Our P7 teacher went on a LECT study visit to Malawi in the summer. This is leading on to a learning community rich task which we are developing over the next couple of months.
Caroline is off to New York to run the marathon soon to raise funds for her charity Mary’s Meals. You can donate to this good cause here. In one school Caroline visited in Blantyre she discovered that 2000 of the 6000 children attending were orphans – the majority due to the impact of aids. Mary’s meals had helped some of the parents to set up a kitchen in the school and these parents were providing daily mugs of porridge to the children. Some of this was taken home to provide for other children being looked after by these youngsters who attended school.
Its important for me that the notion of service and vocation in education is taken on board by all staff. Caroline and many other teachers just get on with this way of being. They are a great inspiration to us all.
Someone else who is inspiring me at the moment is Don Ledingham who has set off a few little golden nuggets of thought in me recently. How much do I concentrate on growing leadership in the school I work in? How much do I concentrate on learning and teaching rather than, at times meaningless, management tasks? How often do we discuss authentic learning and teaching as opposed to where we are with a programme of study? I could go on, but enough to say I’m finding his blog increasingly inspirational.
Here’s a wee link to the report on our school’s official opening. We were really proud of Maisie who helped the Depute Leader of the council, Michael McCann unveil the plaque.
We have parent groups every Friday. Our parents named this “tea with teacher”. The P1 and the P2 teachers now both do this. So during our star of the week assembly the P1 teacher holds this drop in session for about 45 minutes – they talk about anything which might crop up – basically how to help work in partnership. The P2 teacher is also our Pt2 and she holds her session during the same afternoon.
I’m really proud that these teachers are continuing this high level of parental input weekly. We may not be able to measure this in terms of a ticky sheet but we can measure it in terms of parental perception of school, parental involvement and input at home etc.
Introducing family time is our next development to work with parents and carers. We read about this in a school in Fife. We’re going to start small with a monthly family time – basically a monthly open afternoon linked to curricular areas going on within classes.
At our parent consultations yesterday, we had our usual share of comments and feedback from parents. I loved the story a P1 Dad told me. His wee one had gone home and complained another boy had pushed him and hurt him. Dad asked why he hadn’t pushed and hurt him back.
Says the 5 year old:
“It’s not school policy to hurt other people back.”
Give that wean a job!
As part of a diploma in coaching mentoring, I’m just about to start formal coaching sessions. My trainer is called Steve Hurst and he sends out regular e-zines with useful advice. The latest one was about playing to people’s strengths. I’m a great beleiver in finding out what people are best at and helping find ways, with them, of how they can become even better at that. Here’s Steve’s advice on how to do this. Changing how you approach conversations with staff helps motivation and helps us improve that thing we’re all in the game of – improving authentic learning and teaching, where we are fully present for those children, parents, staff we work alongside.
“A good ‘one to one’ can be measured on what your employees feel at the end of it. Do they feel, depleted, anxious, confused, under valued, stressed and insufficient? If they only felt some of these things, think of the impact on their morale, performance and your profit margin! How many days sick do your people take off with nothing more life threatening than apathy and what’s this costing your business?
We’re back to that ‘positive energy’ again, a.k.a. motivation. How can you focus the one to one so that you allow your employees to feel, valued, energised, confident and capable?
Here’s how; simply hold the conversation around four questions:
- What are they enjoying at work?
- What have they done well?
- What could they do even better?
- How can you help?
Don’t go over the “yes I know that was good but you didn’t fill out the report on a regular basis, you need to be more regular”. Then you write, development area is to ‘fill out reports regularly’, come on!
What are the 2 or 3 things this person could be even better at, if only they were given the chance? “Even better” isn’t that the crux of it? Rather than focus on all they’re useless at, focus on what they could be even better at and what could truly add value to their overall performance and your bottom line.
Change the nature of the conversation then you naturally change the outcome and wouldn’t it be great if it were more positive, up beat and based on strengths rather than perceived weaknesses?”
My granny used to talk about lukewarm food seeming like it had been barely warmed under someone’s oxters! Yuk… Today’s unknown Scots word in P6 was oxters, clearly today’s grannies don’t talk like mine did!
Today I have mostly been filing evidence…. Our HMIe2 report is due, so our Head of Community will be in tomorrow to look at progress. Our school has worked hard to continue to improve, I hope that what we have gathered will show what we have manged to achieve as a team.
It sometimes takes a while before you notice something dying out before you. We’re in the middle of introducing Scots Lang book studies. I had an interesting conversation with Primary 6 today who felt Scots was something spoken elsewhere in Scotland – maybe on the Islands or in the middle of Glasgow. Few had relatives or knew anyone who talked using Scots words. We were reading Hercules in pretty easy to understand Scots. They felt it was a bit like those poems they learn around January for our Burns afternoon. After discussing this for a while we also discovered no one knew what a caber was, which was used to describe Hercules’ arms.
I’m saddened that something so important to our history and culture is disappearing as a normal part of every day life. I’m glad we’re doing these book studies though!
Our authority works closely with RM who manage our ICT service. Recently we helped RM video a case study of good ICT practice in our school, which made us all feel really delighted that the hard work being done was recognised and valued. RM’s Douglas Chappelle who works closely with us gave us a small booklet recently published by Tim Brighouse via RM. Called How Successful head teachers survive and thrive, it’s a quick read with some great advice, and certainly worth a read.
I loved his work life balance part at the end. Number 7 in his advice was “Collect Hyacinths” Here’s what he says:
“Find your hyacinth. It’s neccessary to explain this by recalling the story, which Alec Clegg, the education officer of the West Riding used to tell as justification for getting proper blance in the curriculum. As a teenager, he would visit his aunt in Grantham. On the wall was a sampler which read as follows:
If of fortune thou be bereft,
And of thine earthly store have left
Two loaves, sell one and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed the soul.
Successful heads avoid stress and burn out in themselves and their staff by being keenly aware of their hyacinths and ensuring they have enough of them.”
I liked that! It also reminded me of something I heard Maya Angelou say at a reading. My wording will be askew but it was along the lines of – when things are going badly, remember that if you didn’t have rain, you’d never have rainbows….
Feeling a bit Pollyana like after that…. but thinking positively helps keep the role of Head in perspective. There’s a little golden nugget to be found every day in a school, no matter what crisis has hit. Getting out of our offices and being with the children remind us of the humaness around us, and what a joy our job really is.