It’s time to kill the timetable 

Love this post, love the idea of disruptive thinking about schooling…however, I’m feeling a bit jaded about the capacity of our education system to change.

Maybe it’s the fact that we are a system…we’re too big – and lack an “agile” culture – small pockets of innovation are rapidly stifled…

Can’t help but think that structural change needs to play a part…so how do we get buerocrats to see it? Bring on the tipping point!

Innovative Pedagogy - Dean Pearman

On a recent trip to Ballarat and visiting Sovereign Hill (which was ace, if you live in Melbourne go there!) it became very obvious that schools haven’t moved on for years! Dare I say hundreds of years. Students sit in rows, move in blocks of time, every second is timetabled. Stepping back to Ballarat of the 1800’s the School resembled so much of what schools still look like today. A room with rows, a board, sit, be quiet and learn. When will we get it? There is so much talk about moving schools into contemporary learning places but how much is actually getting done and what is stopping us? Are we slaves to final year examinations? Is the University entrance process flawed and not supporting 21st competencies? We know examinations don’t assess the skills required to thrive in the 21st century. Yet we are still following a system that is…

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Growth Culture

The importance of building a growth culture in schools cannot be overstated.

“In a world where we are educating children for jobs that don’t yet exist, educating children to work with technologies that have not yet been created, we have a duty to create adaptable individuals who have a capacity for learning.”

Here are some great tips to help you generate a Growth culture in schools.

Shareday Friday – What does ‘Growth Mindset’ look like in schools? | Living and teaching in Spain

Professionalism and Teaching

After some interesting conversations over the weekend, I’ve again come to thinking about the importance of professionalism in our identity as teachers. Surprisingly, there is a considerable degree of contention around what constitutes a profession, and what is required to be professional.

For anyone who is interested, I found this paper “Professional Ethics in Teaching, and Professional Teachers Organisations” gave me some good background reading. Apparently, in 1966, the International Labour Organization defined teaching as a profession for the following reasons:

  • it is a form of public service which requires of teachers expert knowledge and specialized skills, acquired and maintained through rigorous and continuing study;
  • it calls also for a sense of personal and corporate responsibility for the education and welfare of the pupils in their charge.

The key elements of this definition for me are:

Public Service: A service culture is the antithesis of an entitlement culture. The organisations that I have seen working well have a culture of service. Leaders serve, teachers serve and support staff serve…all focussed on common goals and working for the greater good. When those organisations start to come apart, the language of me permeates, minutes are counted and individuals fight for their entitlements.

In order to truly embrace teaching professionalism, we need to loose the entitlement culture. But, this needs true, committed, service orientated leaders that build a culture of mutual trust, respect and service.

Expert Knowledge & Specialized Skills: This one is contentious for me…as professionals, what are teachers expert in? Content or Skills? A brilliant scientist does not necessarily make a brilliant science teacher. I believe that our expert knowledge and specialised skills are in the educative process. A strong understanding of content is a necessity, but not as important as an expert knowledge in the learning process. Particularly as it relates to the modern context…it is not ok for your doctor not to be up to date with the latest practices…it’s also not ok for any of us to ignore them.

The rise in the “corporate educator” selling the next big thing in “online, personalised learning” is an ever present danger in this space. As Professional educators, we need to ensure that corporations are not dictating the learning in our classrooms. We need to develop, employ and reflect on our expert knowledge and specialised skills to design the learning experiences in our classrooms for our individual students…if lesson plans follow chapters 1-6 only, then we are de-professionalising our vocation.

Rigorous & Continuing Study: Another interesting element to our profession. How much of this study is to be provided by our employer, and how much is an individual responsibility. I know that I definitely went through a ‘flat patch’ for a couple of years where I was coasting. Fortunately, I was challenged by a professional leader, leading to some of the most rewarding learning experiences…and flipping my practice, with significantly improved outcomes for kids.

As professionals, I believe we need to drive our own study. It needs to not be a “hoop jumping” exercise, and it needs to be relevant. I’d love to move away from having to count up the number of hours of PD I’ve done…as professionals, it should be obvious in what we’re doing in the classroom / leadership, what we’re publishing / tweeting, what we’re presenting and who we’re connecting with.

Personal & Corporate Responsibility: Enough said…Professionalism is a partnership, between the corporation (Department / Admin) and the individual. Unless both expect professional behaviour from each other…it will fail. Trust in teachers to do the right thing, trust in their expert knowledge, the quality of their continuing study & research and their service ethos. Control them less and empower them more. Teacher…rise to the challenge, demand the trust, hold yourselves and your colleagues accountable…anything less is irresponsible.

To Teach in the Modern World, we need to live & learn in it

connected learning

The fourth of my “core values” is:

To teach in the modern world, as professionals who are experts in our craft, we need to live and learn in the modern world.

This value can be contentious, particularly given our ageing workforce, but it is essential if we are to adequately prepare the young people in our care to engage, as effective global citizens in our society.

The nature and exponential speed in which the rules that govern our world, how it connects, and how it runs, is changing. We are preparing students to engage in a connected world, not the connected world of the 90’s, or even 2015…but the connected world of 2025 and beyond. Web 3.0 truly is a paradigm shift, not only in how we view information, but how we access, evaluate, verify and question it, and unless you are immersed in the culture of modern learning…it won’t make sense.

As an example, I am currently teaching Research Project to my Year 12 students. On the one hand, I can design learning activities that encourage them to:

  • interview someone their parents know,
  • survey all of the students in the school, (by paper of course)
  • utilise a basic search on google, and
  • maybe, even access some resources from “Academic Journals” to support their research.

