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Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Impact on Practice - the 'So What'


It is hard to believe that here I am, on the tail end of what can only be described as one heck of a journey.  If you had told me back in November 2015 that this Postgraduate journey was going to be this busy and this 'fast and furious' I may have had second thoughts.   However, now that I am looking squarely at the conclusion, I am very glad I was unaware, and perhaps a little blasé about what the workload would look like, because I may have not taken the step forward.  Perhaps, in hindsight, a November start was a little ambitious - given it is one of the busiest times of the year, alongside the start, and the November intake is smack bang in the middle of all that.  Anyone who knows me well. knows that I thrive on a challenge, and 'fast and furious' does tend to suit my personality type!  It has been some of the best professional development I have ever had, and at the heart of why it has been so powerful, is because of how reflective it is (Karen F. Ostermand & Robert B. Kottkamp. 1993)
It is most interesting to reflect on what the changes are in my own practice.  I am finding it a little harder to pin this down succinctly as I suspect the changes have been subtle and ones that have quietly lifted my leadership around all things innovative, from one of supporter to active encourager.  I do know, I am faster to recognise and see innovative practice in my school - many of my teachers are implementing quite robust programmes exploring innovative practice, especially in relation to play based learning, negotiated pathways and personalised learning.  

It might seem odd, but what I have appreciated the most is the opportunity to explore innovative ideas, technologies and concepts in a practical, guided and uninterrupted way, without the clutter of the role I play in leadership.   Running a school is a massive juggling act, and there is very little room within that 'juggling act' to 'play' and 'experiment' with new concepts.    At times, more so in the first half of the Postgraduate course, I have simply loved the hands on component.  It was much like being a child in a toy shop, with the permission to play and experiment with the toys!  

What a privilege that was, and a real highlight!  I confess, the robots,  I thought, were very very cool, and I wanted to make a life sized one to run around with and drive into school with!   It really sang to my inner sci fi nerd!  As a leader, I often read about what schools are doing and the neat things teachers are doing with 21st Century tools like gamification and robotics, but now I have a more balanced understanding and I can see where it might play a role at our school.  Whilst I am not sure exactly how it relates back to my practice in practical terms, I do think the chance to explore and be hands on, has been beneficial to my practice in that I have a better understanding of concepts that were a little blurry before.  



Online interaction

During the second half of the postgraduate course, I got to interact online.  Whilst I enjoyed the face to face sessions - juggling the time and fitting it into my schedule was a little arduous - working online this second half has been less difficult.  I have enjoyed taking things at my own pace and when we have met face to face, relished the opportunity to connect with the people from the first half.  The most rewarding aspect has been the blog posts - I have neglected this blog during my studies so the opportunity to write here has been my highlight!  If I thought it would pay the mortgage it would be my next step - some kind of process where I was writing from an educational background with all things innovation, coaching and leadership mixed in - I can only imagine how amazing that might be!! 


Leading Innovation 

I have written much about innovation before on this blog, but what I think has been particularly beneficial for me has been how I have focussed on innovative practice in my assignments - often linking back to how our educational coaching journey can be strengthened to support and guide innovative practice in others.  This course has given me the time to reflect and the impetus to really focus on the things I think are important in my school.  Each assignment was through my leadership eyes, and I made sure that I worked on an area that was going to be useful to me as a leader, and to the people I work with back at school - otherwise, why bother? (Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R. 1993)  The only downside of this was that much of what I worked on was BIG - as a leader, it is hard to come up with a small thing because everything we do as leaders has an impact across multiple domains.  Learning to summarise all that fell before a particular intervention or assignment was a big challenge because nothing I focussed on was 'bite size'.  At times, I am sure it may have looked a little too big, but rest assured, all were strategically based and all have helped me strengthen key aspects of my practice around supporting collaboration, innovation and using coaching as the vehicle to drive it!  I have really enjoyed the opportunity to focus on things that I am both interested in and find important in terms of building capacity and capability (Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R. 1993).  A case in point would have to be the literature review - initially I was concerned about it, but now, I am very glad I did it, as I can see where the pathway is next! What a powerful insight that has been! 


