Making your classroom an incubator for global citizens.

Be it a classroom, a chat room or a war room, when do people choose to contribute to a situation? When you think about it for a moment, it’s not hard to work this out from experience. My first thoughts are:

  • Trusting relationships with the other stakeholders
  • A sense that:
    • you have something to offer
    • your contribution might succeed
    • one learns from any failures
  • Confidence to:
    • present your ideas to others
    • communicate and relate to new people

student teams01Developing these attributes and skills takes time. If you want to empower your students to feel they can use their school time to develop as contributing global citizens, your class lessons and projects need to have the above list as a foundation. You must also allow time for this development and not expect to be able to ‘teach’ it in a week or so. The confidence to contribute is not some thing one learns but something one develops through experience and feedback. To achieve these attributes, your class activities need to regularly be student driven, where the learners work together under expectations that they, not the teacher, need to formulate the best approach. They also need to develop habits in seeking and making productive connections with the right people, wherever they are in the world. Here’s my previous post on “What is Student-centred learning?

A networked world

What Teacher am IAnother understanding (that can be taught) is how young individuals are currently connecting globally to instigate projects and create products that are making a real difference. The examples below will showcase how becoming an active global change-maker, or a member of a change-network, can become a real possibility for anyone willing to purposely connect with others. It’s your classroom’s job to develop that will in your learners.

YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE NEW EXPECTATIONS OF THEMSELVES:

Book banner.001
Highlight to students that being a global citizen is an awareness that one exists as a node on a network. How important one is as a node is up to the individual but every node has an important role to play.
I have found that showcasing how young people are connecting to online ‘tribes’, centred on a particular issue or topic, and how they learn from that tribe through feedback on their contributions, inspires my students. This is how much of today’s global citizens operate and how much of the significant positive change takes place.

lemon aid

What difference can I make?

The more you teach your class as one unit, the less your students feel like individual learners and more importantly, individuals who might impact on global issues and change. To truly become an incubator for global citizens, the teachers job in the 21st century is to cultivate an empowering learning environment where students expect to take charge of both prescribed content and global impact, through their own development of networks, projects and feedback loops. This, like anything, takes practice and from as early as possible, this is the primary role of a 21st century classroom.

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Richard Wells Author pic SMLAuthor: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12
Deputy Principal in a New Zealand 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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Book preview 01: A Learner’s paradise by Richard Wells

coverWow! I wrote and published a book! I was asked to write the book by edTechTeam after an online chat where I outlined what I had presented about NZ education at an event in Miami. My aim in writing the book is to inspire educators around the world to implement significant change based on the amazing initiatives that are forging adaptive, future-focused education in New Zealand. In this series of book previews, I’ll choose and blog my favourite examples from the book of how NZ systematically grows it’s educators and schools collaboratively as a nation. Thanks to those who’ve already bought it. BUY IT HERE!

Preview1: Teaching as Inquiry

The topic of professional development can spark conversations that go on for hours (Trust me, I’ve sat through hundreds of planning meetings). You can spend one meeting after the next discussing how to approach professional development as a school: Who needs what? Should there be elements of compulsory training? And the most frightening and misguided question: Which tech should we be using? In all the schools I worked in during the first decade of my teaching career, these marathon meetings led to minimal success.

Even today, many teachers’ vision for how learning should look is based on their own school experiences. Some see professional development as a sporadic series of (often – disappointing) events that they choose to or are asked to attend. What is most sad to me is when I meet student-centred teachers who, when providing training to other staff, do not use their normal classroom techniques because they know the audience of teachers are expecting and comfortable with the stand-and-deliver format. It is certainly not a bad thing that the number of education conferences continues to grow. But the attendees at these events tend to be from the minority of teachers who have developed some type of growth mindset. The majority of teachers I’ve worked with in schools, both in the UK and here in New Zealand, have yet to attend such an event and many wouldn’t see much need to.

Remember, the New Zealand system is fantastic, but Kiwi teachers are still coming to terms with it. The question for any education system, then, is this: How do we make having a growth mindset the norm amongst educators? In truth, it takes time to develop a culture where growth is the expectation, but including a systematic approach to developing this mindset as part of your national curriculum document is a good first step.

