Just who perpetuates the paradigms?

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The recent ACEC 2010 conference in Melbourne was interesting from a range of perspectives.  Disappointingly, I became more and more and more dismayed at the perpetuation of a number of dominant paradigms.

Prominent amongst these was the view that the failure of our schools to change to has been largely the responsibility of a range of successive policy makers, governments, management, bureaucrats and, basically anybody not ‘at the coalface’ of teaching. Predictably, the biggest laughs came from the heavy criticism of government policies at both state and federal levels, and in the heady ideals from the seventies, and the belief that the very people who had assisted the rise of these ideas to prominence were now actively proceeding, blinkered and in step, to pull the truck of an ideology which would seek to turn all children into complicit cogs for the machine.

And, you’ll need to allow me a wry grin here when we stop and think that much of this glee and anti-establishment rhetoric was coming from people whose livelihood is derived from working for establishments which value their uniform policy, which suspend girls who have the wrong coloured hair, who know that their faith policies may include profession of religious views which could provoke hatred in various parts of the globe, or lead to significant reduction in the rights of women or other groups, or which have, in the past, decried public schools for their humanist approaches to individual choice making which are divergent from the truth of gospel.

All of these schools have an absolute right to exist in my opinion.  The fact that they can relies, however, on exactly those taxpayers, of all sizes, shapes, colours and faiths, who in turn elect governments who provide a very significant portion of  their funding. This guaranteed funding then enables the creation of budget models which can adjust additional income through fee increases and plan for surpluses which can fund an ongoing cycle of improvements.  After then actively discriminating, in their employment policies, against anyone who cannot produce a suitable evidence of their ethos compatibility, it would be nice if they had the decency to see a little more of the forest which is the realm of public opinion and the broad spectrum of a very diverse modern Australian; and less of the separate trees which they have the opportunity to shape in ways which suit themselves, and their customers.

There was loud applause for widespread criticism of the National Curriculum, for NAPLAN, for the Digital Education Revolution, for Victoria’s Ultralab, Queensland’s Digital Pedagogy Licence etc,  and for the general idea that governments basically always have it wrong.

Whether they are right or wrong, the policies which were planned for implementation were put on the table very publicly prior to the last round of elections. In Australia, we all vote.

It’s like sitting in a pub, in the fug and swill of an after-work session and overhearing the conversations which so often default to the age old laughter and derision to those in the ‘boss’ classes, who invariably ‘wouldn’t have a clue,’  are ‘all brains and no common sense,’  or who are ‘only concerned about putting something on their CV’ etc. This seems fairly usual group behaviour, but we should always remember that everybody started somewhere sometime.

It is also useful to remember that: titles and positions aside, we are all human beings. We all, as a former leader of mine said, “put our pants on the same way in the morning.”

Sometimes we need to hold a mirror up to our own paradigms.  Just as it is unreasonable for ‘the system’ to assume that every person ‘at the coalface’ of teaching, is trying their best to do as little as possible and therefore needs to be whipped into shape with some good testing regimes and performance management systems, may it not be a bit unfair to assume that every person at a management level is spending all of their days planning ways to make life difficult for those ‘at the coalface.?’

‘At the coalface’ is, for me an expression I fundamentally dislike in reference to teaching. While I fully understand the analogy, it simply serves to reinforce all of the stereotypes about organisational behaviour which grow from a labour oriented industrial model of the world. An interesting clinging to a paradigm which so many profess to be wanting to change through working in more student centred ways. Are students just so much coal that we dig? If, as a teacher, you want to be seen as a person who does more than process commodities, in a drudge of non-recognition and encouragement, then stop talking like a coalminer or process worker. We can all make choices about the mental models we apply to our world. Maybe that dude in the suit who’s one of those people from DET might just be a human being like you. Maybe they also like Twitter, or keyword searching on YouTube, or playing volleyball, golfing or building websites. Inappropriately applied paradigms are just as destructive from any direction.

