Category Archives: Professional Reading

Highers? The best we can do?

It’s Easter Monday, (Bank holiday in the UK) and it’s 8:47 PM. My step-daughter is holed up in her room. Listening to music? Watching YouTube vloggers? Reading? Watching Games of Thrones via illegal feed? None of the above. She’s studying. This time for English Higher. Saturday it was for Art, Friday for RMPS.  Wednesday night she was up until 2:45 AM working on her Graphic Communication project which was due in. (She was up against a wholly unrealistic time scale, as the previous teacher ‘misunderstood’ what was required for the exam. I wonder if they were up at 2:45 and then ready for school next morning??) To be fair to her she didn’t start work until 10:00 PM on the Wednesday night.

 

Would you like to guess why she began work so late? She was organising a music concert at her school along with other S5’s. This wasn’t part of her course: It was over and above. It was her and her friends taking a leading role in school life. The Curriculum for Excellence says this is a thing to aspire to for schools and pupils, yet due to some inadequate work from a teacher, her reward for this was working until 2:45 AM.

 

Well at least it’s the holiday now. Except it’s not quite the holidays, as my step-daughter is attending revision classes in the school on different days of the holiday. These are being provided by teachers who are clearly committed to their pupils getting the best grades they can in their exams, so committed in fact that they are ignoring national guidelines on holidays for pupils and teachers to deliver them.

 

Perhaps she’s having to cram as she’s not done enough work previously? Maybe she slacks off and works hard in the ‘exam season’. I can tell you she’s not angelic. She leaves the toilet lid up, doesn’t wash her food pots and has even been known not to replace the butter in the butter in the butter dish! She does work very hard at her studies however, pushes herself hard, as well as trying to develop other areas of her life (like attending animation classes, organising concerts for the school, volunteering in a hospice shop when she can).

 

Our ‘new’ Curriculum for Excellence (published in 2004) has strong ideals and ethics in it. It aims to create “successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.” I’m not sure how these fit with holiday revision classes, weekends where homework is all that gets done in a household, time taken off school to complete ‘vital’ homework tasks. To my mind they don’t. The conditions of work my step-daughter is working to are likely to turn our young people away from education for a lengthy period of time. I dare not think too long about the effects this amount of work and pressure has on her (and her many friends) mental health. This was not the aim of the 2002 consultation paper on education, yet this is where we are.

 

Charlie Love wrote a great blog post about National 4 exams and the effect that working Nat 4 courses had on pupils, it’s well worth a read. It is not just Highers, it’s the National 4 and 5 exams which don’t appear to be working also.

A quick google for problems with Highers brings up a few news reports but nothing too recent. It seems that the political will to create a system where our young succeed and lead balanced, healthy lives is not there. When I did my ‘A’ levels (in England), I (like everyone else) took two years of study to pass them. It was a wonderful time of my life, some hard work, some enjoyment of a different side of school life, even some maturing! The key was the time afforded to work, think and develop inside the school week. I had at least one 1hr 15 period of study time each day. Sometimes more. My step-daughter gets nothing, it’s wall to wall teaching.. Yet, apparently this amount of teaching time isn’t enough, she still has to work so much ‘extra’ time in the evenings and holidays.

 

I’d be delighted to hear from Angela Constance and Iain Gray about pupils being overworked in order to pass National Exams. I’d also be interested to hear of anyone else’s experiences. Please tweet me @robertd1981 or e-mail me at robertdrummond@gmail.com if you wish to contact me, but not leave a public comment.

 

This isn’t progress. This isn’t creating an education system better than the oft-mocked English system I described earlier. This isn’t good enough.

 

Assessment.

Assessment. It’s difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. I read this blog post and it became a bit less difficult. I really like the 7 questions Michael has written down.  Whatever method we use for assessment, these questions provide ideas about why we are doing it and most importantly the impact the assessments are going to have on our learners. Have a read, leave a comment for Michael.  What do you think?

 

Pedagoo Wonderland.

0530 on a Saturday morning is difficult, cold and after another long night of the ashes, very miserable. However, I was off to a Pedagoo event, packed with exciting speakers, thoughtful teachers, inspiring individuals and I was pretty confident that my chosen Saturday CPD event was going to be brilliant. It was…

 

The first thing that blew me away (after registering with the very welcoming pupils of the school) was the amazing building. It was bright, clean, tidy and very much the type of modern building I come to expect when I go ‘somewhere nice’. Just as our children know when they are being shortchanged as regards use of windows XP on old PC’s, they know it when they walk into a dingy building which is in desperate need of a paint job. Michael Gove said that the building and environment of a school makes no difference. I drive past these buildings at  Fettes and Stewart’s Melville on the way to my school every day. Clearly, environment makes a difference.

