Teach Tech Play

There I was, sitting in the school hall listening to our Principal during her welcome back to Term 2, when an overwhelming urge came over me to take out my phone and start tweeting her inspiring messages. But then I remembered – there is a time and a place for tweeting and Teach Tech Play came flooding back.

A prize! For the best tweet! The competition was on – my enthusiasm for the conference was overwhelming for my colleagues at 8am during school holidays but I knew this was going to be excellent PL. The atmosphere was alive with energy and as soon as Eleni stepped on stage to welcome us all, I was back in the learning frame of mind and ready to take risks and try something new.

Alice Keeler brought the room alive with her energy and I completely understood when she said she was feeling like a fluffy pink unicorn dancing on a rainbow. It made me realise that if we, as educators, are passionate and enthusiastic, our students will not only want to learn but also challenge themselves to make the most out of every opportunity. Her videos were engaging and her passion for Google reminded me why I was a teacher – sometimes we need this when we are feeling snowed under with the amount of work we have to do.

I was then ready to head to my first workshop; the hardest part of the two days was choosing where to go without experiencing the fear of missing out! I decided that Mike Reading’s ‘Using Technology Better’ workshop would be relevant to me at the present time and I couldn’t have been more inspired! Mike gave practical advice to ensure that we are using technology appropriately and effectively as a complement to our already strong teaching methods. The ‘Three Pillars’ – Access, Professional Development and Confidence –  gave me many ideas to take back to my school and allowed me to reflect on my use of technology in my classroom.

I can’t write a reflection on Teach Tech Play without mentioning the delicious food supplied by Ivanhoe Grammar. The morning tea and lunch provided were a great addition to the conference and it was wonderful to have a space to share ideas with colleagues and meet new people.

Following workshops on day one included a collaborative session hosted by No Tosh where we explored taking on different personas to consider questions from another perspective. This is something I am definitely going to use with my students very soon indeed! Bec Spink inspired me to integrate more coding into my teaching and learning more about Seymour Papert – I see a project coming on! The final workshop of the day – ‘Stop, Collaborate and Listen’ – was an introduction for me to the Microsoft Suite – so much to learn!

The first day ended with another inspirational Key Note – Ryan Trainor and I truly couldn’t believe the day was over. My mind was buzzing with ideas and my phone was well and truly on its last legs with all the tweeting – an early night for me to prepare for another exceptional day.

Day two was certainly not a letdown – dare I say better than day one? Mark Anderson opened the day and once again, I was ready to learn. Mark’s personality added humour, grace and passion to the room with his KISS  (keep it simple silly) analogy resonating with me. There were so many ideas from this one-hour session that I was already taking home more than I imagined I would.

Suan Yeo was a definite highlight of the two days for me. Google Expeditions have such potential and I can really see a future for exploring our world first hand. I was truly amazed at the potential and have since purchased five for my classroom in the hope that we can trial some world-wide adventures.

After his inspiring Key Note, I decided to listen to Mark once again and learn about Adobe apps. Wow! The ability to create powerful posts with Adobe Post is such an addition to my already strong ability to communicate with my school community. I then ended the day with two sessions by Alice Keeler – Sheets and Slides. As a recently qualified Google Educator, level one, I wanted to brush up on my skills and advance my learning in order to progress to level two. I wasn’t disappointed.

The day ended with some student digital leaders sharing their experience and the handing out of yet more prizes. Despite not winning the ‘Best Tweet’ prize, I was not disappointed, the conference had exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend that all educators attend this phenomenal conference next year, I know I will be there with bells on!

 

 

Change

I have today been inspired to write my next blog post after a truly remarkable talk I heard earlier in the week. Richard Gerver came along to a professional learning event at my work place and I sat through his one hour talk completely encapsulated. This resulted in my going away to buy and read his book – Change.

The book has given me food for thought on a number of areas and has inspired me to reflect on many aspects of both my personal and professional life. As a teacher, my job is everything, I live and breathe teaching and never really stop thinking about the next idea that will engage and motivate my students. I have been inspired to ensure I know who I am not only professionally, but personally too – and it is ok if they are different! After completing the first chapter, I found that I went to grab a note book and pen and reread the introduction to this book. I knew from the first page that it was one of those books for which I would immediately connect.

One thing I love about reading books related to my career, is when the author recommends or mentions other books to read. I have added at least three new books to my wish list and feel inspired to get online and annoy the receptionist at my school with the never ending deliveries from online book stores. The only thing that saddens me is the decisions I have to make in which book to read next!

The concept of “trying new things” is the principal element I am going to take from this book. After a year of studying my Masters, I have become rigid in my routines. I would work through the week, quite often 12 hour days, and my weekends would be spent reading and studying for my next assignment. I would get up on a Saturday morning, go on the same walk, eat breakfast in the same cafe, come home and sit in the same spot to study. I have now nearly completed my first ‘study free’ month and I have to admit, I am finding the new unstructured routine challenging. However, a new wave of motivation has hit! Change is good and I will challenge myself to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. Richard made a suggestion of going to see a movie alone – something I have never done but is now on my ‘trying new things’ list.