Just for the record, we have many leaders in our system of education who have been trying different approaches for many years. Gary Stager and Seymour Papert may be interested to know that we were using 1:1 computers in a Juvenile Justice school in Sydney in 1985, with Apple 11e computers and Logo, along with wonderful text based story software like ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ etc.

We might also like to remember that, in 1989, the ‘Schools Renewal’ report, or Scott Review, lead to some very significant changes, with the introduction of new structures, smaller school ‘clusters’, educational resource centres, acknowledgement of the growth of technology in schools, and calls for more localised approaches. Full implementation of the recommendations were thwarted, however, by hugely strident industrial opposition: the famous ‘Metherell Years.’ While policy makers and system leaders tried to move away from a centralist organisation and structure and provide a framework for greater engagement with priorities at local levels, teachers came out en masse to decry this direction.

After working as Teacher in Charge at a Juvenile Justice school and teaching myself how to program in Basic and Logo, to provide engagement for very troubled young offenders, I spent a year as a classroom teacher with limited access to a small lab of MicroBee computers and sporadic use of the one Apple 11e in the entire school to produce slideshows of student work using a technique which created a screen display which I have long ago forgotten.

Then, in 1988, in my first Principalship, at Broken Bay Sport and Recreation Centre, the efficacy of using a computer to assist the program booking process and information management became very obvious. The booking database I developed using Appleworks Database and its integration with the Wordprocessor module to mailmerge all correspondence, accident report cover letters etc was then scaled up to operate for all centres statewide by 1990. An upgrade to an Apple 11gs gave a bit more graphic ability, (we couldn’t afford a Mac), and we used this to create brochures to accompany environmental quests and information transfer.

One of my staff told me about Keylink in 1989 and, equipped with a new modem, it was good to be able to use a very primitive form of text based messaging, using the Austpac system with text which wiped onto the screen. Using Keylink, it was also possible to get involved in some of the first online OzProjects like Newsday. It was also possible to send faxes directly via Keylink, including outputting a spreadsheet list directly via fax.

In 1990, we hosted 140 teachers at Broken Bay Sport and Recreation Centre for a Computer Education Conference. The theme was ‘technology and the environment’ with significant input from the regional Aboriginal Education consultant and the Computer Consultancy team. Over 100 computers were manually loaded from a truck onto a ferry for a half hour trip to the Broken Bay wharf. They were then manhandled onto a tractor and trailer, then carried across a footbridge to another truck and then to the dining hall. Computer Consultant, Glenn Mullaney, had arranged for Telstra to provide an additional four phonelines which had to be physically provisioned across Patonga Creek and over the eastern ridge to the camp at Broken Bay. We had Keylink demos in the nurses quarters, Lego on the messhall verandahs, hypercard stacks in the lodges and, at night, lots of connection and fun.

We carried and lugged. The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story, under a headline which said, ‘And no Pac Man after lights out!’ about the use of Medical Forms intended for children sent to ‘campers.’ We did it because we believed this was important. It was, and it still is, and many are still trying to scaffold and support.

I remember taking a group to the beach to try an idea I had to develop Logo programs. One pair would write a program to describe a shape using basic sequential instructions eg Fwd 10; right 90; fwd 10 etc. Another pair would then be the turtle..using foot lengths as a unit and a stick as a pen to scribe a shape on the sand. We threw hoops onto grass and leaf-litter and did mini beast counts, tallying the data in spreadsheets.

It is possible to continue listing a whole range of ways that things have been tried to build environments which provide opportunities for students and which encourage shifts in pedagogy and in policy. There are many others who have continued to look for ways to work to make a difference. Don’t let us forget that system attempts, in the early years of the 21st century, to provide a platform for a range of web-services was met with bans by the union, operating with the majority support of teachers. Did those who speak loudest against the failure of the system to achieve change, speak up in their staffroom? Why does the union still use Faxstream as its primary communication format if not through fear of alienating non- email/internet users? No matter what the leadership vision might be for a school learning environment which is constructivist and flexible in approaching groupings and pedagogy to enable learners, there are still very strict processes in place around staffing schools, which were fought for by teachers themselves, as recently as last year.