 

The other thing about the building I loved was the use of images of Joseph Swan children working, often with ideas about how they work, or slogans/quotations about respect, reading etc behind them. That is something I will try and create in the next couple of weeks if energies allow as it looks so good and inspires.

 

Whilst having my complimentary tea and danish pastry (which would contravene the bring your own tea and biscuits policy of many councils) I set about reading my welcome pack. I loved the Happy Mondays leaflet which contained loads of great, ready to use, ideas for enhancing and reinforcing learning in the classroom. The Happy Mondays reference is because the teachers at Joseph Swan receive and e-mail every Monday, with a new idea or resource in it from their SMT. I love that idea!

 

MY first session of the day was in the Reading Room (and what an amazing space that is…) with David Hodgson. David talked about how we learn and how we can use techniques in the classroom to help children learn and remember how they learned things. As a primary teacher I get asked lots of questions from the children and my most frequent answer to them is good question. I don’t believe in throwing the knowledge confetti about for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m not convinced the children will remember it whilst they walk back to their desks and secondly I (or A.N.Other teacher) will not always be there for them when they have a question or want to learn something. The things we did in his session were all practical examples of an NLP approach, and I was so impressed I bought his book for my Kindle this morning. He used this pupil feelings graphic in his session too which I find a useful tool to have by my desk in the class room. Something David said which rang a bell was that we should ensure our children ‘Have a get out clause for children when they don’t learn’. This is vital, so often our children get way more stressed than we ever do about a wrong answer. We need them to take risks, get it wrong, change it and get it wrong again, smiling all the time! That is a successful learner right there.

The next session was with Rachel Orr who is HT at Holy Trinity Rosehill Her workshop was about developing writing through Primary Learning and specifically using Pie Corbett’s talk for writing work. I had worked on a Pie Corbett workshop for writing day before (January 2007??) and it was amazing. I’ve bought a few of his books and love his approach to writing. There is a lot of material on the internet too to supplement his written work. I also liked the punctuation sounds and actions which children are to use when they are talking and can then reinforce the assessment process in class. Rachel has used Pie’s work in two differing schools now and shared with us examples of the successes her young writers had, and these examples cal be seen on her school blogs. Rachel gave us a disk with loads of fantastic resources on, many her own work (the learning keys are a great idea!).

 

During lunch I met some great folk including @spiceweasel77 who is doing some brilliantly exciting things with his class!

 

After lunch it was on to Hywel Roberts session. Hywel spoke passionately and humourously about creating contexts in the curriculum, allowing the children to view the learning they are given through their own filters and engaging children in their learning. I made loads of notes during Hywel’s session and later tweeted many of them. Here’s the quotations I tweeted:

 

‘It’s our job to get the World thinking.’

 

‘We need to dig learning holes for our children to fall into.’

 

‘we are the people who make sense of the curriculum we are given. ‘

 

‘Have a what’s great 2 mins at the start of staff meetings’

 

‘we need to induct our kids into learning’

 

‘all of these things are just doing the job we’ve been asked to do. That we’re paid for. ‘

 

I’ve got Hywel’s book and it’s a great read. I need to do more of this in my classes. It’s great stuff. I was incredibly impressed with Hywel and the way he works in schools.

Finally, my last session was about using enquiry based learning in maths. Stephanie Thirtle took this session, she is a maths teacher at Joseph Swan. (I’d love The Girl to have her as a maths teacher, lessons would be so interesting!)

We did some enquiry based openers which really got us thinking and she talked about the approach of letting the children work things out for themselves, rather than an I teach then you do model. I love the work things out idea and think the way she’s bringing it to maths in a high school works really well. Much of the rationale for enquiry based learning was on her presentation and clearly showed examples of enquiry based learning which we could use as one-off lessons or develop for a maths topic. Such things investigating square numbers, straight line graphs using algebra, and one which P7 will be seeing soon – 12 Days of Christmas maths.

Her room displays were wonderful and I snapped many of them on my phone and you can see them here. I particularly liked that ways she put maths into context making it real for the children.