That’s been the typical approach and has definitely characterised my teaching before 2013. But last year, this is what a student did in researching “How to plan a trip to Europe”

  • Posted google forms surveys in various travel forums to get current views on what was required,
  • Connected with Travel agents in different countries through email to compare their perceptions of the dangers,
  • Accessed current academic research on “Backpacking Culture” from – and compared it to a number of backpacking blogs – appropriately selected from responses to Lonely Planet reviews,
  • Used curated search engines to find and connect with authors appropriate sources,
  • Used way back machine to evaluate how travel descriptions had changed,
  • Used diigo to record all of her research, highlight web pages and search her notes for appropriate information…and the list goes on and on.

But, do you know what the most powerful learning moment for her was? When she wanted to use a particular photograph in her final presentation…so she emailed the person asking permission.

They said yes…then they wrote her a page “help guide” showing her how to find cc licensed images, she then showed a number of friends…she then made a screencast showing her peers how to do it…and I now use this as a teaching resource!

Amazing experience, yes…but I needed to manage all of those online interactions! We have a duty of care…and that duty of care is to support the students to keep safe, but also to open their eyes to the possibilities…we can’t do this if we’re not immersed in this world…and it’s not OK to say I’m not comfortable.

As professionals, we have a moral obligation to prepare students to engage in their world, not what remains of ours.



What are your Non-Negotiables – The Myth of “Too much Change”

Today’s post is focused on my third “non-negotiable” and that is a commitment to continuous improvement. “As effective teachers and leaders it is imperative that we are constantly reflecting on our practice…therefore change is a constant.”

I am very comfortable in embracing change as a constant, and I believe that this stems from a strong “growth mindset“. Interestingly, it may also be strongly influenced by my INTJ personality type. However, I am increasingly hearing a number of colleagues talking about there being:

Too much change.”

My thinking around this was really challenged when I attended a Change Management workshop at the start of the year. Unlike a number of “Education Centric” sessions that I had attended, this session presented a business perspective. In particular, they challenged with the following question:

What is the difference between Change Management, and Project Management?

I believe that in an educational context, the change work we are doing is moving a workforce, a community and all the people within it from an industrial culture and fixed mindset, to a growth mindset founded on responsible risk taking, fail fast and continuous improvement mindsets. The project work we do is the Implementation of a new curriculum, new LMS, changing the reports, writing new courses, a gifted and talented program, improving the outcomes for male students.

In my experience it’s very easy to implement some innovative projects, that have some amazing results and improve educational outcomes for the full range of students. But, without the cultural change work, once key personalities leave, the system returns to the industrial status quo and the 25 year old lessons re-appear.

Maybe the “too much change” comment is an indicator that there are too many projects, and not enough change. I’m certainly looking at it this way this year…less “projects” and more focus on real cultural work – investing in the people who make a difference.

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What are your Non-Negotiables – Part 1

At the start of the year, our leadership team was challenged to “define what you stand for.” Everyone comes to education from a different perspective, and it is essential that your team knows the philosophy that is driving your approach to it. So in the spirit of reflective writing, this is what I stand for.

Teaching is a privilege, not a right. As educators there is a fine line to balance our “rights” as employees against the incredibly privileged position that we are placed in. We change the world one conversation at a time, and the impact of each and every conversation – each and every day cannot be underestimated. At times, we need to do more than what we’re asked…in fact it’s those moments that I treasure the most. As a leader, I will recognise the importance of every conversation and do more than what I’m asked to support the team to make a difference.

All teachers are experts in designing learning experiences to empower students to engage with THEIR world as effective citizens. This is our core business… . There are no formula’s to this, it is an Art not a Science. Curriculum documents provide the guidance, the architectural concept – but as Professionals, we design the house. We sequence the construction and select the materials and connect it to its surroundings. Continuing the housing metaphor, the dangers of a Kit Homes approach (once size fits all…follow the textbook / computer program) risks de-professionalising our workforce…and if we go down that path, computers can do it better. As a teacher, I will strive to build my expertise in this area…as a leader, I will encourage all approaches and empower teachers to develop and exercise their professional judgement.

28 Minutes is up…I’ll continue this post tomorrow night…but in the meantime I’d love to hear what you stand for.

Dealing with the curve ball – Getting things done in a human organisation

One of the real challenges that I knew would face me in the #28daysofwriting challenge was finding time to write when there were a million other things to do…and today is definitely one of those days.

Dealing with the Curve Balls
For me, one of the hallmarks of a good leader is how they deal with the curve balls…how they respond when all others are loosing their heads. Dealing curve balls are part and parcel of being an educator, and an educational leader. They can come from all quarters – a departmental edict, parent interaction, student comment or from a casual, unintentional comment from a child or a friend.

Today was one of those days. I spent the time last night planning out the day, assigning jobs to contexts trying to maximise my efficiency…GTD philosophy to the max! The problem with that is that I work in a school, and at there heart schools are people organisations.

My day was spent responding to various parent, student, teacher, organisational and systemic “crises”, none of which were planned. Each one of those interactions took me away from “urgent” and “important” tasks. But, by making time to hear, see and deal with each crisis in turn, I was investing in the relationships – living the adage that “people are the heart of our organisation”…I’d like to think that each person walked away feeling supported, valued and empowered to resolve the particular crisis they were involved in.

By the end of the day I was exhausted, but happy…the problem is that I’ve still got that list of really important jobs to do…only now it’s bigger. The way that I’d normally deal with that is to delete the “non-essential” tasks (usually anything that only impacted on me)… So today, I seriously considered not blogging. But because of the 28 days commitment, I resolved to tap this post out…and strangely enough I now feel energised and ready to tackle the rest of today’s list!!!

I’d be really interested in hearing your strategies for dealing with the curve balls and getting the “jobs done”.