There is much that is imperfect in a policy environment which bases itself on a fundamental principle of equitable provision, and the rollout of infrastructure and access. Yes, there may be better ways to finesse this. We can, however, point to the fact that students in Brewarrina have the same level of access to publicly provided ICT as students in Balmain. Our ‘fatcat’ bureaucrats have, in the DER NSW approach, handed a mass of resource to practitioners. Their way of doing it can be scoffed at by visiting experts, but the potential is there for the taking. I’m pleased to say that, if you put your hand up and say you’d like to have a go, if I can, I’ll do whatever I can to support you. Why not connect and collaborate at your staffroom level and gather a team who can then create something better and different through collaboration and mutually respectful relationships at all levels within your organisation. And, at the next social function or barbecue, why not speak up, and if necessary, seek to educate friends and community members about the urgent need we have to move from school planning to planning school. This is everybody’s business.

Please don’t let us, as people engaged in something much more important, allow ourselves to persist with exactly the paradigm entrenchment which we so vehemently criticise.

A friend, a colleague, a mother, a cousin, think of the range of things which describe who we are.

It is our affiliations which give meaning to who we are.

13 Responses to “Just who perpetuates the paradigms?”

  1. Tomaz Lasic Says:

    Thank you Roger!

    The easiest thing in the world is to sheepishly clap and agree in the company of like-minded and ‘criticise’ something you probably benefited from, and continues to benefit a particular type of skill-set people hold, but is now ‘uncouth’.

    Your post touches on many sycopanthic things I have personally have thought, observed, felt for a while now.

    The world needs less of the privileged Sir Ken Robinsons to be clapped to, it needs more mentors like yourself (excuse the gratuitous plug for your work).

    I look forward to a discussion developing around your post, these are simply my immediate, straight-from-the-hip thoughts.

    Cheers and I hope you make make it to Perth in (at least!) two years time for ACEC2012, would love to have a beer anytime before that too!


  2. mikejisrael Says:

    Well said! Yes I think we need to give those bosses a break and expect them as fellow human beings to be doing the right thing or atleast be doing something with the right intentions. A great point about the language we use (eg. at the coal face), it is so important that we speak in contructive terms and use language that reflects the landscape we are trying to create.
    Why are we still having conferences about ICT in education? I think they are just education conferences with a focus on ICT, because ICT is changing so quickly, sometimes we need a dose of deep immersion to see the amazing things that “ordinary” people are doing. They are amazing because they had the courage and creativity to think different.
    Also I loved your song at the end of your workshop, it is still winding through me mind, is it recorded somewhere?
    all the best, I hope I get another chance to meet you sometime
    all the best

  3. Darcy Moore Says:

    Being the change we wish to see in others is hard and a challenge for all of us. Actually having some clear view of how the paradigm may be changing is very difficult but, as always, reading and discussing ideas with colleagues, our communities, staying current, rather than in vogue, is of fundamental importance for educators with a professional attitude. Thinking is needed and answers do not always emerge.

    NAPLAN – or at least the data – was gaining acceptance from most educators but now, for most, the waters have been muddied as the data is being inappropriately used to construct simplistic ‘league tables’. I hear the echo of clapping for anyone who says this is wrong.

    For me, what do I see? I see the following ‘basics’ for all and advocate to students and colleagues at my school and in our wider communities as a positive way forward:

    1. Stay healthy (physically and mentally)and assist others to do so (drink water, sleep, eat properly)in our collective quest to be resilient!
    2. Who can I help, who can help me? Have goals, assist others every day. Have a go, take a risk, laugh when it goes pear-shaped, try again having learnt from the mistakes.
    3. Read Read Read and assist others to find a love of reading. Especially try to influence fathers to read to their young children and model it in their own spare time.
    4. Use technology in your professional and personal life and work out what aspects of it you love. The internet is ‘our printing press’ and the paradigm changes are now obvious to all.
    5. Embrace change and talk positively about the challenges this presents
    6. Try to influence colleagues (both ‘senior’ and ‘junior’ to you too) that anyone can have a good idea and has the tools to share, spead memes and enjoy the (open) dialogue about ideas.
    7. Don’t let the insular politics of any organisation or group grind you down. Smile, be naive, keep going, be open.
    8. There’s more…I am going to the gardens with my family to play.