That chimed so well with the session from Hywel previously.

 

I came away with my head full of wonderful ideas and a bag full of goodies!

So, what next…well before Christmas I will make some posters of children and their ideas about learning to go up in school and I will also make some musical posters for the music room.

After Christmas I will take loads more of these ideas and run with them. It’ll be different, fun and learning will happen.

Here are my photo’s from the day. They are not brilliant, but the school environment was so good you may find the content useful.

Bloom’s Taxonomy in Music.

I’m creating a wall of Bloom’s questions for my music room at school. I love using these questions with the children. Really makes them think and I find the level of answers the children give me challenges the ‘ ability groupings’ they find themselves in for many aspects of schooling.

Here is the resource to share and discuss as well as a couple of pieces of reading I used when creating my display.

My Bloom’s questions for display.

Use of Bloom’s in a unit of work. (includes questions I added to my display)

Wendell Hanna’s piece about the implications of Bloom’s in music education.

     AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Ferrari + caballos + fuerza = cerebro Humano


Attribution  Share Alike Some rights reserved by Ferrari + caballos + fuerza = cerebro Humano

 

 

What is leadership without management?

This post forms part of my learning journal for the West Lothian Leadership Programme.

 

To begin to answer this perhaps it is first necessary to think about and try to define leadership and management.

My initial feelings would be that leadership is the Jed Bartlet, Nasser Hussain figure. The person who has vision, inspires people to follow that vision, ensures that the people they have working for them share that vision and work towards it.

Management often feels less positive to me. If something needs managing that for me has a connotation of a problem which needs to held in abeyance almost. It is the person who maybe stifles some of the vision of the leader in the cause of ‘a higher figure’. I’m thinking Tim Lamb trying to manage the Zimbabwe situation with Nasser Hussain in the 2003 world cup – not something conducive to progression .

 

As you can see I’m not exactly starting off with equally positive views of leadership and management.

 

My next part of the task was to read up on leadership and management. In these days of the internet information is but a click away, however finding information you trust and respect is not so easy. For my reading I chose an article from The Guardian, which then linked through to the Harvard Business Review and a blog post on Lifehacker.

John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School feels that

“Management is a set of processes that keep an organisation functioning. They make it work today – they make it hit this quarter’s numbers. The processes are about planning, budgeting, staffing, clarifying jobs, measuring performance, and problem-solving when results did not go to plan.”

Clearly that is a more positive definition than mine, and reading it made me realise that management is necessary to get the jobs done, otherwise the vision of the leader will not be realised.

Johnathan Gosling, from the University of Exeter gives an example of a management technique,

“Target setting is a management technique used to focus attention on certain activities. A hospital, for example, might set targets around waiting times.”

For this exercise to work, someone within the hospital must show leadership by emphasising the importance of the activity.

“In this example, the wider purpose is helping patients to lead better lives. A leader needs to inspire employees by showing how meeting a target can contribute towards this aim. They also need to think of new ways of reaching that target.”

Again, that challenges my ideas around management. In this example management leads directly to the positive outcome which the leader wants (i.e. less waiting time in hopsitals). Gosling says that someone needs to show the leadership by emphasising the importance of the target setting. Does that suggests that the leadership did not create the target setting activity? i.e. they have to show someone else’s visions?

I also read what Kotter has to say about leadership.

It (leadership) is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.

I think that is something which sits easily with my initial feelings around leadership. Bartlet and Hussain were people who changed things (ok one was fictional!!) for the better. My view of the captains who succeeded Hussain is that they were not the quality of leader Hussain was, although they were more successful.

Kotter talks about leadership from any place in the hierarchy, it would be interesting to go back in time and look at the role successful leaders played prior to them gaining the higher space in the hierarchy, and also how any leadership they showed was treated by their actual leaders and managers.

The question asks what is leadership without manage. It seems to me that management should be the mechanisms, which ensure delivery of the vision of the leader. In turn, the leader needs to share the vision, enthuse and inspire with the vision.

Therefore, I think leadership without management is a vision, a passion, a pathway, but with no means of delivering it – people may agree completely with it but without management (even self-management). The vision will remain unfulfilled as the actual changes required will never take place.

 

Sources:

http://careers.theguardian.com/difference-between-leadership-management

http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/01/management-is-still-not-leadership/

http://lifehacker.com/search?q=leadership

http://lifehacker.com/search?q=management

 

 

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