10 tips for administrators to help new teachers avoid burnout

I remember what it was like to be a new teacher. Not knowing what to focus on, not being sure how to balance being formal and friendly, wondering if you’d ever get through the curriculum, mastering the school’s computer systems, and on top of all this, you can’t even find your way around the school!

admin helps new teachers-eduwells

Here’s 10 things I would suggest all administrators do to make it easy for new teachers. After all, we need to keep everyone teacher we get, the attrition rate is frightening.

  1. Time. No matter what administrators do or offer, they must invest in time for new teachers to prepare for the workload and also reflect on the experiences of each week. If there’s no formal time offered for reflection, teachers will not grow from the initial experiences and/or difficulties.
  2. Support. Administrators should encourage a supportive work culture. This should include themselves team-teaching with new teachers. This relieves pressure, whilst also allowing for example to be shown, in-turn providing great professional development.
  3. ‘Chill’. Administrators as mentors should remind new teachers that they are not a one-stop delivery machine. Ensure they have high expectations of young people to work together in learning. Being a sage on the stage is far more tiring as a teaching approach.
  4. Simplify. Don’t add to the burden by giving new teachers a wide scope of courses or topics to get to grips with. keep the initial focus on a narrower curriculum demand. Let them build confidence in a small amount before taking on the full job.
  5. Flip it! This does not apply to all teaching but particularly does in high school courses. In 2011, I literally halved my stress level in one month by starting a process of videoing my key content delivery into 5 minute edited videos, throughout the year, organised by topic playlist on Youtube. More info here and here.
  6. Timely. Make sure that school administrative information is issued to new teachers in a timely fashion and not all at once in the first week. It is still common for induction books to amount to 50 packed pages of information that is often never read or certainly not needed in the coming months. Focusing on what’s needed now will reduce stress levels in new staff.
  7. Connect. Make sure you have a programme in the school to get new teachers connected to the relevant online networks. There’s a Twitter #hashtag for every conceivable teaching specialism and age group. Ensure new teachers are making friends for both support and resources.
  8. Team-time. A weekly morning meeting for all new teachers to discuss matters arising also builds relationships. The sharing of ideas and experiences will help grow confidence, which in-turn relieves stress. Do not organise such meetings at the end of a tiring day.
  9. Record Dialogue. Organise a shared space online for new teachers to express their concerns to experienced teachers or administrators. This means they don’t feel like they are interrupting a busy schedule but offers an extra place for help and guidance. It also becomes a record of issues to help administrators improve future inductions.
  10. Be thankful. Administrators must recognise the hard work and extra pressure new teachers are experiencing. A weekly visit and a email to express positive observations can make the difference between keeping and losing another educator.

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EduWells2015Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters)
and an International Speaker.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

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Schools need to say #YouMatter as much as Teachers

I was lucky last November to be in Miami for the fantastic Miami Device event. There I saw the inspirational Angela Maiers, the author and presenter of the now worldwide #YouMatter campaign. This is a vehicle she uses in a number of ways. The primary aim is to have everyone realise that they do matter and that they have significant knowledge and talents to offer the world. This understanding is something Angela encourages teachers to develop in both themselves and their students. She asks both teachers and students to share their learning and experiences in an attempt to help others and in doing so, realise the impact an individual can have on the world.

STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.024

Happy :-)

This all makes me very happy and I think it’s a fantastic initiative to push within education. I personally boil school purpose down to: Making every student realise how important they can be in the world. I too have presented and run workshops on how being a connected educator empowers one’s professional life. It gives more meaning to any classroom moment one is willing to share. Teachers use blogs and social media to develop confidence to such a point they even begin to share the not-so-good moments. This acts as a way to encourage feedback and ideas from their followers so as to grow one’s practice.

#YouMatter is so important in a world where anyone can showcase their talents to the world and make connections to help build success around them. As a personal example, I failed English at school but have built a considerable following from my writing in just 4 years. I’ve used sharing and networks to realise my writing matters.

Sad :-(

Here’s my question: Why do teachers and students need #YouMatter? Surely, schools are exciting places where empowered students get to spend everyday working on their passions and expressing their own talents in preparation for a rapidly changing world that demands they showcase what they can offer. Errr… ok, not every school. Um, … ok not most schools. And here lies my problem.

It is such a shame to watch teachers building relationships and working hard to let every student know they matter, when the school systems and structures are dedicated to doing the opposite. How can #YouMatter, if:

  • everyone has to read the same book?
  • everyone must stand when the bell goes?
  • you have to stop what you are doing and start something unrelated?
  • you’re never given enough time to immerse yourself in anything properly?
  • your government has pre-decided what you need to look at?