Richard has challenged me to consider my ‘brand.’ What do I stand for? What are my passions and interests? This is a harder question to answer than you might originally think. I challenge you to consider this and create your personal brand for how you want others to perceive you. This idea was addressed during my recent studies in educational leadership and is something which had slipped my mind in the madness of trying to write 15000 words on the future of education. I now wish I had heard Richard speak before submitting my paper as my ideas have developed and I have been inspired to think a little differently. Perhaps that is what is good about change, only months later, my viewpoints and ideas have developed, not necessarily for the better, but in considering different viewpoints we allow ourselves to adapt and be flexible.

I encourage all educators to read this book. I have personally been inspired to think about myself and who I want to be, to challenge myself, try new things and make an effort to get to know people who I may be threatened by or who are the polar opposite of who I am. I will trust in those around me who give me advice and will treasure those whom I can be honest with and who I can share my feelings without censoring them.

Change is a powerful tool and it will be my goal to not only accept change but to embrace and encourage it for the better good of myself and my students.

The importance of Empathy in Educational Leaders

I am currently undertaking a Masters in Educational Management at the University of Melbourne and a recent assignment asked me to consider various leadership theories and look upon well-known leaders to assess their styles.

Whilst undertaking research into the successful leadership of the South African President, Nelson Mandela, it became apparent that empathy played an integral part of his leadership style. Contemplating this aroused an interest in the importance of empathy in educational leaders of today.

I completed an online assessment to analyse my own leadership style and upon completion, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my top strength was empathy. Now my mind really was alive, the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were finally falling into place. Mandela had inspired me to think further about this intriguing trait and I was finding that I personally had an element of empathy in my personality and I wanted to analyse the connection to leadership.

It became apparent to me that empathy is much more than being compassionate or sensitive towards another and many of us claim to be empathic without truly understanding the meaning. School principals and executive leaders communicate and interact with a wide variety of people on a daily basis. Students, teachers, parents and the wider community make up a large percentage of their daily interactions and positive relationships are imperative. Does empathy make a difference to the success of our leaders? Can empathy be learnt? Is empathy an important trait in order to lead and influence the many people we encounter in education?

The research undertaken into the importance of empathy has led me to develop my own Model of Positive Empathy for Leaders. Several characteristics are commonly mentioned in the research into the importance of emotions and considering the feelings of others. There are six in particular for which I feel are a true indication of a harmonious culture.

Empathy Heart

Figure 1: Self Developed – Model of Positive Empathy for Leaders (Glenton 2015)

(Graphics constructed by K. McClintock 2015)

This model demonstrates that having empathy is not enough. Successful leaders should act positively upon this empathy in order to develop the six traits displayed. If a school leader does this, they will ultimately develop a harmonious culture. The six characteristics will now be explained further.

  • Empowerment

Transformational leaders empower their followers to feel that their contributions are valued. It is my belief that if we empower those who work with us, we will ultimately develop a positive culture.

  • Motivation

If we can enable our staff to be motivated to be the best they can be and be passionate for their work, emotions are positive and staff feel content and that they are making a difference and will be open to new challenges. This creates a culture of optimism.

  • Persuasion (to follow the shared vision)

Many marketing websites offer techniques on how to empathically communicate with customers to lure them in. It is my opinion that Mandela used the art of persuasion as one of his key leadership traits which ultimately assisted in his success.

  • Awakening

Awakening describes the ability of a leader to enable their staff to have a clear understanding and belief of their vision and be inspired to act upon it.

  • Trust

Leaders who display empathy and act positively to improve the working conditions of their staff will ultimately develop a culture of trust. School leaders should build relationships inside the school community.

  • High morale

Having high morale enables people to be encouraged and enthusiastic about their job which in turn encourages them to complete their job to the best of their ability.

  • Harmony

If these six characteristics are fostered amongst staff, it is my belief that this seventh trait will automatically develop. A harmonious culture in the institution will, amongst other things, assist in increasing student outcomes which is the ultimate goal of a school leader.

 

If school leaders can truly understand how their staff and students feel, they can then take positive actions to improve their working conditions and ultimately achieve positive student outcomes.

The model proposed suggests an idea for leaders to consider when attempting to adjust the culture of their organisation or adapt their own leadership to becoming more transformational in their approach. It is apparent from the research undertaken that understanding the emotions of our teachers and students has a positive impact on performance. We must consider, however, that there are many influences on leadership and the most successful leaders adapt their style to suit the situation. I propose that by simply considering developing empathy as a lifelong skill, and positively acting on these emotions, can only assist a leader in becoming more influential and to be considered as someone who has positively impacted the lives of others.

Flamingo Teacher

 

New Years Resolutions

I am not someone who has really made new years resolutions in the past, or if I have, they have been very short lived. I have therefore decided that writing a blog is going to be my goal of 2016.

I am a 33 (soon to be 34) year old primary school teacher, living in Melbourne, Australia. I moved here in 2010 to experience life in another country. I have been a teacher for just over 11 years and have mostly taught Prep (Foundation Year) and Year 4.

This year, I have been completing my Masters in Educational Management and I have learnt a great deal about myself and others. I am also a Google Educator and feel passionately about integrating technology in the classroom.

In my personal life, I am a passionate reader. Reading is my escape from the stresses of life. I am also an avid walker and lover of food. In 2013, I went on a life changing journey which saw me lose close to 50kg. Being health conscious is now an integral part of who I am.

This blog will combine education with health tips and my passion for reading. Hopefully you will enjoy some of what I have to say and might even learn something along the way.

Flamingo Teacher