A National Growth Mindset

It is with great pleasure I can tell you that New Zealand is systematically solving the issue of nationwide, authentic professional development. The solution comes from making every teacher accountable for designing and reporting a personal inquiry into their own classroom practice. This is done through an action research model we call Teaching as Inquiry (TAI). Asking teachers to challenge and reflect upon their teaching automatically makes it more relevant and personal than if they were following a mandated lesson plan—or even simply following their own lesson plans from the previous year.

Teaching-as-inquiry_reference

This call for continual personal reflection and professional development is the opposite of any form of one-size-fits-all approach. The trick is to make teachers accountable for sharing their reflections with, at a minimum, others in their school and, more preferably, the world. The style of learning and area of growth targeted are chosen by each individual teacher and are expected to produce a measurable challenge to some aspect of their teaching. The purpose of TAI is to instil in teachers the belief that professional development is, and should be, instigated by the individual. It also promotes the idea that development and learning is continuous and not isolated to planned events.

Learning is personal

teacher chatThe best professional development comes from reflecting on one’s own practice and applying measurable challenges to one’s own teaching. It is a practice that empowers teachers to keep and improve the good stuff whilst throwing out the things that don’t make a measurable difference to learning in their classroom or school. Teachers are then encouraged to share those measurable challenges or inquiries with other educators, be it in one-to-one meetings with a “critical” friend or on a blog, as a growing number of Kiwi teachers now do.

TAI is a practice that is successfully developing a culture amongst teachers in New Zealand for collaborative reflection and shared growth. This culture, in turn, helps to build trust within the system as teachers are more accountable and transparent in what they are doing and trying to achieve. The sharing of TAIs also provides a library of ideas and resources to any educator willing to tap into the blogs and wikis created by their fellow educators. I created this diagram of the SITTI model to show how the TAI process fits with schools’ professional development goals and creates a vision for learning that includes everyone.

SITTI Model-EduWells

Want more great ideas and initiatives from New Zealand? My book A Learner’s Paradise by Richard Wells is full of them. Available now on Amazon.com

Grow your career like a rockstar

There is ongoing development in New Zealand of our “Teaching as inquiry” model. It was added to our new national curriculum in 2007 as an expectation that teachers formally record inquiries into aspects of their practice which they felt required challenge, research and improvement. This was quite a new mindset for the any profession to realise. Self-development is often an alien concept to generations brought up on formal education where learning is delivered at you. I’ve lost count of how many teachers have uttered the words “When will we get PD on this?” The information age is also new and so the world now expects people to rely less on face-to-face contact with experts. The self-driven learning mindset also matches New Zealand’s preferred inquiry-based learning model for students. But the understanding that one drives one’s own learning is crucial for another reason.

Employment Gigs

Employment “Gigs”

Gig: noun; plural noun: gigs
a live performance by a musician or group playing popular or jazz music.
a task or assignment.
“working on the sea and spotting whales seemed like a great gig”

I was listening to the excellent Curious Minds podcast by Galye Allen and she was interviewing Karie Willyerd on how to future proof your career. Karie used the term “gig” when referring to a job to emphasise how people were now viewing employment roles. This struck me as an excellent term to use with my students.

“It’s important to picture your future career as a set of music gigs. The current average means that each Gig (job) will last less than 4 years and will require a particular set of songs (skills). Like a musician, it is critical to write and learn new songs and instruments to ensure you stay fresh for future gigs. Like a rock star, you need to learn how to work with others and adapt / improvise during each gig. 
Develop this mindset and you’ll shine a rock star!” – @EDUWELLS

Job satisfaction & technology

I’ve blogged before on discussing careers with students in the plural and not singular tense. It is well documented that the job market now is increasingly fluid. This is for two reasons:

  1. People of all ages (Karie was quick to discourage the myth that it’s only millennials) now expect more satisfaction from work and often move on when it’s not forthcoming,
  2. Technology now significantly changes the employment landscape every year, predominantly with a lessening of available posts.

It is time for teachers to realise why both “teaching as inquiry” and growth mindset are so important but also why it is critical we pass on this approach to our students, who arguably need it more than we do!