The Kanban 

Oh what a clever but simple system this is!  Learning about the Kanban has been fabulous because it has been a practical tool that I took from the postgraduate 'classroom' and implemented with my middle and senior leaders.  Doing so allowed us to see what projects were on the go, what crossovers there were and what was being held up (or in our case, stuck in a traffic jam!).  Despite the fact I have been in leadership for quite sometime, the concepts of agile leadership had escaped my busy world, and I have found this to be quite a powerful area to explore.  


Networking

One of the most rewarding aspects of this journey has been working with colleagues from across primary and secondary, and cross contaminating our ideas and our understandings.  I am sure I have a far better idea of what is happening in our secondary schools (and the subsequent challenges they face) than I did prior to commencing this course.  Not only that, but I have made some great networks with people and met some amazing teachers.  How lucky are our schools to have such fabulous and inspiring teachers in them!!  I have enjoyed talking with and sharing alongside them, and their stories and their voice has given me perspectives that I have been able to apply within my own context.  



So where to now?

I am interested in taking the next step and looking at the Masters in Educational Practice.  The literature review revealed some interesting wonderings for me (and I am one of those educators you could call a 'curious  wonderer' - that is why this blog was set up in the first place - to have a place to explore the 'I wonders').  My literature review was on how coaching can facilitate innovative leadership and I discovered gaps that I want to explore a little further.  I am curious about the Communities of Learning - in particular how Communities are going to support their teachers as they step up into leadership roles.  In particular, those teachers who leave the classroom and are suddenly expected to lead clusters.  What support and training is in place for them to grow their leadership?  I know some clusters are using a coaching model, which I highly applaud, and is what I would do, so I am now wondering, how are they doing this, and what impact will it have?  How will it facilitate collaboration and innovation across their schools?  I feel this is both timely and something that spins my own personal educational wheels, so I am hoping to look at this going forward.  It would also have positive ramifications for my own school, as coaching becomes more embedded, it would assist us to look critically at what we are doing - any learnings could be applied to our context. Of course I have my research and self review to complete!  

In addition to my own journey, I am continuing to encourage my staff to do the Postgraduate work.  Completing this programme has been a positive step and as a result, I feel I am better placed to support teachers with implementing innovation and collaborative processes.  I now not only know more about what is classified as current pedagogy, but how it is applied in a practical sense .   I have always tried hard to keep abreast of what is current and what the future might hold, but as a leader, it can be easy to get 'stuck' in the day to day rut of status quo.   As I mentioned above, the hands on aspect was a real privilege and pleasure!  As we go forward into our Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) journey as a school I know this will be a great asset.  The more staff that also do this postgraduate work, the more of a critical mass we will have at our school - and imagine what might come from that!!  It is exciting and something I am relishing the thought of.  

Finally, what an opportunity - one I would encourage all teachers to embark upon.  It is an investment - personally and professionally.  To have the opportunity to explore and experience what is current in our practice is a real privilege and I am grateful I was able to do so.  If you are teetering on the brink of deciding to apply - just go ahead and do it - you will not regret it, of that I am sure!  I would like to take this time to acknowledge a colleague of mine who encouraged me to jump in and 'just do it' - in particular when she said 'how hard can it be - the first assignment is a video!'  Indeed!  To that colleague (you know who you are) thank you for encouraging me - I am glad I did!  We need to catch up soon - I may just owe you a coffee! 


References:   
Karen F. Ostermand & Robert B. Kottkamp. (1993) 
 Improving Schooling Through Professional Development

Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved on 7th May, 2015 from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files/RefPract/Osterman_Kottkamp_extract.pdf


Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/Registered-Teacher-Criteria-and-e-learning
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