Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why I am standing for EDUCANZ (anyway)


Let's get a few things straight first.

Of course I am disappointed that we are losing a democratic means of voting on at least some of the council.

Of course I am disappointed that we are moving from a Code of Ethics to a Code of Conduct.

In fact I campaigned against these very things here and here.

And whilst I understand that PPTA's ballot is a matter of principle and was voted on, I simply do not understand how it will change anything.

Whether PPTA and members choose to "not accept nomination or appointment to the EDUCANZ council nor participate in the body’s consultation processes" or not does not change the fact that it will go ahead...regardless. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How might we be more explicit in honouring our bi-cultural heritage in our leadership and teaching?

As I have shared in the past, at HPSS we encourage all staff to create a Personal Professional Learning Plan where we create a number of professional teaching goals which are aligned with our school principles: Innovate through personalising learning, Engage through powerful partnerships and Inspire through deep challenge and inquiry. The goal I have developed for better engaging in powerful partnerships is this:

How might Claire be more explicit in honouring our bi-cultural heritage in her leadership and teaching?

The reason for choosing this is as my topic is the result of some serious reflection on my past and my practice. For many years I feel like I have "ticked off" Registered Teacher Criteria no. 3 "demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa New Zealand", which has the key indicator "demonstrate respect for the heritages, languages and cultures of both partners to the Treaty of Waitangi" without being entirely convinced I am doing so, at least not explicitly.

I suspect my background and experiences will be similar to many in New Zealand. Educated in a school that was for the most part extremely monocultural, with knowledge of Maori heritages, languages and cultures being limited to the occasional Social Studies or History class. Te Reo was not offered, yet funnily enough Indonesian was (odd priorities for a very large NZ high school). When I went to university I did start feeling like something was amiss and did attempt to learn Te Reo, but due to a combination of general second language learning crapness and some deep seated middle class white girl shame and paranoia I struggled to even step foot into the Maori dept without translating my insecurities into believing they didn't want me there anyway. I attempted the Level One course twice and failed both times - on reflection this was more a result of my own mental blocks rather than anything to do with the course or the people delivering it.

I continued on my path through university, teachers training college and back in to school, returning to my own school where I continued to blinkered about the need to genuinely doing anything like honouring our bi-cultural heritage. For the most part this wasn't a problem, as it turns out much of what I did due my personal values actually seemed to work for most students. I have always had very high expectations for all my learners and have looked to meet them where they are at and have always encouraged them to bring their interests and culture into the classroom.

To this end even when I began to engage with research coming out of Te Kotahitanga and Ka Hikitia I could continue to pat myself on the back. I mean, I had high expectations, I have always valued what I soon started referring to as Ako, where the educator and the student learn from each other in an interactive way and I have always recognised that identity, language and culture counts and that students do better in education when what and how they learn builds on what is familiar to them, and reflects and positively reinforces where they come from, what they value and what they already. know. So whilst my practice in many ways has shown respect for heritages, languages and cultures of both partners to the Treaty of Waitangi, simply because my pedagogical approach has always been guided by the desire to be inclusive, I haven't actually done it purposely or explicitly, or at least not explicitly enough.

I feel like I have, in many ways, (as many probably do) settled for implicit being good enough.

Being at Hobsonville Point Secondary School and participating in the National Aspiring Principals Programme has also made me reflect on this topic more closely. Maurie Abraham (my Principal) is actually my first Principal in 17 years who has actually demonstrated what explicit respect for the heritages, languages and cultures of both partners to the Treaty of Waitangi could look like. He is a pakeha leader who has made it his business (and priority) to know the language and to understand Maori heritage and culture. On arriving at HPSS one of the first things he did was connect with local iwi and Maori leaders, he was quick to explore and share the Maori history of the area and to ensure we reflected that in how we now identify areas of school such as Waiarohia and Tiriwa and whenever he speaks he always opens his presentations with a mihimihi. This was reinforced also by experience so far of NAPP. At the recent NAPP Secondary day, nearly every leader began with a pepeha. This has not been what I have experienced at any educational meet up in the past.

It is through watching him, through NAPP and reflecting on my past experiences that I have decided that implicit is simply not good enough, that to genuinely demonstrate respect for the heritages, languages and cultures of both partners to the Treaty of Waitangi it needs to be explicit.

So how am I going to go about this?

Well this is where I need some help.

As a leader I am beginning by exploring Tū Rangatira: Māori Medium Educational Leadership (2010) which presents a model of leadership that reflects some of the key leadership roles and practices that contribute to high-quality educational outcomes for Māori learners. It focuses on leadership practices, providing insights into how effective professional development programmes can work towards strengthening leaders’ capabilities, growing capacity and sustaining exemplary leadership in the Māori medium education sector.