Factory education fails everyone

Reminding teachers of what it’s really like to be a student in school is one of my favourite professional pass times. I was presenting at a conference recently and at 3pm, many teachers were talking about being overloaded with information and how tired they were. I highlighted that this was exactly what it’s like to be at school except they had not even been asked for any outcomes or work and would not have to do this for the following 200 days! They all agreed this was good news for them. But what about our students?

Thanks to my friend Danielle Myburgh for telling me to get on with producing a Factory Education poster!

Factory Education-EduWells

 

IS School is still a burden?

My presentation (Slides below) was on Learner agency: the purpose, control and ownership students do or don’t feel they have over their learning. I started with a 1957 Chuck Berry line: ““Soon as three o’clock rolls around, you finally lay your burden down” I highlighted how 40 years of almost zero development had led Bart Simpson in the 1990s to share the common joy of : “woo hoo! Snow Day!” I asked the audience of about 50 teachers to fill out 2 Google form questions to confirm if they thought the school day was still a “burden.” Even with a massive majority of elementary school teachers, there was still a 50% agreement that it was. I’m sure this figure would have been higher with high school teachers.

Top students hide their grievances

3 examples I gave of academically successful students not rating the school expericene as positive, regardless of being able to comply with it, were:

  1. A top grade 7 student regularly achieving a top 3 in class tests and projects, excelling at two sports and working as a library assistant, expressing most mornings how she did not want to go to school due to it being “really boring!” This was the last student her teachers would expect to have this attitude towards school. What must the less engaged be saying?
  2. The head girl and head boy in a high school both starting the respective ‘high achievers’ speeches with implications that their success was in spite of school not because of it. The top female student highlighted that she had been a well supported high achiever from day one and school had been a great opportunity to show how her already positive approach to challenges could yield great results. The male top student semi-joked that making his bed every morning had started his day with a sense of pride and achievement meaning his self-worth would approach the required compliance in school more positively.

Employers and Universities share their GRIEVANCES

  1. “teenagers are leaving school lacking basic skills” – UK (Source)
  2. “School leavers are not meeting the needs of the New Zealand workplace, according to an employer survey.” – NZ (Source)
  3. “… despite being fully eligible to attend college, they are not ready for postsecondary studies” – US (Source)

My presentation also included 3 examples of the 100s of articles and reports you can find to show employers, universities and even parents are commonly under impressed or disappointed by the motivation and skill set held by school leavers. I highlighted that Malcolm Gladwell’s Ten thousand hour rule, would expect that after 12 or 13 years of 5 hours a day experience, students would be extremely motivated and skilled to make significant impact on the world. The fact that they are commonly unmotivated and lacking confident to tackle situations without significant guidance and scaffolding, means we have them practicing the wrong things.

Tackle Deja Vu with “VuJa de!”

I came across “Vuja De” when a friend of mine, Steve Mouldey introduced me to the Curious Minds Podcast interview with Adam grant.

‘Vuja De’ definition: “The vuja de mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least. It means not traveling through life on automatic pilot.” – Bob Sutton – ‘Scaling Up for Excellence’

It is time for all school leaders to question every aspect of deja vu within their professional life. This is best explained in the way that comedians take a seemingly fresh look at everyday occurrences and by highlighting them, make us laugh out loud. This type of perspective is required if school leaders are to ever see that what they think is being successful within their factory school model is not serving either the children or their future.

Here are my slides:

Does your classroom put the cart before the horse?

Most people assume formal education is a process of individual development from being heavily assisted at the age of 5, moving on to only requiring guidance and eventually achieving full independence and confidence to tackle one’s own learning and growth. The sad truth is that most teachers of 18-year-olds will tell you that their students remain heavily dependent on constant guidance and support. I produced the following graphic to sum up the three aforementioned stages and I wonder which one best depicts the average teenager in your education system.

Horse & Cart-EduWells

Whether, as a teacher, you are tackling a prescribed set of content, have the luxury of devising your own, or even better, are negotiating the tasks and content with your students, it is worth considering who is doing most of the work. You can’t develop a top footballer without allowing them to practice, try, fail, and try again. The same goes for what we want from our students. Most classrooms are so busy avoiding wrong answers they maintain and develop dependent learners who check with teacher before making any step forward.

Where do ‘good’ students come from?