Cheer up :-)

It is so encouraging to see an increasing number of school leaders challenge all the aspects of education’s status-quo. In simple terms, most elements of factory schooling need to be removed from education and leaders must start thinking far outside the (factory) box, if we are to ever have universal success when saying to any young person: “#YouMatter.”

 

Star Wars Posters for Educators [Batch 2]

It’s official, the world loves Star Wars. Thanks for all the 100s of messages of support after my first Star Wars Edu Poster set. I was asked to do some more specific topics, so here’s some more. Hope you enjoy them. I feel they cover important educational issues but in a humorous way to get teachers talking. Ask yourself, what is your school or district doing about some of these challenges. May the Force be with you.

STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.014 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.015 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.016 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.017 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.018 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.019
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Schools Move Forward by Embracing Confilct

It is extremely instinctive to avoid conflict. For decades, schools have been presented with ideas for change and development, multiple ‘experts’ explaining the rapid evolution of technology, the workplace, and global human requirements. Due to the conflict these ideas can cause in a school, leaders and teachers have become extremely adept at supporting the status quo by inventing excuses for why they can’t be expected to do ‘too much crazy stuff’ (by the way, three different schools’ leaders said these exact four words to me in conversations this year).

This is why I found the following 2012 TEDGlobal talk by Margaret Heffernan, really powerful. Her bio on TED states: The former CEO of five businesses, Margaret Heffernan explores the all-too-human thought patterns — like conflict avoidance and selective blindness — that lead organizations and managers astray.

In this talk, Heffernan uses excellent true stories to illustrate that avoiding the things that challenge our assumptions can have disastrous consequences. Likewise, finding systematic methods for embracing and allowing ideas that challenge to be aired can make all the difference in turning an organisation into a leading example for others. I listened to this and saw obvious parallels in all the schools I’ve worked in. Schools will only make real and relevant progress if they can ensure school leaders and teachers organise and then listen to genuinely critical friends.

Cultivating a school culture that is not just an echo chamber of professional back slapping or an isolated ivory tower of decision making is difficult in schools where the leaders are not skilled or prepared for challenging the status quo. As Heffernan explains, this has the tendency to make people less likely to offer any challenge in the first place. The echo chamber within the school then continues to develop what are seen as more robust arguments against change. One of my most quoted statements from a post this year was: “schools should spend more energy challenging your school’s status quo, than any alternative that might be suggested.”

“Teachers will meet after work only to discover in conversation that they have the same gripes about work but see no potential impact from voicing them”

School Echo Chamber3In many schools who claim a friendly atmosphere amongst staff, this friendliness and social comfort is often seperate to any professional or operational issue. If you’ve ever been on a team-building excursion, you’ll know what I mean by seperate. Furthermore, teachers will meet after work only to discover in conversation that they have the same gripes about work but see no potential impact from voicing them. In contrast,  I know a small number of schools in New Zealand that ensure teachers and leaders have at least one identified critical friend. In one high school, this system is site-wide and on a rotation each year to ensure many different perspectives are heard on any idea or current practice. Students are also involved in planning meetings to help the school appreciate things from the viewpoint of those receiving the learning experience. This has created a more open, adaptable and friendly culture towards developing and improving all aspects of school.

I’m off to read Heffernan’s book Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril. I think many school leaders should do the same. 

 

 

 

Teacher, you’re more important than you think.

So, there they were, a small middle school at the bottom of the world just doing their thing. I was lucky to be visiting the school on a research project kindly funded by Core Education in New Zealand. The school was proud of what they were doing but the issue for me was that “their thing” was MIND-BLOWING and nobody knew about it!

You may have read my post from November titled “HEY TEACHER, WOULD YOU BE A STUDENT?”, it’s my most popular post to date. In it, I introduced the world to Breens Intermediate school in Christchurch, New Zealand. All I did was draw a diagram that loosely outlined what the school was doing. Well, to quote a Californian, it went “absolutely VIRAL!

BreensRTs-EduWells

USA, France, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Turkey, Uk, Public schools, Private schools, Elementary Schools, High schools,  you name it and they were interested. Above is an image containing just some of the messages, and it’s only those who quoted the tweet, not the 1000s of retweets, likes and re-blogging on WordPress.