    Good, thoughtful post, Roger!

  4. Andrew J Says:

    Thank you for getting me to think a little more and for helping me find a little bit of clarity.

    Just as we all vote, we also have the opportunity to try to be part of the solution rather than just whine about the problems. If each of us out here reading blogs and interacting with other educators (from all areas of the education community) can go back to our workplace and inspire two or three others to become more involved, if more people can, as you put it, ‘pay it forward’, we can then perhaps latch on to the determination to improve things that many people were expressing by the end of the conference.

    Yes, it is easy to sit and critisize, it is harder to make yourself part of the solution. Let’s hope we all can. I believe we can.

    Andrew J

  5. Steve Collis Says:

    I hear both positive and negative comments about educational organisational powers, government, government policies, and so on. Isn’t this just normal discourse?

    I agree entirely about dehumanising power figures. It is not a nice thing to do. And mob mentality is distasteful.

    I use the phrase ‘at the coalface’, and I don’t like the grubbiness of the image, but it comes from my strong conviction that it all boils down to what happens in the world of the classroom. A ‘teacher’, some ‘students’ – how do they relate? What is the ethos of their relationship? Are the students empowered, inspired, looked after, supported, mentored? Is the teacher learning-obsessed or control-obsessed? Swirling around this classroom space is endless policies, procedures, the school machinery, countless levels of accountability, programming, assessment, pressures from every side – which are sincere attempts to influence the core activity of learning for the better – but honestly, to me, seem so very, very disconnected from what actually happens in my ‘classroom’ (I actually dislike the word classroom for some reason – but you know I don’t mind coalface).

    I think I referred to it as the ‘fire’ and the ‘crucible’ a couple of times at the conference, on the spur of the moment. Maybe they are better images. I agree absolutely that we need to choose our terms carefully. Language creates reality, right?

    I remain baffled at the endless layers of politics the circle and swirl and blow around whatever you want to call the CORE thing in the middle: an adult, in a space, with some children, charged with influencing their minds and personalities for growth.

    Whatever the politics are, I hope in my bones that the person who supposes to wield power and exert pressures on that CORE THING does so with fear and trembling. I take my hat off to them for daring to take on this role.

    I hope they make their first order of business to be in the very skin of, soaked to the bones by, the teacher/learner space and relationship at the center of it all.

    Especially if they want me to fill in a bit of paper or submit a number, or make me do the exact same thing as other teachers and students in other places.

    When someone puts a bit of paper in front of me, my arse begins to twitch.

  6. Mira Danon-Biard Says:

    Hi Roger,

    A pleasure to read your comments about ACEC2010. Your session was terrific and a great overview of what you have helped make available in your region by way of connection/collaboration/showcasing and support for your many teachers and students. If I were working back in DET now, I’d know where I would want to be.

    I had my hand up at the end of your session to ask you a question, but we ran out of time. That question was this: Given that we had earlier discussed the importance of teachers seeing their management/leaders modelling and actively participating re educational technology, how do you, as a leader in your region, encourage and maintain momentum for your management teams to become an integral part of the paradigm-shift encouraging teachers to use technology in learning (meaningfully and relevantly)?

    With regard to your blog comments:

    One of the classes I work with who are studying leadership this coming term (@Yr6Leadership) put this quote up on Twitter and their Wallwisher site http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/Yr6ExploresLeaders during a class discussion last month.