The top students in any school, through family, sporting or performance experiences, are normally high achievers in spite of school and not because of it. They have arrived at the school having regularly experienced situations where their decision-making mattered, they were or remain responsible for for the success of activities, and the possibility of failure was common. This is exactly the conditions that the average school classroom avoids and thus does not develop the average student into a genuinely motivated, confident citizen. At school, I was very much an average student and can confirm that any motivation and responsible decision making was left until after university. I was kept safe from such matters by the education system I went through and spent my twenties working out how to perform effectively in teams and get projects completed on time. 

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“…But they get the grades”

Please don’t confuse success in exams and grade acquisition for genuine achievement. Many, if not most top grades around the world are achieved through targeted teacher coaching. Coaching only tuned for the specific prescribed challenges of the assessment at hand. This only results in what universities and employers report as school leavers lacking initiative, motivation and professional skills. This is not educational success by any stretch of the imagination. You will still get your grades if you devote time in early years to letting learners experience managing their own learning as a norm and not spoon feeding content to them. This will develop people who have their own coping mechanisms when it comes to exams later.

The Classroom is for developing people

The habits of many schools hand the responsibility of growing the person to extra-curricular activities and not the classroom where the students spend most of their time. The number of times I’ve heard the words ‘all-round education’ in discussion of sports or cultural events and at the same time the classroom is reduced to only a place in which information is passed from teacher to student. Many adults make the mistake of thinking “I went to school and turned out alright.” But when challenged they will conclude that any confidence or initiative they have has been developed post-school not during. This I feel is a massive missed opportunity that many non-high achievers miss out on.

It’s time to make the classroom as challenging as the sports field or theatre stage. Make the students more accountable for what takes place and whether or not it succeeds. Shift the responsibility from teacher to student for organising how the current challenges get tackled.  It may go wrong initially by like football players, they’ll get better and better until they are ready to face their final school challenges independently.

Play safe and start early

This does not happen overnight. What I propose here is a vision for your school in 5 years time, not tomorrow. Don’t dismiss this because you can’t picture your more senior students handling the responsibility of devising their own plans for learning. If they haven’t had the prior practice they’re not going to take charge tomorrow. You have to build the expectations and competencies over a 5 year process. Rethink the learning environments that your school’s youngest learners experience and let the current students live out the teacher-directed education they were introduced to as much as they need to. Focus on what your school will offer the next intake and how it will develop them to tackle the content without it being spoon fed from day 1.

What is Student-Centred Learning?

A recent job vacancy for a leading position in a New Zealand school asked for a focus on genuine student-centred learning. What fascinated me was their use of the word ‘genuine’. My experience shows me that confusion, misinterpretation, and a lack of exposure to relevant examples, means that too many educators do not understand true student-centric learning. Many schools feel under pressure to be implementing such models but often only change surface level elements whilst proclaiming they have achieved it.

What is student centred learning-eduwells

Why being student-centric matters

Let’s cut to the chase. This matters because we all know that young people (including ourselves many moons ago) would rather stay at home than go to school. If students tell people that they like school, what they’re often picturing as they say it are things such as hangin’ with friends, music productions or the sports events. When students are asked what their favourite part of school is, they rarely mention anything that takes place in a classroom. I recently asked 3 boys, who had moved from elementary to junior high, what was positive about the change. They actually agreed on “moving between rooms” as the first improvement that sprung to mind. That’s right folks, their best part of the daily school experience is the brief time spent in the corridors! All you have to do is endure an hour with one teacher and then you get a break for 5 minutes before the next.

The New Zealand education review office that runs quality assurance checks on schools’ practice recently reported on 68 schools that :

“Students in all schools were experiencing an assessment- driven curriculum and assessment anxiety. In many schools the only people who understood the overall curriculum and the competing demands on them were the students.” – ERO “Success in secondary school

The constant amongst most schools that drives this pessimistic view held by students is that they rarely control any significant part of their day. As an example of how common this view is, I can even use teachers to prove my point. I’ve worked in four schools that have all held teacher training days. During a number of those days, sessions have been prearranged to showcase tools or pedagogies and staff have moved from one session to another. Many of these days have received feedback that they were not very useful. A recent example I experienced broke the trend and offered longer sessions of self-directed time for colleagues from the same department to work on their own material. The feedback included:

“Best staff training days so far, we got to work on our own stuff and had time to get things done. It was great to work with other departments” – Teachers

Many teachers agree that student-directed learning makes sense when it comes to their own learning but this rarely translates to their approach to teaching.  Releasing control is always difficult, so I thought I’d do my best to outline some practical questions and advice from my own experience that will hopefully make some teachers reconsider their need for absolute control of when, what and how learning takes place.

