Thursday, 27 July 2017

The good leader is the one who knows the answer at the end of the meeting.

I have just finished enjoying reading Michael Fullan's little book  --
I say 'little' on purpose because here is a book that is incredibly easy to read and very short -- just 70 pages  - unlike other serious tomes on education that can be difficult to to make your way through even with the best of intentions.

I will write more about this book but the line that has captured my imagination is the one in the title. "The good leader is the one who knows the answer at the end of the lesson."

The skills that are required  if that is the case  are many and varied and not ones that are usually taught.

Education HQ Article

1) Goals
It was our aim from the start that every student who entered the school would experience the dignity of being a valued learner at the school. We started with the mantra  "It's not if you are bright it's how you are bright"  We knew what we did not want and that was to create a school where some students felt more entitled than others and where some students felt as if school was just not for them. We wanted every student to feel success as a learner and to be involved in regular conversations about their learning with teachers who really cared for them and knew them well and could encourage them to believe in their success.
We also wanted a school where teachers could learn and grow and become leaders.
2) Have we achieved the goals ?
While I always feel that goals are simply works in progress, if you ask any student at the school they will tell you that the best thing about the school is the relationship with the teachers. I feel very heartened by that because that is what really matters. I am inspired by the way our teachers and leaders take time with students and care for them.
A great number of our teachers have continued to study through University and have brought their learning into the practices at the school. We have a professional inquiry model that supports teachers to continue to learn and grow and I feel very proud of that.

3) Highlights
The highlights for me continue and are mostly bound up in what I have learnt and what I continue to learn.
I have learnt that architecture really does influence behaviour. It is our experience that having open plan learning spaces encourages the students to behave well, mindful of the other classes around them.
I have learnt that when you give students space to learn and grow in their own way (in the impact projects) and not have the limits that the curriculum and assessment places, that their learning can be extraordinary and unexpected.
I have learnt that when senior leaders work intentionally and rigorously  with their middle leaders that both parties grow and develop in ways that create new knowledge.
I have learnt that teachers can learn and grow when they have a professional inquiry model that demands that they challenge their assumptions and collaborate professionally with each other.

4) Unique things about the school
There are many unique aspects to the school eg  this is a senior school so we just have students in Years 11, 12 and 13, we have just 3 periods a day, we have extended tutorial groups which the students stay in for the three years they are here, we have open plan learning spaces, Wednesday is a dedicated day for our students to design and develop their own projects, students choose what they wear to school, students address the teachers by their first names, we have learning dialogues with parents, our teachers are in communities that are not subject based, we have a unique learning model.

5) My style
My style of leadership is to create leaders around me. I want to be the leader that creates the platform on which leaders can grow and develop. To be honest, I always end up being a bit in awe of the people I work with.

6) Advice.
Focus on what matters  - which is how each child is experiencing learning in your school - how each child is feeling nurtured in your school.
Cast a critical eye over traditional practices that stand in the way of any student feeling valued as a successful learner and set out to replace them with healthy practices.
Be a leader of learning (everything else you can learn when you have to). Keep up to date with current research and inspire your teachers to do the same.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Building Learning Communities Conference     BOSTON

I would like to thank the Board of Trustees for the endorsement for Miranda and me to attend the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston.

The focus was on the use of technology to transform education. Currently technology is being used in classrooms to do simply more of the same. Teachers still teach the content of a subject, the students learn what the teachers see as important and then turn that content into assignments that the teachers approve or not. Computers are being used as $1000 pencils.

The speakers we heard

Alan November
Eric Mazur
Homa Sabad Tavanger
Mike Pennington
Dr. Ross Kasun
Robert Goodman
David Malan
Linda Luikos

Recommended books

Too Big to know  --- David Weinberger
The Age of the Smart Machine
Problem Solving  -- Mitch Resnick

Recommended sites

101 Questions (Check Dan Maier TED talk)
XQ America
Prism (self asessment tool)
Wolfram Alpha
El Sistema


!) Global empathy

2) Opportunity for teachers to learn more about their students.

3) Process change.

4) Whole class learning.

5) Developing use of questions.

6) Student motivation.

7) Students as a major resource in the classroom.

8) Authentic audience.


Student annotations are a window into the brain.

The least used resource in the classroom is the student

Whoever owns the assessment owns the learning.

We have to learn with and from the world as if our lives depend on it.

We increasingly need to navigate a complex world.

Be a friend to the whole human race.

That worksheet changed my life  - said no student ever.

Feedback is not feedback if it is not actionable.

My candle is not diminished by sharing my spark.

Alan November discussed the leverage that technology can have in building global empathy. He talked about global empathy as being the skill most desired by employers yet the most lacking in applicants for jobs.

Technology allows students to communicate with students all round the world and Alan could give us examples of when this happens now. Finding global perspectives in an authentic way is the best and possibly the only way to build that empathy - seeing things through someone else's eyes. He challenged us to take any assignment and make it global. HOMA SABET TAVENGER was even more emphatic. He used the expression - 'We need to learnwith and from the world as if our livesdepend on it (because they do ).He suggested there was a moral imperative to connect the dots between local and global.