    ‘Change is not made without inconvenience’

    These conferences are a great way to open up the discussion on many levels, and they come with their shortcomings too. I heard many criticisms (mostly the same ones you were hearing) aimed at: ‘privileged private schools’ over-represented at the conference, over-paid consultants/presenters on the ‘conference circuit’ presenting sessions removed from the reality of education, too much reliance on overseas speakers who have little appreciation of our Australian context, too few workshops, too little opportunity for discussion, too many disappointments about curriculum, #ACEC2010 monopolising the twitter stream, too much this, not enough that, and so it went on. Everyone it seemed, had something to say whether right or wrong or in-between. But what matters, I think, is that people are talking and hopefully these events give educators a forum to examine more closely the essence of what they and their colleagues are doing in their own learning spaces, whether online or not.

    It seems to me that educators still need to be working on one main area of importance no matter which curriculum context they are working in, and that is making a tangible connection between real learning, pedagogy and technology.

    I, like Steve Collis, use the term ‘coalface’ because for me, what I do, who I support, what I arrange, who I connect with and the teachers who I connect together, and the whole basis of my role is all about what teachers and students do in the way of teaching and learning on a daily basis.

    On a more macro level, my role as a change-manager in the context of technology and learning is about building and forging positive relationships across the school. In fact, I often think it’s as much about that as it is about technology. It’s these relationships which, in my humble opinion, make a difference to the quality of student learning and teacher experience in the classroom. (This year I have seen a teacher, new to the school, go from being reluctant about technology to one who is now using a blog, animoto, slideshare and a voicethread for her literacy support classes in the primary school. Most recently she has asked my team to help her explore the use of Smartpen’s with her class. She has made that journey because, I hope, she doesn’t feel threatened and tells me that she feels that no matter what she asks, she knows someone is listening and prepared to help.)

    How does that relate to ‘leadership’? Her work, like that of others, is reported directly to the Executive of the school in regular tech showcasing briefings. It is part of a wider change-management strategy, asking (and getting) middle and upper management in the school community to participate, model and help celebrate what teachers and their classes are doing with technology, and is absolutely vital to establishing a ‘learning with technology’ paradigm. She may never be that interested in what the school leadership think, however it’s my job and that of our team to bridge that gap so that her work, and the work of others, is celebrated and championed.

    In the meantime, staff come and go, curriculum is revamped/tweaked/changed/re-evaluated, new leaders appointed or promoted. If however, this management buy-in is part of the system, no matter what system or where, I am convinced that the benefits are long-lasting: teachers see their management taking part and practising what they are preaching, they feel validated and in turn this helps to shift the culture to one which is more inclusive and positive rather than resistive overall.

    I think you’re doing a great job Roger and I applaud your work as a great model for others in leadership roles seeking change. Keep plugging away despite the nay-sayers.

    Mira Danon-Baird

  7. Ben Jones Says:

    Brilliant Post, by the length of responses obviously both you and Chris have hit passionate grounds in your latest Blog offerings.

    I too am not a fan of the term “at the coal face”. In a period when we are trying to be viewed as intellectual leaders in learning with technology in a knowledge economy I think it is counterproductive to associate ourselves with a industrialism.

    The term “at the coal face” implies that those not on the front line are detached and have no reality on what happens in the classroom. My role with the DERNSW has openned my eyes to how close head office is to schools. The challenge is that what equity for all can be viewed as disadvantage for some. When schools only had 12 classrooms in phase 1 wireless rather than seeing that this enabled every school (550 of them, no small figure) to get some wireless in a very short time frame (just 6 months) it was just seen by many as “we didn’t get all our wireless so this is a fail”.

    I think what NSWDET is suffering from is a feeling of anti-community evident in the individualistic view of benefits of being in a large system (something that in my opinion COWS goes a long way to deconstruct). But also suffering from a public image issue. I have noticed (comments on Chris Betchers Blog post as a classic example) NSWDET teachers are increasing content with the ‘system’ (under no delusions it’s not perfect nor will it ever be but it is obviously working hard). Rather teachers and observers outside NSWDET seam happy to bang on about what they perceive our weaknesses to be.

