Sunday, 15 November 2015

Achieving Flow - Reflective Practice and Key Competencies in Leading

Week 2: Leadership in Digital and Collaborative Learning

This week was all about reflecting on leadership in schools: our own and what we and others experience.

The precourse work involved watching Grant Lichtman’s What 60 Schools Can Tell us About Teaching 21st Century Schools.  I’ve talked to Grant before, on a Google hangout, Twitter and he was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Ulearn15.

These were some of the points that resonated with me:
  • Schools are not good at innovation. Agreed. After my first few weeks in a senior leadership team, the principal gave me “Who Moved My Cheese?” to read. People - even teachers, lots of teachers - don’t like change!
  • Change is hard.  Probably why teachers don’t like it.
  • Change is uncomfortable. As above. Being uncomfortable is stressful.
  • Lichtman talks about the ideal education ecosystem - adaptive, permeable, self correcting, creative, dynamic, systemic, and the place of the cognitosphere, where everyone has access through a cell phone.
  • We want self evolving learners, so we must become self evolving organisations.  He expounds Dewey: Preparing our students for their future, not our past.” 
  • We must “fan the brushfires of innovation.”

The reading by Wayne Freeth, intrigued me.  In Towards Reconceptualising Leadership: The Implications of the Revised New Zealand Curriculum for School Leaders he talks about a study where he followed a group of school leaders as they implemented the revised New Zealand Curriculum document in 2007.  What struck me most, was that they could not see outside the current silos, and I believe that difficulty is still here.  “Schools are not good at innovation.”

One of the ways we can prepare learners to be self evolving is by embracing the key competencies as leaders. Our course notes and readings entreat us to live these ourselves.  Mary Anne Murphy, on Curriculum Online (Mary Anne Murphy) talks about the need for key competencies in leadership and outlines what this looks like. This isn’t a new idea for me.  It’s already one of my beliefs.  It’s how we move away from a “knowledge as a noun” (finite) education to a “knowledge as a verb” (infinite and growing) way of learning and living.

We filled out a Google form which asks us to list those skills we see as important for life. 
Care of Lynley Schofield from
the Rotorua MindLab sessions.

The course notes for this week then use a similar Google form to get us to use the key competencies to note first our strengths and then areas we need to work on.  Funnily enough, as I reflect, I feel pretty competent about all the key competencies:
Thinking - I love learning and reflecting.
Managing self - Yep.  Never been a problem.  Self motivated and organise myself to get things done.
Using language, symbols and text - I’m word smart. Love communication.  Understand that there are numerous literacies to get a handle on.
Participating and contributing - Why I think online communities for education are so important.  We need to role model being in positive participatory cultures, and role-model and use these scenarios so that our students understand the digital citizenship needed. This is espoused in this week’s readings:
Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Blogging is seen as a way to develop your professional identity in
Hanuscin, D., Cheng, Y., Rebello, C., Sinha, S., & Muslu, N. (2014). The Affordances of Blogging As a Practice to Support Ninth-Grade Science Teachers' Identity Development as Leaders. Journal Of Teacher Education, 65(3), 207-222.

Yay. I'm good with that. Blogging and microblogging (Twitter) have become my natural environments.  I'm proud to say that I have a wide professional learning network.  Global even.  
Relating with others - The absolutely necessary competency for innovation to work today.  Relational trust is needed for people to be able to move forward with innovation.  Trust allows the development of a shared vision.  Trust allows the development of flow, that mindset when work becomes less of a chore because you are working on something you are passionate about.
I don’t think I’m weak in this competency, but it is one I need to keep working on.  I think we all do.  As Grant Lichtman says, “change is hard.”  Relationship building takes time and effort because it’s rare that we get the opportunity to work with a group of people who all share the same ideas and purpose.
How might teachers’ strengths in developing capabilities in thinking, using language, symbols and texts, managing self, relating to others, and participating and contributing, be recognised and celebrated?  
This looks a lot like the well oiled wheel of distributed leadership, where all staff have a voice in vision creating and decision making.  Relational trust is important in order that there is flow.  The wheels work together because the destination - or lack of a single destination is understood and agreed on. The results of flow usually are self fulfilling because everything is negotiated.  This works across schools too.  Where collaboration is happening, student transitions are smoother.
How might students’ capabilities in thinking, using language, symbols, and texts, managing self, relating to others, and participating and contributing, be recognised and celebrated?
I looked at the statement above and replace “staff” with “students.” Students know their pathways which are negotiated and are working because they are passionate about where they are going. Teachers facilitate the development of particular skills in “just in time” learning scenarios so that students can access what they need to remain in flow.  The outcome is self rewarding.
“Mate, you’re dreaming.”  I don’t think so.  Change is hard, but I do know school leaders who are working very hard to achieve this “flow”.  And there’s nothing wrong with having dreams and aspirations.

Do you live these - or at least aspire to?

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