1. TIME(TABLE) TO LEARN

Timetabling the day has more impact than you think. As the teachers highlighted above, how the day is divided often shapes it’s potential to engage people in learning. A comment by a New Zealand principal has confused many educators I’ve shown it to:

“The timetabling I’ve grown to love is that which subjugates the timetable to its role of representing the vision and values of the school and bringing life to the curriculum design principles that emerge from the vision and values – a timetable that is flexible and responsive with the needs of the learner firmly at the centre.” – Mauri Abraham (NZ Principal)

The idea of a timetable representing the vision for the school confuses many. The way you allocate time indicates your school’s priorities and thus your values. This is because teachers who are used to a day centred on the their needs don’t view the timetable as an enabler for students to learn but as another mechanism for managing them.

One major requirement for learning is reflection. Hardly any schools timetable for it.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”
― John Dewey

Students are normally given no time to reflect on recent learning before they are thrown into another unrelated lesson (High school) or topic (elementary).

2. RELEASE CONTROL

If your timetable is focused on the needs of the learners rather than teachers then you’ll be free to let the students shape a great deal of your teachers’ day. One issue that both restricts student experience and makes it less engaging  is that the whole day is often prearanged by the teachers for the teachers. Where to be, what to look at and what to aim for has been predicted and so actually demands less challenge. Learning happens when best when the learner is immersed in the experience. To truly immerse, a learner must have input into that experience.

Compliance is not learning, even if it results in good grades. Teachers should arrive at work wondering how they will be needed, not how students will conform to their pre-arrangements. I’ve always thought that the prescribed experience of school that teachers experienced in the 20th century is to blame for so many not taking ownership of their own professional development. Many are still waiting for the imaginary PD timetable and activities to be written for them. I wouldn’t want to think we were breeding another generation of people who wait for learning to be arranged.

3. allow technology to reach its potential

Technology is not essential, but it helps. A large number of schools are now using technology but teachers’ prearranged learning and goals restrict the experience for students in what potential there is to explore and discover with technology and the internet. Rather than learn, they are asked to use technology to achieve prearranged targets. This does not allow them to experience the same real learning process that people do outside classrooms.

Most young people are used to exploring and contributing to online discussion and events in their personal life. Many schools don’t make the most of this and create an abstract environment where study material has already been sorted and the path a discussion will follow is already well trodden by previous classes. Access to technology should be an empowering opportunity and I hope teachers ask students to surprise them with what the can achieve rather restrict expectations with rigidly structured tasks.

4. Students owning their assessment

Involving students in the design of assessment is both crucial to engagement and exactly what any learning involves when people outside schools undertake a challenge. If adults attempt to learn anything they start by setting criteria for how they will know they’ve reached their goal, be it piano or a google chrome extension. This is also something we generally deny students in schools. They are normally adhering to someone else’s idea of success. In doing this, teachers and schools remove an important personal connection to the learning experience.

I have experimented much in the last 3 years by challenging students to consider what marks success within each task they undertake. I have been surprised by how engaging this activity is for my students. It might be because it’s a novelty in relation to other learning they do but one group, for example, extended the assessment design to a full week of lessons without any encouragement from me!

Even if you are working in a high school and assessments set by high authorities. Ensure your students have time to review the course demands and construct their own list of requirements. To some teachers, this will seems like a waste of time, when they have already done it for them. But again, I stress that it is part of true learning and to remove this step only creates an environment of compliance and the skill of learning is not developed by the students.

Like reflection, considering one’s own success criteria is an important part of the learning process and schools should reintroduce this if learning is ever to be considered as authentic and meaningful.

Don’t just state your vision but be it

Many schools will state that they want students to be independent, responsible and confident. But if your students are walking into a school environment where every aspect is prearranged, you remove the need to be independent, responsible and confident about anything significant. We say practice makes progress, well let’s start allowing students to practice what we want them to become.

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.

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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.