Tag Archives: leadership

Small Talk

Last week I had to call RACV for some help with my car. The man that arrived was very polite and friendly, excellent customer service. We got chatting, as you do in those situations. Just small talk. He asked what I did. I said I was a teacher. Oh, his wife was a teacher- instant connection. He seemed quite happy sharing small talk about what a great job it is, keeps you busy, again still very polite. He asked what year level I taught…this lead me to explain I was a leading teacher so didn’t have my own class and that I have been relieving as an Assistant Principal for the last couple of months. With that he looked up at me, paused, went back to doing something to my car, looked up again and asked “so what do all the senior teachers think of a young girl like yourself being in that job?”.

Seriously? 

Does it matter what they think? Does it matter what he thought? I must admit I was quite taken aback. At this point I just wished he would stop talking, hurry up and just finish his job. Lucky he was almost done, I basically just laughed the comment off and now am wishing I had of said something.

The worst part of this experience was feeling like I owed him an explanation. Like I had to explain to the stranger in front of me why I am a young, successful, ambitious person.  Like I had to prove myself.

It’s not the first time this has happened to me. In my job I have been mistaken for an administration officer and an education support staff member by parents and visiting teachers of both genders. Sometimes others are shocked to hear the range of accomplishments that I have achieved in a relatively short time span. Yeah, I’ve done a bit, but so what, so have many others.

Is it so shocking that a thirty year old female is in such a position of leadership? Is it so shocking that I have been driven, committed and hard working? Is it so shocking that I may have something to offer…even though I’m young…and a woman?

It is ridiculous that comments like these are still heard. We often talk about how far society has come in regards to gender equality but it’s obvious we haven’t come far enough.

So…Dear Mr RACV, the answer to your question is that I’m not too sure what they think, but I do know that we treat each other with respect, we work alongside each other, we share advice and feedback and we make the world that little bit better by caring about the education for the students in our care. I’m pretty sure that’s all that matters.

Leading Change is Hard

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by m-c

Leading change is hard. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it isn’t. If it was, I doubt there would be so many expensive books, people and programs out there that claim to revolutionise your working environment in ‘just a few easy steps’. The books on my coffee table currently include ‘Start with Why’, ‘Leaders Eat Last’ and ‘Think Like a Freak’…I have watched countless YouTube videos on leadership and educational change and I have listened to some amazing people share their stories about leading change. I think it is safe to say I’m always looking, reading and researching ideas to help me be better at my job.

I have been in my current position for a little over a year now. I have learnt a lot, a lot about leadership and I have learnt a lot about people. Some days I get so frustrated- a big part of my learning has been about patience and learning to understand that not everybody thinks the same way as I do…and may not be quick to take on new ideas and challenges like I do. I remind myself all the time to slow down- but it is so much easier said than done! I don’t recall having these kind of challenges with students I have taught- those challenges are different. But working with adults- well that is a whole other ball game. Don’t get me wrong- I absolutely love what I do- to be able to work so closely with teams of teachers and individuals…to challenge their thinking, to support them to take risks and try new things, it is amazing and incredibly rewarding…but it is hard!

In the past few weeks I have felt stilted by what I viewed as a lack of change and movement. I have constantly had to remind myself to take a step back and look at how far we have come- as a school, how learning is being transformed on a daily basis and how teachers are now challenging each other’s thoughts, ideas and reasoning. Instead of focusing on what is not happening, or that massive list of ideas I have…I have had to reign myself in and just relax and go with the flow…something that I am not comfortable in doing.

Today, three things happened that reinvigorated me and reminded me just how much impact I have had on some people I work with and how far their learning (and my own) has come.

1. I watched as two educators wrote a proposal to present at a conference, something they have not done before- and while they may be anxious about the whole experience, they have amazing stories to share it would be a shame if they were not shouted from the roof tops. Listening to them discuss what they wanted to do and say and reflect on what they have achieved says a lot for the effort and commitment they have made to their own learning.

2. I received a message that thanked me for challenging another’s thinking…something that I am myself thankful for with my wider networks of educators and friends I talk to. It is where I learn the most so to know someone thinks of me and what I do in a similar way confirmed I was asking the right questions.

3. I received a reply to an email I had sent yesterday asking for feedback about some of our Inquiry / CBL processes. The reply whilst may not have seemed like anything special to an outsider…clearly demonstrated how far this person has come in their own thinking about inquiry learning. What I appreciated most was when this person questioned me and could back it up…and made me think differently.

I felt compelled to write this post to celebrate the successes- however small they seem from the inside…they are pretty huge on the outside and will continue to motivate, engage and challenge me to keep on keeping on!

So yes, leading change is hard but it is most definitely worth it.

Reflecting on my first term as an eLearning Leading Teacher

Today is the last day of Term 1 for Victorian public schools. For me, Term 1 has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. I came into this position at the beginning of the year with high hopes, massive plans and more things to accomplish than what turned out to be possible. This is normal for me though, I always want to do more than what I can, and even though some things I had hoped to happen this term haven’t, I know they are still on the cards. There are three more terms to go after all.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
— John Maxwell

Leadership Ahead https://flic.kr/p/9m3oki

This term, I have learnt to be even more flexible than I was before, my timetable changes weekly and that is something I was not used to, but it turns out I’m ok with it, in fact, I enjoy it. I understand more than ever that being a good leader relies heavily on human leadership skills, without effective professional, constructive and respectful relationships with staff, leading them is not really possible. I have learnt to manage more than what I thought was possible, working full time in a new position, studying two subjects in my Masters of Education course (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation through CSU), so many ‘extra curricula’ work related activities, Evernote events, and not to mention a life.