He also talked about replacing the word technology with the words information and communication. Information, he says, is the bit the teachers should be doing very little of. He talked about the wasted effort of teachers answering questions in classrooms that students can easily find the answers to on their devices. Avoid that at all costs, he says. The role of the teacher is far more sophisticated than that. He recommended that teachers ask the students  "What do you do to learn? What are your favourite websites to learn from ? What is your favourite tool of expression ?"

He challenged us to look into classes and see who is working harder, the teachers or the students. If it is the teachers then some serious reflection needs to happen.

He talked about the most important thing a teacher can do is to teach the students how to ask questions - deep questions that require deep and thoughtful responses. He talked about students having an authentic audience for their work. He challenged us about the teacher being coach and judge - he said that teachers can easily hide behind a thin veil of objectivity.


The premise that Eric Mazur based his talk on was that all students can learn.


Ross Kasun spoke passionately about redefining homework. He prefers the word - home learning  - to homework. The reason for that is that homework should be set that will spark students interest, about priming the brain for the following lesson rather than checking that the previous lesson has gone in. If that happens then homework does not need to be marked, it needs to be shared which is a completely different thing.

He talked about the myth that homework teaches responsibililty. He says that rather it teaches compliance.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

What does leadership look like for a head student?

 1) Role model for the vision and culture of the school.

2) Respectful of teachers and peers and mindful of boundaries.

3) Responsible for own behaviour.

4) Being mindful of what is the business of a head student and what is not.

5) Management of self (personal issues to be dealt with separately from the position).

Alan November and the $1000 pencil.

I have been reading some of Alan November's work recently and the idea of the students carrying around $1000 pencils is the one that keeps coming back to me. It's such a wake up call for all of us. Are we actually doing things differently or are we doing the same stuff with fancy gear? It's a scary thought.

 I have been  particularly inspired by a section in the book "Who Owns the learning?"  It is in the second chapter called "The student as tutorial designer." There is a story at the beginning of the chapter about a mother arriving to pick up her daughter. The daughter was not there. The mother went to look for her daughter and found her in the maths room working on a tutorial for the class. The mother was astonished at her daughter's commitment to the task. It was quite clear that for the daughter having an authentic audience and being able to present using technology was highly motivating for her.

I am going to Alan November's conference in Boston in July and I am really hoping that I can explore the potential of technology to excite and motivate our students.

$1000 pencils ?  just scary.

Martin Robinson and the Trivium

I recently wrote to Martin Robinson. I admire his work on The Trivium.

HI there
My name is Barbara Cavanagh and I am the foundation principal of Albany Senior High School.
Over the last year we have engaged enthusiastically with your book   The Trivium.  Our enthusiasm comes of course because we agree with you.
We are a relatively new school and have had the opportunity to do things differently.  Our students engage in specialist subjects for part of the week , tutorials for part of the week and then they do a full  day of project work on a Wednesday,
That means that the students get a balance of teacher led time and time to follow their  passions and interests.
Currently we are looking closely at the learning model   grammar, dialectic and rhetoric  and trying to come up with a design that both teachers and students can engage with.
Do you know of any school that has done that already ?  Might make things easier for us.  I will send you what we come up with.
Thank you so much for your Inspiration.  There has been very healthy discussion here and it continues. What we can all see of course is that it is the dialectic that so often gets missed in an exam driven curriculum and it is the dialectic that is crucial for nurturing critical citizens.
Best wishes for your ongoing work.
I have been following your blog and continue to be inspired by you
Barbara Cavanagh 

And this was his reply

Hi Barbara,

How lovely to hear from you, It is gratifying to hear you are getting so much out of my book! 

As to your questions you might be interested in having a look at the forthcoming book 'Trivium in Practice', where some people who are trying things out with the trivium have written about their work:

I also work with schools on developing their practice, pedagogy and curricula, if you are interested in discussing this as a possibility please do get in touch as I can then share with you what others are doing as well as developing a relationship with your school in order to help you work on your trivium shaped curriculum.

I am also developing a course called 'History of Thought' and I have attached a couple of leaflets for your perusal.

Best wishes,


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Matariki Celebration at ASHS

This year our team leaders decided to celebrate Matariki with a showcasing of the first round of impact projects.

It was fabulous to have the opportunity to talk with students about what they had achieved over the last twelve weeks.

-The inspirational young woman writing a fantasy novel who has designed a cardboard world as a reference point for her writing.
-The two young men designing racing cars  - they had set up a track for us to test our skills.
- The three young women who have interviewed elderly folk from the Retirement Village next door and made up a cookbook with favourite recipes from the past. Some of the recipes were favourites during World war 2. How exciting that the cook book actually arrived on the day.
-The young man who has set up a computer timeline for himself to mark off the number of words he writes. He says it keeps him motivated.
-The three young women who presented their GIRLBOSS business. They have already organised 2 very successful conferences.
-The young man fascinated by the earth and its development has set up an earth timeline. He has been sourcing animals to go with each age.
-The three young men who have designed and built a false door on the top floor of the school with a great message
-The passionate young man who has been rebuilding a trail bike - my goodness he could not stop talkling - his excitement was just an inspiration.

That is just the tip of the iceberg.
From now on I will add to this list every Wednesday