World renowned educators and school principals were promising rethinks and planning sessions based on it and teachers talked of dreaming about such a school or wanting to ‘go back to school’ just the experience it. I was humbled by the response but at the same time, not surprised. But what does this mean?

Share it to discover your AWESOMENESS!

Breens is special but not unique and is just another example of something that is happening in every school: a GREAT IDEA. Nearly all schools and teachers are doing great things, the issue is that they don’t know they’re great until they share them and this is not happening enough. If you are an educator, I promise you ‘that thing’ you are doing right now in school would also be mind-blowing to 1000s of teachers and you are underestimating the potential impact of ‘that thing’ to change world education.

Remember, we think in PICTURES

21C Classroom Layout

There’s another important reason why my post was popular: Pictures! Humans like pictures, we think in pictures and so need them to process ideas properly. The graphic I produced was carefully arranged, used colour and layout to divide information and was easy to spot and digest. This is important for all teachers and school leaders to be aware of when promoting new initiatives.

SCARED TO SHARE?

I have also recently posted on “why teachers don’t share.” Here I explained that my research showed unconnected educators were not comfortable sharing because of professional uncertainty about their practice. Until you shared and gained your first feedback, you were unable to position yourself on a sort of educator’s ‘success spectrum’. Until you bounce your ideas off someone else, you can’t judge the response they may receive. Regardless of how confident you are, I have a solution.

DRAW & SHARE AS A SCHOOL

Make sure your school has a Twitter account (Twitter is the primary social media for educators). Ask your teachers to submit their latest classroom ideas and initiatives and promote them as a school to the world using #edChat and #EdTech. This takes the pressure off the individuals, whilst promoting what probably will be AWESOME educational gold to schools around the globe. Start TODAY, or I’ll hunt down your amazing ideas and do it for you! :-)

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Why #EdTech and I are changing our brand

I have to be honest with you.

For more than a year, my blogging as iPadwells on the now extinct iPad4Schools.org has focused on education and leadership whilst I’ve struggled to add a weak connection to the use of iPads. As you can see from this site’s new look, I’ve given up and rebranded my work to match the material and professional development I now provide. [Img Cred]

Woman on iPad questionmark

I’m not the only one with this issue. 

Did you attend iPadpalooza or EttiPad or MiamiDevice this year? At all these events, teachers and speakers are expelling a lot of energy and words in highlighting that “it’s NOT about the device.” But like my old Twitter handle and blog, our names suggest otherwise. What’s happened?

“Ignore my name, it’s NOT about the device.”

Stop Go1It all started in 2011, the iPad was still either new or just a dream to most schools and we were all REALLY excited by its potential. I started my blog to help just 12 teachers in my school, who’d been bought them to trial. (Classic! Buy the teachers iPads but not the students). But they weren’t the only ones in need and soon iPad4Schools.org had 1000 readers a day.

Over the last 4 years, using social media, the connected educators of this world have been on a collaborative journey with a very steep learning curve. The more we have worked with device equipped students, the more we have moved our attention away from the technology and towards our change in expectations. The emphasis now is on the impact and extended reach that technology brings and not which specific device, app or workflow any individual might be using.

whiteboard on iPadMy current opening line to any student task is “find yourself a solution for …” I find the students are always capable and are used to searching for and sharing solutions with each other, even in the personal lives. They are also used to a fully personalised approach to life and have multiple solutions that achieve the same goals. I no longer discuss apps, except when a student highlights one to me. Some apps are really impressive but my primary goal is to cultivate independence and confidence within each student. This comes from the empowerment of personal choice and the collaborative approach.

When planning my rebranding and this post, It was great to see my friend Rabbi Michael Cohen writing about the exact same issue. Read his excellent thoughts here. The connected edu community are sharing and thus experiencing a simultaneous ride into 21st century education. Social media has provided a cheap platform from which to rebuild a global education profession and move everyone along at a similar pace. The great Mark Anderson in the UK has also just published the free iBook: “More Ed less Tech“. Can you see a trend emerging?

The issue we now face is the divide between the leaders and the followers. The change has been rapid and as the edtech community moves on from discussing technology, the majority of world education just starts to get their head around how it functions in the classroom. Many yet to make a start with BYOD or any one device per student initiative.

“Like Uber, It hasn’t replaced the need for a driver, it’s only changed who’s driving the system” – Richard Wells

The Uber app has angered thousands of taxi drivers. It hasn’t replaced the need for a driver, it’s only changed who’s driving the system. This is exactly what technology is doing to teachers in education. We just have to wait for the mindset of the average teacher to learn and appreciate what’s happening in front of their eyes. A teacher’s faith in their students is what everything hangs on.