    Ben :-)

  8. sue beveridge Says:

    Dear Roger
    As ever you have vocalised many thoughts with which we can all empathise. Part of the problem is that everyone is an expert about our industry you all know the phrase “I know about education because I have one”. Nothing frustrates me more than ignorance about what happens in the current classroom or speakers from industry or the private sector generalising about DET teachers. We need to be better advocates at all levels of the DET about what counts for learning in the 21st century and how knowledgeable and expert our teachers are. I have attended many conferences where teachers are represented as luddites, where education is seen as the last industry to embrace technology and I am dismayed. When I look at your fabulous examples and reflect on my own career utilising a website for the first time in the introduction of the new HSC, the establishment of the Teachers e-cademy,the creation of TaLe, the implementation of the Connected Classrooms Program I am reminded of the DET’s extraordinary efforts to embrace technologies and support teachers who constantly step up and step beyond any IT vendor’s roadmap to engage their students. We are along way from “down mine laddy” we are already in the “clouds”!

  9. Roger Says:

    Thanks to everybody for their quality responses.

    Mira asked

    “That question was this: Given that we had earlier discussed the importance of teachers seeing their management/leaders modelling and actively participating re educational technology, how do you, as a leader in your region, encourage and maintain momentum for your management teams to become an integral part of the paradigm-shift encouraging teachers to use technology in learning (meaningfully and relevantly)?”

    The response is largely the same, in terms of trying to model etc. I still also firmly believe that the Connect, Collaborate, Create model works:

    Connect: people and ideas, and also facilitate actual and virtual connection. This is a fundamental tenet behind http://hccweb2.org It also happens on an ad hoc and continuous basis. Whenever hearing about interesting work I seek to Connect that with another who may be going in a similar direction, or sharing similar ideas. It is a matter of trying to create the weft, running in and around the warp, which for us is often the context of policy or system direction.
    Collaborate is also critical and lateralisation is important. It is just as important for me that a first year out teacher who may be experimenting with a blog or Moodle knows that they can email or tweet me at any time and get a response. Collaboration works best when we can flatten hierarchies, but mutual respect also means that we accept where each person is coming from, and that our contexts come with some givens.
    The intent is then to create new ways of working. To actively move from school planing to planning school.

    In terms of keeping momentum going with teams, it depends on opportunity. I’ve been lucky to be invited to speak to a range of groups, at whole school level, at combined school development days, to various regional teams in this region and others, and always try to maintain consistency of message, along with the belief that a large part of the solution lies within all of us. IN addition, I guess I try to encourage the notion that good teachers and teams have always improvised and maximised what they have through creativity and idea synergies. As shown in the presentation: ‘the best scaffolds are built from the ground up…’
    This is a bit rushed, but hope it makes sense.
    Oh, and, it’s not easy. There’s still a sense of disconnect by many from ubiquitous use of ICT. There’s still the ‘that’s OK for you, you’re good with ICT’ commentary or the ‘I don’t have enough time to be playing on the computer’ or the sense that for leaders, a mark of positional authority is the extent to which we may have teams of people to ‘do’ the tech for us.

    But.like most things. If we really believe in the possibility of a different future, then we just have to somehow keep looking for different improvisations on the common themes. A bit like music. A 12 bar blues pattern has a basic structure, but a myriad of ways to present it.
    Hope this makes sense

  10. Jan Green Says:

    Roger, your post was one that resonated with me as an ACEC2010 spectator. Unable to attend the conference I followed the tweetstream and tuned into any clips available. Firstly I want to thank everyone who participated and provided the opportunity to follow the conference vicariously.

    However, inceasingly I become frustrated with the hype of the conference and quite passionate in my disappointment of the content of some of the tweets and clips.

