Doing the right things + thinking time : 2015-06-04

For a number of years now I have framed any reporting to governors around Ofsted school inspection framework headlines: achievement, quality of teaching, behaviour and safety, leadership and management. In so doing I felt I was covering the need to have governors fully aware of school strategy, action and review around those areas that would be subject to scrutiny come the next visit.

I particularly enjoyed reporting to governors last night on school development, for I have taken the decision to align my reporting to the school development aims we have identified in exercising the Deliverology process, namely: Learner Dispositions, Teacher Mindframes, Assessment & Feedback, Digital Learning, Collaborators & Communicators, Growth-Mindset, Learning Environment, and Parental Engagement. The decision to make that shift reminded me of some of the key messages of Will Ryan’s excellent work Leadership with a Moral Purpose: Turning Your School Inside Out. Ryan suggests that “managers do things right, but leaders do the right things”. He says that an ‘inside out school leader’ has the skill to create, articulate, disseminate and achieve their vision through four key stages:

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As a community, we have agreed upon school vision and have identified and defined our aspirations. Those ambitions are underpinned by Visible Learning and Growth Mindset principles and they are the first things that visitors to school are met with on crossing the threshold.

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  • All members of our school community are assessment capable learners.
    I know what to do when I don’t know what to do.
    I know where I am, how I am doing and where I am going next.

 

  • All members of our school community are self-evaluators.
    I know how I am doing, where I am going next and how I am going to get there.
    I see assessment as feedback to me.

 

  • All members of our school community are effective collaborators and communicators

 

  • All members of our school community have a growth mindset.

 

Whole school embracing of the said principles has both energised and liberated pupils, teachers, support staff and leaders in school. Reference to other important work in the field, such as Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas’ work on Expansive Education is a feature of learning conversations that happen around school now as a matter of course; early morning, mid-day, or at 6 p.m. when I am looking to lock up and get home! All with a view to growth; personal and professional, so far as individual teachers are concerned, and then expansion of understanding of the learning process, through the eyes of the learner, where learning design is concerned.

When I took up post here four years ago there was a need to address a hugely significant variation in practice around school. One of the measures we took was to strip walls bare and start again, thinking about a learning environment that would be truly supportive of learners and learning. Identification of a number of non-negotiables standardised, to a large degree, practice and environment; all enshrined in a revised Teaching & Learning policy. Returning to Ryan’s statement “managers do things right, but leaders do right things”, it is now dawning upon me that a phase where management took precedence is making way for the liberation that is leading on the doing of right things. What those right things are is subject to enquiry, exploration, trial and review. Bader Primary School is becoming a hotbed of those very things, with all teachers leaders of learning. And so, when, yesterday, two young teachers asked if they may design and then have made professionally a large-scale, laminated Learning Pit that pupils could readily annotate at any point in time and then wipe, I delighted in the conversation that followed. Their thinking was based on the fact that their pupils may well be able to place themselves against the stage they are at in their learning but they want a bit more than that in terms of feedback that would be useful to them; hence the need for annotation. I am left wondering if there is actually a place here now for a ‘Teaching and Learning policy’. The true joy in what is happening is that it is an evolving process that is indeed being driven by the open-minded and deep-thinking educators that make up the staff that I am fortunate enough to lead.

I enjoyed another fascinating learning conversation, via Skype, with the inspirational Sarah Martin, Principle of the amazing Stonefields School in New Zealand, last night. We talked about teachers having ‘thinking time’. Now there is a thing, Planning Preparation and Assessment time (the amount of non-contact to which teachers are entitled during the school day, in the UK) = ‘thinking time’? As a profession we must create the time and space for thinking. A thinking space situated in an environment where relational trust is valued and nurtured. As we seek to improve, let us pay heed to the wisdom posited by Anthony Bryk et al. in Learning to Improve: rather than “implementing fast and learning slow,” they believe educators should adopt a more rigorous approach to improvement that allows the field to “learn fast to implement well.”

One Response to “Doing the right things + thinking time”

  1. Stephen Brown (Parent Governor) says:

    A fascinating and inspiring read. It’s so clear that there is a vision at Bader based based upon research, inquiry, collaboration and a growth mindset, driven by our Head Teacher and his talented staff.

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