 

Time is Gold for Teachers

IMG_5351Hey teacher, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little more time to do things properly? Teachers around the world are expected to somehow fit professional growth in-between planning, teaching, marking and parent communication, and so I understand why many don’t get round to much professional development or reading. So it was especially exciting for me to be awarded a 2015 research fellowship by Core Education (NZ). This “eFellowship” is given each year to a small group of innovative teachers to allow them to connect, visit schools and work with Core’s phenomenal team of education experts to carry out a personal inquiry into an aspect of their teaching.

The team for 2015 were from both elementary and high schools, which itself made for more enriched conversations. Our inquiries covered a wide range of topics including professional networking, design thinking, community engagement and children’s curiosity & identity development, and deaf education. The team were (Follow these people):

CRD1YfbUYAAFUAlSteve Mouldey 

Camilla Brotherton

Philippa N Antipas

Vivita Rabo

Mel Wiersma

Steph Kitto

… and ME!

Inspiring experiences

1. School visits

2014-03-04 09.21.01Many aspects of the year were inspiring. The first of these was visiting schools. We were lucky to visit early childhood centres, Elementary, Middle and High schools. No matter where we were based personally as teachers all of this visits offered something significant and inspiring. Visiting other types of schools will always offer a teacher new perspectives in regards to what demands are placed on children at other stages. This can lead to a high school teacher realising that younger children are more capable than previously considered, but also an elementary teacher realising they need to do more to prepare their students for high school. What was particularly inspiring was that from ages 4 to 18, we witnessed examples of independent self management of both time and learning. All the schools we saw proved that young people can manage their own learning with successful outcomes at any age. School visiting should be a permanent fixture in all teacher’s professional lives and governments need to fund accordingly.

2. Mind-blowing minds!

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 2.45.06 PMAt Core Education (NZ), their team are very well experienced and do tremendous amounts of research in to education in New Zealand. This country is already a world leader in education and so working at the forefront here makes Core Education a force to be reckoned with! We covered EVERYTHING! Be it education’s need for research and social justice (Louise Taylor), cultural awareness (Deanne Thomas), cultural identity (Manu Faaea-Semeatu), future trends (Derek Wenmoth), learning space design (Mark Osborne), learning as play (Keryn Davis) the importance of universal design for learning (UDL) (Chrissie Butler), or research in education (Ann Hatherly), the team challenged us to rethink more deeply many issues faced by education today.

3. Inspired by peers

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 2.48.36 PMThe primary benefit of the fellowship was working so closely with the other 6 educators. Their significantly differing backgrounds brought so much depth to the team. Having the time to discuss all our specific challenges made for the type and depth of conversation educators rarely get to experience. I’m now roughly 5.74 times the teacher I was in 2014!

Why eFellowship?

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 2.49.01 PMIf you’re teaching and  don’t know of available fellowships / teacher grants near you, then hunt them out. I’m sure there are initiatives and funding in your country or state, they’re not always loudly advertised. 2015 has proved to me that getting your hands on some funding that means you have more time to connect with educators and properly dig deep into some professional reading and thinking will have a profound and positive impact on your future professional life. It will also give you confidence as a professional to seek further opportunities.

Through this experience, I am now permanently connected with a team of top educators spread across the country. We will now follow each others progress and continue to learn from each other in the future. We’ve become great friends – I’m getting more daily messages from these people than my family! 😀

Finally I want to thank the people at Core Education for organising a fabulous and inspirational year. I’d like to especially thank Louise Taylor and Ann Hatherly for looking after us and our research so expertly and with so much care! Here’s my post about my Research project.

If you teach in New Zealand then whatever you do, apply for the 2017 Dr Vince Ham eFellowship!

Five Things that Transform a School

5 things that change a school-EduWellsSo, maybe you’re on Twitter, your colleagues are on Twitter, you’re excited about ideas around new learning and your Principal might mention these themes in staff meetings. So why, to often, is no real change happening in your school?

All this 21st century learning talk is happening but you’re still performing standardised tests, teachers are still teaching from the front of class and most are still predominantly isolated in their own classrooms. There’s probably a small group of “new learning” types who you know are trying the “Project-based-design-thinking-SAMR” type stuff but the school as a whole isn’t following their lead.

