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Monday, 28 October 2013

"People are calling you superman..." Thursday 17/10/2013

Am I just doing my job?

It's been nearly three years since I moved from being Year One Teacher / Leader in a really happy school, a position I loved, to being a Vice-Principal in what was perceived to be not such a happy workplace. 

When I began my new position I went out of my way to make sure that I had presence. I remember well being in the staffrooms of nearly every school I have worked in with colleagues speaking about the leadership / management team inevitably using the words:

"Where are they? What do they even do anyway?"

I made a promise to myself and others that I would always be around, I would always be visible and I would never hide in the office.

After a few months at school I was having a conversation with one of my colleagues. It was not an easy conversation but a useful and powerful discussion. Towards the end of the chat she said:

"People are calling you Superman..."

I felt my shoulders rise and my head slightly expand...

"...but you're not are you? You're just doing your job."


This nugget of wisdom has stayed with me. I have told the story on a few occasions.

The perspective it has given me over these three years has been a gift I did not see coming. Whatever I do, however hard I work, however many tweets I tweet or conferences I present at I am just doing my job.

Or am I?

My job description lays out many actions for me to perform. 

Is that my job?

Whilst thinking about this I remembered this post, 8 Leadership Essentials  by Eric Sheninger, who is an amazing Principal, blogger, sharer and educationalist.

In it he shares this diagram of leadership:

Am I just doing my job? Am I just my job description?


I go out of my way and give %150 for all of those I work and learn with everyday. I do this in a number of ways.

Do you?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Part Two - Professional learning without follow through is malpractice Monday 14/10/2013

Part Two - Professional learning without follow through is malpractice


Let's take a risk...

So where do we go from here?

Last term we had run a Leadership Development program with the Year Leaders in our school. 

One of the aspects of being a 'middle leader' is the complete lack of time that you have to develop your leadership skills. If you are in the classroom 'full-time' then when do you get a chance to model, work-alongside or be a critical friend to members of your team? It is very difficult.

We, the other VP and I, rearranged our timetables so we could cover classes to allow the Year Leaders to get out of the classroom and work with each other or others in the school.

Here's a screen shot of the document we shared with Year Leaders.

It went well but there was a niggle. I wasn't really sure what the impact on learning and leadership was.

So...onto now.

Andy, one of our PYP coordinators, and I spent two days with Dylan Wiliam and were we inspired? Yes we were!

I came back, talked, discussed and planned and we moved. I shared my thoughts at a staff meeting.

Our Leadership Development program has become a Teacher Learning Community.

We have included the Year Leaders as we really do see them as Lead Teachers and we asked for volunteers. 

We have had an amazing response. Twelve colleagues from across the school have put their hand up for this exciting innovation.

What is next?

Monday, 30 September 2013

Part One - Professional learning without follow through is malpractice Tuesday 1/10/2013

A two part post... to be continued...

Last week began with what was meant to be the biggest typhoon for many years. It did not affect us too much here in Hong Kong.

After a day without children at school I was fortunate enough to attend three PD sessions.

All of these added to my 'learning stack'.

Preparing for Principalship

This is a year long leadership development course run by the ESF. It was interesting listening to Bill who leads the Peak School, Brenda who leads Glenealy School and Jane who leads West Island School speak about leadership. 

Three takeaways for me:

  • It is vital for a leader to 'get the pulse' of the school and this can only be done with presence, communication and integrity.
  • Leaders need to be able to 'clear the path' as well as 'create the path'.
  • Leaders in schools need to be 'learning leaders'. It is not enough to say you are one, you must show you are by taking risks and developing your own learning.
Assessment for Learning with Dylan Wiliam

This was a two day session led by Dylan Wiliam who is a great speaker and one you should take the time to hear if the opportunity arises. He is the author of a great book .

Three takeaways for me:
  • Love the ones you are with. It is the teachers you have within your school NOW who can make the difference to the learning. Create time and opportunities for them to develop and grow as teachers and excel in their craft.
  • The longer you stay in school the longer you live, the more money you earn and the more you contribute to society. This is why we do what we do.
  • Teacher Learning Communities in school. Dylan gave us a very 'do-able' framework for making this happen.
ESF Professional Development Day - Fluencies a Conceptual Age with Lee Crockett

Lee was an amazing speaker and his two keynotes, and the session I attended with him were very thought provoking. His site is packed with ideas and resources  I really appreciate being inspired.

Three takeaways for me:
  • Professional learning without follow through is malpractice. This should be a sign up in every staffroom in every school.
  • Lee presented a effective structure for problem solving which he said worked through kindergarten to adults - Define, discover, dream, design, deliver (produce and publish) and debrief. I think this will be useful in many ways.
  • He read ' Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!' which is a stunning book we should all be reading. Hooray for Dr Seuss!
An amazing week of learning for me. 

Part Two of Professional learning without follow through is malpractice soon.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Real leaders shouldn't have to read about it?

It is a beautiful day here in Hong Kong. I am usually cycling to the ferry or speed walking the dogs so I do not always get to take in the amazing sights, sounds and smells of Mui Wo.

