series of Chinese customs, paired with hand painted calligraphy scenes, and bound between curved carved wooden covers. Both are books I remember connecting with the first time he gingerly passed them into my hands in his study. I remember feeling their weight (the Raleigh is heavy!), fingering the irregular textures, and smelling that old book smell (read more about the science of that here in Jessica Leber’s Fast Company post) as I sank into the cocoon of his old chair.

Books by @debsnet  IMG_1399

Raleigh Collage by @debsnet

As well as being objects that I will cherish, these books are symbolic for me of a life lived learning, something I aspire to, and to which I hope my students and my children will aspire.

New York anticipatory reading

Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time. ~ E. P. Whipple

NYC Books by @debsnet

Here is my little pile of NYC reading.

I have collected actual books! I have a Kindle which is much more practical for travelling, but I still like the sensory experience of reading: the look of a book cover, the feel of paper, the smell of the page and the sound of it turning.

In amongst professional reading, book club reading and PhD reading, I will read some of these before I go and some while I am away. The ones that come away with me will be ‘paid forward’ to people I meet along the way, so that they can find new homes … and so that I don’t need to pack them for the journey home.

My picks are quintessential novels of New-York-ness: Kerouac’s On the Road (ok, so only minorly relevant to NYC, but a key text in American travel and psyche), Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Lethem’s Chronic City, Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Cunningham’s The Snow Queen and Bushnell’s One Fifth Avenue.

I am starting with The Snow Queen, a book named after the 1844 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale which also inspired the animated film Frozen.

It’s been coming down since midnight. Snow eddies and tumbles as the point of equinox passes, and the sky starts all but imperceptibly turning from its nocturnal blackish brown to the lucid velvety gray of first morning, New York’s only innocent sky. ~ The Snow Queen

What are your best NYC reads?

Teacher (un)learning: immersive, experiential & ongoing

‘How do your teachers learn?’ Most answers I get follow along traditional lines: ‘They go to conferences.’ ‘They take after-school workshops.’ ‘They read books.’ They see their teachers’ learning as an event, not an ongoing process. ~ Will Richardson, 2012

Will Richardson reminds us that learning is an ongoing process, not a series of disconnected one-off occurrences. Professional learning is about the organic journey of the teacher; it’s not a set of tick boxes to be ticked or a number of mandated hours to be filled.

NYC Collage @debsnet

The self-directed-and-organisation-supported professional learning travel upon which I am embarking brings into focus the concept of teacher learning and how it might look. It is this focus that raises the sort of question I am asking on behalf my school while I am in New York: how can we best support teachers in their self-directed growth as passionate practitioners?

One learning movement with plenty of momentum is the unschooling / uncollege / unconference movement.

In unschooling the intellectual, emotional and physical freedom of the child is privileged over the perceived imprisonment by formulaic school curricula, strict structures and inflexible spaces. Just check out the #unschooling hashtag on Twitter.

At uncollege students are educated by real-world experiences, often outside their comfort zones.

Unconferences or edcamps are free, participant-driven conferences.

Does a travelling fellowship like my upcoming one, which focuses on the experiential professional learning of the fellow as well as the contribution of that learning to the organisation, fit into this kind of free-range self-learning?

Does this kind of learning reflect the best kind of learning for our teachers? It is driven by the learner, involves collaboration with others, and is experiential, ‘real world’ and deeply immersive.

A question many school leaders and educators have been addressing for some time is: How might we more fully embed the edcamp / unlearning / experiential / community-based / learner- driven learning into our schools?

How might we ensure that professional learning is meaningful and transformative for teachers?

Travel anticipation makes the journey last longer

Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage. ~ Regina Nadelson

BoysPlanningNYC

Mr 2 and Mr 4 are happily helping me plan my NYC itinerary.

Map Collage by @debsnet https://theeduflaneuse.wordpress.com/

We have a huge family world map with colour coded stickers which record our travels, but New York City guides might be their new bedtime stories.