I recently came across a talk by Michael Fullan on making change. I thought this would be useful to share but it also reminded me of a TED talk by Linda Hill, which then led me to dig up 3 more TED talks which when combined might give schools and their leadership teams some real incentive and instruction for change. They also combine to indicate that progress will not be made with either top-down or bottom-up approaches but from a developing a new school culture towards shared, networked collaboration at all levels.

Here are the 5 videos:

  1. Michael Fullan: Leading quality change
  2. Linda Hill: How to manage for collective creativity
  3. Eddie Obeng: Smart failure for a fast-changing world
  4. Manuel Lima: A Visual History of Human Knowledge
  5. Barry Schwartz: The way we think about work is broken

Inspired by these talks, here are my …

Five THINGS THAT TRANSFORM A SCHOOL

  1. Your Principal is seen by the teachers as an equal participant in learning.
    This I got from Fullan in his talk he gave in New Zealand about transforming the Canadian school system. He highlights that a principal behaving as an active learner was a surprise key indicator in his research into schools making significant and positive change.
    .
  2. The teachers are aware of the impact of 21C opportunities and challenges
    Eddie Obeng’s talk is both fun and powerful in explaining how so many people didn’t notice when all the rules changed regarding how success happens, how organisations are run, how work gets done and what skills & knowledge are required to survive in a world where the new scale people of all ages operate under is global. If we want to say we are preparing young people for the world, we need to wake up and take note that many of them are already making use of this new interconnected world that many schools are yet to accept exists.
    .
  3. The school now operates as a network not hierarchy 
    Manuel Lima indicates how one of the changes that’s taken place without most schools noticing is that, after 2000 years, we’ve moved from seeing everything as a hierarchy and now view and operate everything in networks. This is also backed up in the Fullan talk. Lima’s talk will make your school consider if it operates as a 20th century hierarchy or a 21st century network. This is key to preparing both staff and students for the next 50 years. It also connects with Fullan’s theme about “social capital” or the quality of the group work and connections used by the teachers and with Obeng’s thought on everything now operating at a global scale, due to new online networks.
    .
  4. Schools are doing more than just handing out grades
    Complementing Obeng’s need for a new look at learning, Barry Schwartz introduces his concept of Idea Technology. He explains that one simple assumption introduced by Industrial Revolution removed all non-material incentives to work on a premise all people were inherently lazy and you wouldn’t get them to work without incentivising with pay. It made me think that schools adopted the factory model and it seemed only natural that you would need grades as payment for work without considering what work environment might be created to have people genuinely satisfied at school. A wonderful quote is : “The very shape of the institution within which people work, creates people who are fitted to the demands of that institution and denies people from the kind of satisfactions from their work that we take for granted.” If students work for tests and grades they are only prepared for exactly that environment. An environment that doesn’t exist outside academia.
    .
  5. School leaders have stopped ‘building visions’ and inspire people to follow it
    Linda Hill says “Innovation is not about solo genius but collective genius.” She goes on to outline how the most successful organisations build organisational structures and cultures that are “iterative, inter-related and quite frankly messy.” She also highlights that investing in all the people to give them time to develop and collaborate around new challenges and ideas. It is also critical to build a culture where everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, feels they might have something to offer in improving the operation of or output from the the organisation.
    .
    This is a huge issue for schools, where many teachers never bring problems to the leadership team because they don’t think it’s there place to suggest change. Schools are often not flexible or iterative enough to adapt to changes as they arise. A fixed-time vision for learning in a school issued from top-down can kill excellent ideas that surface during the period of time in question. What I took from Linda’s talk was that schools need to develop a staff culture for collaborative problem solving, discovery driven learning (and that’s the teachers we’re talking about) but run integrated decision making where everyone is confident to express ideas.

Adapt or lose your students

Schools lag further and further behind the pace of world change year-on-year and we need bold, aware, flexible leaders who know how to work with their community to collectively build a new culture of adapting to change to remain relevant. More children every year are finding alternative paths to early success and careers because their school was unable to adapt to their needs. Let’s stop wasting the potential of what might take place during a person’s school years and start operating the way the world does already.

P.S. This whole post and graphic were spun towards a positive rather than negative angle thanks to Lisa Donohue in Canada (@Lisa_Donohue). Thanks Lisa for your #Growth Mindset approach.

School Transitions – Kings and Queens reduced to Pawns

Leaders become followers: I spent last week visiting and discussing a range of schools in New Zealand from early childhood (ages 2-4) to high school. A theme arose around the expectations teachers had of their students in each school and how it seemed less dependent on age or ability and more on a year level’s seniority in the particular school.