Another thing I am trying to do is get over my deep-seated fear of looking like a pakeha n00b and getting on with trying to learn the language. I am determined if I am ever to become a Principal or MP in this country, I need to do better.  And I better be able to deliver my pepeha. Here's my first attempt, not flash, but am encouraging others that might secretly have the same fear - the only way we are going to improve is through practice!

Beyond this, I need suggestions please. I am keen to learn the language and am very keen to look at different ways I can demonstrate respect more explicitly. I am enjoying following Te Mihinga Komene on Twitter and hoping to soak up just a portion of her wisdom. I am also lucky to have woman such as Ros MacEachern, Sally Hart and Whaea Leoni on staff from whom I can learn in a number of ways. 

What can you suggest? What are you and your team doing? Always keen to learn more. 

Nga mihi nui 


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Effective Andragogy - Universal Design for Leading and Visible Leadership

This year I am undertaking a number of personal professional and teaching inquiries. I am participating in the National Aspiring Principals Programme (NAPP) where I am undertaking a leadership inquiry. I am also working on Masters in Educational Leadership for which I am intending to complete a thesis (in the next year or two). As well as these two external opportunities for inquiry I am also completing three inquiries that are borne out of my personal professional learning plan I am completing as part of our professional learning and appraisal cycle at HPSS.

Our HPSS Personal Professional Learning Plan is an attempt to support staff in developing a sense of agency and ownership of their professional development, but done in such a way that ensures their inquiries are focused around putting the HPSS Principles of Innovate, Engage and Inspire into practice. Within the goals there may be 1-3 teaching inquiries with the opportunity to also focus on 1-2 more personal inquiries around their areas of leadership or learning. Below is my first attempt to frame up personal goals/inquiries which were developed with the help of my 'critical friend' Steve Mouldey. NB. The HMC stands for How might Claire.

My first personal goal got me thinking. 

As I looked at it more closely, I realised I was looking to apply what I regarded as effective pedagogy to what I hope is effective leadership. We strive to differentiate our teaching and learning as a means of meeting the needs of diverse learners, but do we differentiate our leadership style so as to meet the diverse needs of our team? Do we tend to adopt a model of leadership that we think might suit the context or project (and simply reflect how we like to be led) and forget that we are still dealing with a range of people that need a range of approaches to meet them where they are at? As I mentioned in an earlier post - this is an inquiry I am exploring with my Professional Learning Team. To begin my focusing inquiry I have started with a simple activity of actually meeting with each of my team and simply asking what kind of leader they needed me to be for them to feel supported and encouraged to develop as increasingly autonomous leader in their own right? How I work with them from here on in is going to be determined by their needs combined with a common framework or approach of having termly strategic team meetings (where we consider our collective plans for the term in relation to our collective strategic plan) and individual fortnightly catch ups (that can be more or less regular than that according to needs) where we discuss their short term goals for each term. If this improves how we function as a team and how they perceive my leadership effectiveness will only be seen as we move through the year - so I am guessing it is a case of 'time will tell'.

This in turn got me thinking about what I hope to do my thesis on - the idea of looking at the impact of de-privatisation of practice has on leaders. When I discussed this idea with my principal Maurie Abraham (who shares his practice and reflections very openly) he suggested that I was talking about 'visible leading'. That was absolutely what I was talking about. I really want to explore what happens when leadership practice and reflection on leadership practice becomes visible, transparent and openly shared through presentations, blogs, tweets and other online communities. Does the very act of sharing change practice? Does it provide opportunities for feedback and support the leader to become an adaptive expert in a way that keeping leadership practice closed to everyone except those directly affected by it? This in turn got me thinking about the concept of visible learning as defined by John Hattie "Visible Learning means an enhanced role for teachers as they become evaluators of their own teaching. Visible Teaching and Learning occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers",  which made me think that in a sense this is what I am talking about, but in a leadership context. The leader that shares and openly reflects on their practice is seeking to become evaluators of their own leading, seeing leadership through the eyes of those they are leading (hopefully) and help them to become their own leaders.

Considering these two inquiries alongside one another and I realised another thing -  I keep coming back to looking at leadership through an effective pedagogy lens or more precisely though a lens of effective andragogy. Is this an effective way to think about leadership, or am I merely defaulting to my teacher role? Does that even matter? 

So many questions. 

Here's hoping I might discover some answers along the way.