    Several points caught my attention and (in no particular order) I thought:
    1. When are people going to let go of the so called great divide between “management” (a term I dislike intensely) and those “at the coalface” (and I agree with you Roger, that is a term I truly dislike)? As a school leader I miss the daily intensive interface with students that as a classroom teacher I took for granted. So I have to create that. I visit classrooms, talk to the students about what they are doing, why they are doing it, what they are learning and whether they value that learning. I head out to the playground; play handball or volleyball or soccer with the students; play the keyboard for them to demonstrate how a melody flows; help them with their maths in free periods or as I walk around the classroom; answer their questions; and, just be there, available, for them. I help students with debating, public speaking, essays, getting a job, answering their questions about their work, about school and about life; I work with them to help them overcome obstacles in life. These are the things that help build positive relationships at all levels and ensure I understand the needs of my students. So, in my opinion, I know and understand as much about my students as any classroom teacher in my school.
    2. I am committed to the belief that every teacher in every school is a leader. That is a philosophy I practise at my school, everyday. Every teacher has a mentor, including myself and every teacher is a mentor, trained in how to be a mentor and how to provide effective feedback as a mentor. I provide, and indeed create, opportunities and experiences for teachers to develop their leadership skills. I do this because I believe that the students will benefit from teachers who are confident, connected, supported and prepared to take risks in their own personal growth.
    3. Use of data. So many tweets championed the use of data to work towards school improvement. This was celebrated and applauded at ACEC2010. I agree that data is important, in fact its vital to know where we are at, why we are there and it helps to form a picture of student need. But it is only one part of the way forward. The impression I gained from ACEC was that we should use data to “tweak” what is to make incremental improvements (increase %Band6s etc) – to use your terminology Roger. This is something I fundamentally disagree with. That’s school planning and isn’t about maximising student outcomes, thinking about what might be – planning school. I have to wonder when we can truly move forward to make learning the best we can for our students – for them and not for us.

    I value the comments written before mine and I agree that dialogue and discussion is invaluable. But how long do we keep discussing before we do? How long before the “ah ha” moment comes? How long before true synergy? Because synergy is the outcome we seek from discussion, dialogue, disagreement, evaluation, negotiation…….

    I am completely convinced that Tight Loose Tight is a brilliant model to embrace the an effective move towards a different and better future for our students. We have to Connect, Collaborate and Create; because if we don’t, our students will be the ones who are disadvantaged.

    So as educators, we need to Connect, Collaborate and Create. Stop the stereotypical great divide between “leaders” and those “at the coalface.” Stop criticising leaders for doing the Tight part of the model and applaud their encouragement and implementation of Loose. Lets work together and lets creat synergy. Let’s “Plan School.”

    Thanks for your post Roger. You continue to inspire, enthuse and motivate me; my students and my teachers benefit from that everyday. You model having a go, taking a risk and you encourage others to do the same. You model high expectations and high achievement and you model that it’s okay for others to do the same. You are dedicated to our students, to our teachers and to achieving the best possible future for us all. That is worth celebrating and applauding.

    Thank you.

  11. Dean Groom Says:

    Thanks Roger. I always think that leadership comes in two flavours. Those whom are in a position that everyone recognises as being the ‘top dog’ in vertical hierarchies and the meta-leaders that appear in the horizontal plane where respect and authority comes though their deeds, innovation and invention.

    Just because you are top dog in school – does not make you a great leader. Some are excellent managers – and provide consistent, if no incremental improvement (as judged though the attainment measures of the various tests and qualifications our society uses). I am not sure that great managers become great leaders – as really the job of a manager is to ensure the goals of the organisation are met, policy enforced etc., In essence it isnt the job of a great manager to create change.

    Then we have meta-leaders. People who work inside frameworks but constantly look for areas in which they can create opportunities for others – without necessarily understanding them fully. They often take little ownership of these things personally, and won’t talk in a possessive sense. These leaders make mistakes – and the people who trust them forgive them.