School Transitions-EduWells

Let me explain …

In the final year of early childhood, elementary, middle school and high school the teachers’ expectations of students were always set high, often dealing with leadership & independent learning opportunities, even in early childhood centres! This is due to them being the most senior year in their current context. The problem was that when those same children switched to the next school they were treated in relation to their new context, as the babies, and had lower expectations placed on them. This was happening at each stage of school transition and expectations on the new arrivals were often set lower than in their previous year.

A major problem

This is a serious issue with the various divisions in education systems and that a lack of communication between the schools leads to damaging transitions. Students spend their education switching from treatment as leader to treatment as baby at least 3 times.

Just imagine if we were to build on the self-esteem of the previous schools expectations and allow the students to reach their true potential? At the moment, we are dragging them back on a number of occasions making it hard for more to succeed over the first two decades of their life

Examples from last week:

  • Leading 4 year-olds by the end of kindergarten discussing what leaders do and say. A design zone to improve the layouts of public buildings in the city.
  • Baby 5 year-olds as new entrants in elementary school sat in lines on the mat and asked to all follow teacher.
    • Leading 10 year-olds at end of elementary asked to man the reception for half a day every week and act as the face of the school and create a short documentary on a social issue in New Zealand for a national competition. Plan a 1 hour assembly from beginning to end.
  • Baby 11 year-olds at the beginning of middle school taught by a teacher who said “I don’t share class activity online because at only 11, what is there to share?”
  • Leading 14 year olds, pre-high school assessment, running community projects to look at developing new approaches to clean waterways and their impact on the local environment
  • Baby 15 year-olds starting high school exams told to listen to teacher and get ready for tests
  • Leading 18 year-olds told to aide the running of the school and organise school events.
  • Baby 19 year-olds jokingly told by college lecturers to “forget everything you learnt at schools!”

Request to all teachers

Make sure you have in-depth conversations with your new students regarding their previous experiences and have them consider their pre-existing strengths. As senior students in their last school, they might have been treated like adults. Let’s stop dragging them backwards and loosing out on the potential they might have achieved if they ever got to control their own learning programme.

Demonstrating leadership in the classroom

Technology and new societal hierarchies are changing the demands on teachers and thus the opportunities for and style in which teachers should demonstrate leadership. Expectations on young people have also developed as the world evolves increasingly quickly. I wonder how many CEOs are now below the age of 25? It’s now less about displaying mastery over content and skills and more about demonstrating successful leadership by nurturing a creative and challenging classroom environment.

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Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

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I have just read an excellent article in Time magazine by Julie Lythcott-Haims, where she summarises her book about the growing dependency children have on their parents. She explains how middle-class parenting, in particular, has developed in such a way it helps foster this dependency. Julie highlights that children increasingly expect to be fully catered for in any event or situation. To quote Julie: “We have to deliberately put opportunities for independence in our kids’ way.” This problem often gets discussed at my school in regard to students’ lack of initiative in the classroom but I can’t help but argue that the traditional classroom fosters just the same level of dependency.

Demonstrating leadership whilst not fostering dependency

student teams02In a classroom where every child carries out the same task for the same outcome, the temptation is to lead by command and control. After all, everyone has to tow the same line. The underlying issue in this context is that every student is dependent on the teacher for every step of the task. “Turn to page 52,” “Answer questions 5 to 10,” “Draw a mind-map of …” In these situations, a student’s need for initiative and decision-making is limited to the tight confines of the page, question or requested specific output.

Like anything, humans learn best through experience and this includes leadership. To demonstrate the more modern requirements for transformative leadership, teachers need to show mastery for adapting, evaluating learning goals and building productive working structures. These need to be open enough to let the students take control over the environment where true experience is gained in managing time, information, decision-making and social interactions. This has had very positive outcomes in my school where it seems self-respect has developed and the extra ownership over the work improves attitude and productivity.

Design-Thinking-iPadWellsSince opening up my classroom to structures like Project-based learning or Design Thinking exercises, I have seen what student leadership looks like. When it’s normal for students to be dealing with self-expression, task management and working relationships, it will amaze teachers as to what young people are capable of. Regardless of teaching model, the basics of: set negotiated goals, offer working structures; expect collaboration and let the students drive, are much more likely to develop the leaders of tomorrow.

This is important as the problems these young people will face are likely to require a more collaborative and global style of leadership. In my classroom, the quality of output but more importantly, the level of understanding and ability to lead a scenario have never been better.