Monday, March 2, 2015

EDUCANZ - between a rock and a hard place

I feel the need to begin this post with a few disclaimers:
  • I am a passionate and committed PPTA member. 
  • I am current a member of a NZ Teachers Council. 
  • I am feeling genuinely stuck...between a rock and hard place. 
 As many of you will have seen, EDUCANZ announced that nominations are now open.


This was followed (not unexpectedly) by an announcement from PPTA that a ballot would be held to determine whether they will be refusing to put up (or accept) nominations and whether they will be instructing members to do the same.

Source: Radio NZ

And of course I completely understand where PPTA is coming from. As one of the many who fought a number of the legislations that ended up in the Education Amendment Act 2015 I submitted a written submission and and presented an oral submission that clearly outline what I did and still do see as major flaws in this act.

There are several issues with the act in relation to EDUCANZ in particular. 

There is the issue that the process for forming the council is clearly undemocratic, with nominations being open to all, but final selection being made by the Minister of Education. This is of course even harder to accept when you consider that the council is actually funded by the teachers themselves.  

There is also the issue of changing the code of ethics (which are viewed as aspirational) to a code of conduct (which suggest a baseline for behaviour) which to be fair IS insulting, particularly in light of the claim that one of the aims of the new council forming is to elevate the status of teachers??

Add to this the concerns around the stated aim to "to ensure that appraisals made by professional leaders for the issue and renewal of practising certificates achieve a reasonable and consistent standard, by auditing and moderating the appraisals made for at least 10% of the practising certificates issued or renewed in each year " Source: Section 382 Education Amendment Act 2015 which I actually wouldn't have a huge issue with if it weren't for the implications this will have for council employee workloads and the potential practicing certificate fee increase this will undoubtedly lead to. 

A fee increase in and of itself don't actually cause me undue concern - the reality is that we have been paying comparatively low fees and even if we weren't about to change councils a fee increase of some sort would have to occur to sustain even business as usual.

Add to this the fact that I see real potential in the forming of EDUCANZ. I believe there are several functions that will be of benefit to our teaching profession such as those outlined below:

Source: Education Amendment Act 2015
There is also the small fact that a big part of me would love to be on EDUCANZ. I have loved my short stint on the NZTC and can already see huge potential for the way their work may be honoured, continued and built upon to develop and even stronger body for leading the education sector.

Add to this the fact that I have seen first hand the excellent work that the present staff do - remember EDUCANZ is not just a council it is a team of professionals that do the hard work of processing registrations, approving and reviewing ITE courses,  delivering PD and managing competence and disciplinary processes. If we turn our back on EDUCANZ are we also turning our back on them?

Consider also that "EDUCANZ will be independent of Government. Unlike NZTC, which is a crown entity, EDUCANZ will be an independent statutory body and will be able to make independent comment on education policy. This will enable EDUCANZ to lead the public debate on education.
The EDUCANZ Council will set its strategic direction in consultation with the sector." Source: EDCANZ Transition. Surely this is an excellent shift.

And then there is the million dollar question - will snubbing the nomination process and the council even make a difference? Will a vote of no confidence be enough to result in a change of legislation? Could we instead be presented with a situation where no left-leaning, future thinking folks stand and give Minister Parata absolutely no choice but to appoint conservative, status-quo protecting council members. Of course, she may well do this anyway, but there a part of me saying if I don't put my hat (or the hat of like-minded folk) in the ring there really is NO chance of having a voice for a good chunk of our sector. 

Yes, we could all disengage and stand shoulder to shoulder, resolute that nominating someone or nominating yourself is by it's very virtue acceptance of fundamentally flawed legislation - but I genuinely don't think it is as straight forward as that. 

As a active, passionate PPTA member I understand how unions operate and not engaging with EDUCANZ could work. 

I am however concerned that my freedom as an individual to make my own choice may (depending on the outcome of the ballot) paint me as a picket line crossing "scab" and may indeed make me vulnerable. Which is sort of ironic considering reducing one's vulnerability is the very reason many join PPTA in the first place. Or (again) maybe PPTA's strategy won't work and EDUCANZ will survive AND we will have missed a chance of at least nominating a genuinely diverse group of people to be considered for the council. 

As I said at the beginning I am conflicted and I am increasing feeling that I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.

At the end of the day, I still keep coming back to the voice in my head and the feeling in my gut that says if there is any chance that you can sit at the table - you should (at least bloody well try to) sit at the table! 

To be honest all of this just makes me appreciate what Ernest Hemingway's reportedly once said - 'Never sit a table when you can stand at the bar.'