    I don’t believe that current leaders can predict future leaders. I believe in ‘now’ leadership – be that for a few months, years or decades. True leaders are often unaware of their overall influence – and certainly don’t wear any chains of office.

    I think what you are doing on the coast enables leaders and creates communities that bind. Not because you are their boss, but because they believe that you create opportunities that otherwise would not exist.

    I hope NSWCEG is re-born into an organisation that truly represents leaders in all our schools. I hope that those who are wearing the leadership badge – join the new association – and kick great ideas in Perth in 2012. Ideally Perth will see a line up that right now we can’t even begin to predict – and to do that, eduction needs meta-leaders – Australian ones, to inspire and motivate, to provide solutions that work in every classroom – not just some classrooms.

    You are a TANK – love your work.

  12. kmcg2375 Says:

    Thanks for this post Roger. I always found it trendier, and gets me more laughs, when I say “chalkface” ;)

    You are right about people hanging onto old paradigms, and about leaders being dehumanised. School leaders should have ‘thick skin’ as a job criteria! You are also so, so right that people while willing to complain are less willing to do anything to help improve things.

    However, there IS a difference, I think, between being at the ‘chalkface’ and being in charge of the management plan. To deny this is not to reject or even dislike collaborative organisational management. There are realities to all of our roles, and differences in how empowered we can feel in our everyday work. My boss is my mentor and my leader, but she’s also my boss and that is a difficult situation to navigate in a collaborative environment, even with people who ARE trying to do this in good faith. Just like in the classroom, the ‘collaborators’ in a school are also quickly labelled the ‘teachers pets’.

    I’m visiting this post today after our chat about NAPLAN boycotts, and this brings an example to mind. I embrace Tight Loose Tight. I embrace CCC. But I know, personally, in real life, teachers who are as of this year being forced by either their English Head Teacher or by the school Principal to devote specific time in English lesson to NAPLAN drill exercises. And this is only the new push – it’s been happening for ages to a lesser extent, depending on the school. And it’s been happening for ages, period, in years 10 and 12 as the external exams become more high stakes. It is a common practice for one teacher I am very good friends with (so you can imagine we HAVE had lots of Sunday BBQ chats about this) to spend one in every three Year 10 English lessons drilling students on School Certificate multiple choice questions only. Why? Because that’s the area of the exam that the data showed our school to be weak on.

    A third of year 10 English. Spent on multiple choice practice. Yes, I know – this example is ‘school planning’ at work, not ‘planning school’ stuff. But that’s my point – just because someone puts it in a management plan doesn’t make it so ‘at the coalface’.

    So, when some teachers are crying ‘coalface’ just to avoid having to change their paradigms, others are crying it because the lived reality of the curriciulum can be different to the intended curriculum, and that needs to be heard when it happens so the planning can keep going.

    I found Ben’s comment rang very true: “I think what NSWDET is suffering from is a feeling of anti-community” and tools like the HCC COWS, professional organisations, etc. do help this. People get each other excited when they talk and plan together. I makes them all ‘insiders’ in school or classroom change. The community that has evolved out of my online PLN has shown me how important it is to reach out and gain energy and perspectives from people outside your own school bubble.

    Working out how to authentically collaborate within what is structured as a very hierarchised work environment is tough, and it will be the people that make it work within local and broader PLNs. You are a key figure in doing this in NSW, so I hope you don’t feel too battered by the suit-hating you seem to have copped! But do spare a thought for the teachers out there who are very willing to shift their paradigms, but who face some very ‘tight’ roadblocks ‘at the coalface’ some days.

  13. kmcg2375 Says:

    One observation just occurred to me as a case in point:

    In some schools English teachers drill their kids on exam taking practice on the sly, trying to boost marks and make their class go better than others’. They have to be sneaky – they keep it from their Head Teachers and have enough decoy work around in case anyone looks.

    In other schools the English teachers have to pretend to be doing School Cert drills to keep the Principal happy, while sneaking in quality teaching behind the scenes.

    Funny, huh? The difference between what is planned and what happens?

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