Blue skies, white clouds and green.
Today I walked around Mui Wo slowly. My mind drifted back to the summer spent in the UK with our family and the two weeks we had spent in Cornwall. My father in law, a wonderful man, and I, spoke about leadership and how we have learned about and from it.
He said during the conversation:

"All these books about leadership...gah...Real leaders shouldn't have to read about it."

In my kindle library if I begin a search with the word 'lead' 18 titles appear. Not all of them are about leadership in education. Here are some of them:

During my walk I thought about whether I should,or should not, have researched, bought and read all of these books, and others, about leadership. I asked these questions of myself:

1. Have I learned from these books and these authors?
2. What are some of the concepts I have learned?
3. Could I have learned the same concepts from anyone or anywhere else?

Here are my answers:

1. I certainly have learned from all of these books and those who wrote them. I obviously do not agree with every single word, idea and concept put on paper (or the screen) but that is learning in itself.

2. I have learned that I have the opportunity to make a difference to peoples lives everyday. I have learned that we all need to know the goals of the organisation and that when you present these visually people understand them. I have had it reinforced that collaboration is vital in leadership as one cannot do it all alone. I have also learned that trust can be broken into two parts: integrity and competence, and that both of these are vital in a leader.

3. I have learned some these from many of the amazing leaders that I have worked with, both those in positions of leadership and those for whom leadership was as natural as breathing. 

When my wife and I found out we were having triplets 11 years ago there was obviously more than a touch of panic in the air. There was one definite way we could learn about what we had to do: read!

So we did. We learned. We're still here.

Maybe real leaders shouldn't have to read books about leadership? Maybe they should? What is important is that as educators we keep learning. Reading is vital to learning and to learn from those who have experienced, researched and shared their knowledge is a joy is a privilege.

I love my father-in-law. I'm glad I read.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A goal to blog at least THREE times a week

I always find it an exciting time at the beginning of a new calendar year...which starts in the middle of our academic year.

It was wonderful to see all of my amazing colleagues again this morning and then the children coming into school with massive smiles on their faces.  Even though it had been a shock when the alarm went off this morning at 5.10 am their grins and stories made that a whole lot easier.

One of the aspects of holidays that I love is the time to think.  Sometimes life (work, relationships, children, dogs etc...) can be so busy that one doesn't have time to think.  I made time to think this holiday and have set some goals for myself.  They are not resolutions, really, more aspects of my life I would like to develop, know more about or improve.

One of them is to blog at least THREE times a week.  There, I have said it.  It's out there and I really do not mind if you give me a gentle and friendly nudge now and then if I don't do it because I may need the help!

My first blog post will be about this great book which I read over the holidays.  If you haven't had a chance to read it then please do.  It really is worth it!

Until then, thank you for reading.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Edcamp HK - a time for learning

What an interesting day!

I honestly did not know what to expect from the first edcamp in Hong Kong but it was a good experience and I'm very glad that I participated in it and helped to make it happen.

I'd like to say a big thanks to Jen who, having had experience of edcamp inToronto, really facilitated the day and kept it moving.

I'd also like to say a massive thank you to all of those who came! There were about twenty people - and interestingly they were a complete cross-section - not only those 'in' education.

We began the day with a coffee, or a green tea, and then shared where our heart was in education.  I talked to Will who runs learning centres for under-privileged children in Hong Kong.  We had a wonderful discussion.

We then introduced ourselves - and I FINALLY got to meet Di from DC college - we've only met on twitter!

We then moved into smaller groups and talked around three questions - Where are we now?- What do we need to do? (I think) and Where are we going on the future.  

My first conversation I found quite frightening - talking about using face recognition technology to immediately add to data or inform parents of things happening with their children - it all sounded very 'big-brother' to me...  Thanks Merrin for moving it along!

The conversation then turned to cultural differences and then finally to the future.  It was also great to meet (again) Ruth.

Lunch was a salad club.

The afternoon was open for everyone to throw out a question - Mine was...Homework, Yes or No?

Again it really bought to light that there are such vast cultural differences in our amazing world, and who's to say who's right or wrong.

I enjoyed the day and would have even more I think if many more of my colleagues from the profession had been there as well.  It's an interesting format but one that is not for all I think.  

It was a great day and I'd be really interesting in holding another...shall we?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Art of Possibility

A while ago I finished reading 'The Art of Possibility' by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.  It is a stunning book which is very worth reading.  Today - which is exactly the middle of my Easter holiday I woke at 5.00 am...and started going through my kindle highlights from this book.  The quote above really sums up the thoughts which are expressed through the book - and also the book I am currently reading 'Making ideas Happen' by Scott Belsky - also fantastic!

As educators we work with learners of all ages - young and old.  We strive to see the 'possibility' in all people, but sometimes we forget to see the possibility in ourselves.  I think that I have done that a little recently and, having had the time to reflect over the first week of the holiday, it's time to make sure that I'm not doing that.

How about you?  What's possible for you?