A part from my eLearning responsibilities, the other part of my role is a school based teaching and learning coach. This is such a rewarding part of my job. I love woking with graduate teachers, and experienced teachers alike. I love being able to share what I know and guide them on their journey. I love watching as school based initiatives and projects come into fruition through professional learning and coaching sessions. I think being a part of that is pretty special. Sometimes it can also be the most frustrating part of my position, but I wouldn’t change it because learning is a process- no matter how old you are and being a part of that process for someone else, to watch their confidence increase, to witness the many ‘light bulb’ moments is rewarding, it is what being an educator is all about.

Some things I am proud of this term include deploying Google Apps for Education, leading whole school implementation of Challenge Based Learning, implementing a 1:1 iPad program in years 5/6, implementing Evernote with year 5/6 students (and getting their teachers successfully on board and really understanding the value- not only for their students, but for themselves too). I am proud of the staff I have worked with and their openness and willingness to take new ideas on and not be afraid to try something new.

With three terms to go, I am looking forward to a busy year. December will see the completion of my Masters, in June I will be attending the ACCE ISTE Study Tour to America, having not only the opportunity to attend ISTE (a long time bucket list item of mine) but will have the opportunity to present with fellow members of the study tour. ACEC is in October in Adelaide where I will also be presenting, sharing and learning. I will continue to strengthen the programs currently in place at my school and expand our iPad program. I will have fun- because I love my job- I love to teach, I love to learn.

 

My Google Apps for Edu Journey

I first heard about Google Apps for Education in 2011 when I attended a conference session with Rich Lambert. At the time I was teaching a Prep, one and two combined class, my school was very small, only around eighty students. I decided I would try some of the tools out with my own class. The first thing I did was create a Google Site, which was used in a similar way to a blog. It was a place for students to share their work and communicate with each other.

The following year, I did a similar thing. I had a class website which was used more as an organisational tool as that same year I began using a class blog. In 2012 I also began using Google Docs and Google Calendar, for my personal use as well as for teaching purposes.

Reflecting on how I was using Google Apps, I wrote a ‘proposal plan’ for my principal on why the school should go Google  and how it would be organised. It was approved, but my timeline was slowed slightly due to other priorities and tech issues. By the end of 2012 Aitken Creek Primary School finally had their own Google Apps for Education Domain. In 2013 this was deployed to staff who were teaching years three to six and the two classes of year five and six students.

This was the beginning of what I would like to describe as a very beautiful friendship. I was blown away by what our students were doing, the collaboration I was seeing from students was more than I could have hoped for. Their digital literacy skills were improving daily and their confidence was something to be proud of.

From a teacher’s perspective, I found it to be an incredibly powerful tool for my team of teachers. I was grade sharing at the time, so to have that level of collaboration between myself and another teacher was quite powerful for our organisation and lesson planning. I really loved how easy it was to share documents rather than emailing back and forth.

I did however, find it difficult to get other teachers on board. At the time I was a 5/6 teacher, team leader and part time teaching and learning coach within the school. I struggled to share the love of Google Apps with teachers who I did not work with closely. I always talk about tech stuff at school that sometimes I swear I hear people think “Here goes Bec again…going on about something I will never use”.

I finally found an in…our staff intranet page was playing up, staff were getting frustrated that they could not access it from home. Our Tech’s would fix it but then it just kept happening.  One win for me, one loss to the silly intranet that reminded me of an incredibly ancient display of computer technology.  At this stage I began creating a Google Site page that would eventually take the place of our intranet. I started to upload all of the documents that were on our shared drive, added in some links and it started to take shape. I also added all of our events to a Google Calendar, invited all staff to it and embedded into the site.

At the beginning of 2014, my school employed many new teachers, the old intranet wasn’t working properly and my staff Google Site was ready. I was also appointed as an Acting eLearning Leading Teacher and Teaching and Learning Coach, I do not have my own class this year so this have given me the time to implement it properly, on a whole school level. I basically threw staff in the deep end, I was worried as it was and still is quite a big change from what many teachers were used to. But at the same time, I knew I had support from leadership and let’s face it, the times they are changing, it’s about time many teachers start to learn how to use technology effectively, so the deep end it was…with me standing on the side with floaties of course. And do you know what happened? They swam…every single one of them. Some were off and racing pretty quickly and I still have a few who are treading water but I am working with them and have all the confidence in the world that I will get them there.

When I began my journey into leadership, I was quite young and I could never really understand why things just couldn’t happen, it used to frustrate me to no end that people weren’t willing or ready to take new things on board. It took me a while to understand that just because someone did something differently to me or didn’t agree with my way of how things should be done, did not mean they were wrong.  The biggest things I have learnt from deploying Google Apps for Education at my school is that it pays to have a plan, that perseverance is everything and that with support and a need for change big things are possible.

I am so proud of all of the teachers at my school who have taken Google Apps for Edu on board so positively and can already see the benefits for their own organisation. I can’t wait for the penny to drop as they realise what they can do with their students.

A look into Google Apps for Edu at ACPS:

Staff ‘intranet’ Site

Staff Shared Documents

Resource Sharing

Collaborative Team Folders