Category: 7. Engage Professionally

Team on the Agenda


“Team” via Flickr by Dawn (Willis) Manser


I believe working as a team is crucial to the success of any venture or change, particularly in education.  How much can truly be achieved, but more importantly sustained in isolation?

Professional teams are just as diverse as a classroom full of kids.  We cannot expect to build or be part of a dynamic successful team if everyone shares the same views, works the same ways or has the same strengths and passions.

I always push my brother of a cliff when I talk about teams and having different players with different strengths and capacities.  My brother was not “school smart”, the whole sitting, reading and writing deal wasn’t really his strength. Yet, if I were to create a team for any challenge or to get something done, and I mean ANY, he would be my first pick. My brother is a hard worker, gives his all, can problem solve independently even if he doesn’t have a clue where to start. He works with people, communicates and just gets stuff done (plus it kind of helps that I love him a fair bit).  A team full of “Tav’s” isn’t ultimately ideal, there also needs to be others to spark ideas, some to challenge the ideas, some to be conservative and some to shoot for the pie in the sky.

In schools we all work in different teams whether they be structured in curriculum areas or responsibilities, or whether they come together for specific events or projects. I have been part of many teams within my school and have been truly blessed to build a fantastic group in a curriculum area for the past three years. I think one factor that remains central to my passion for education, is that whilst I may have investment in one or several smaller teams, I am part of a larger team that is our school. I think there is great danger in seeing ourselves isolated to our own small corner of the school and not honouring our role as part of the bigger picture.

Next year I leave the comfort of my familiar curriculum area and join several new teams.  Whilst I may be investing in the development and growth of these different teams, being part of team Wirreanda remains a central focus. Understanding what role the teams I am part of contribute to the growth of our school is crucial and I know that we each play an integral part in that.

Anonymity vs Plain old Decorum

It worries me, and the fact that it worries me worries me!

I am generally a very optimistic person. I like to focus on moving forward and finding solutions or alternatives rather than dwelling in the problem or “worrying”. I am also frustrated by scare mongering and blatant propaganda to incite mistrust and panic.

BUT….it worries me that we respond to a problem with solutions that treat the symptoms and not the cause.

What I am talking about is the uprising of anonymity and invisibility. Watch the clip below from Mark Cuban (businessman, investor and as I know him, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team).

There are several things that concern me about this clip, and whilst most of the comments and endorsements on his message express horror and concern that the minority report or worse is “happening”, I am more concerned that our solutions lie in deleting our histories, for them never to have existed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute advocate for privacy.  I talk to students on a daily basis about protective behaviours, yet I also talk about being positive online and treating each other with respect.

In a short time I have seen the rise of anonymous messaging and posting by students on platforms like and the trust placed in “self-deleting” apps such as SnapChat.

At the core of it, these spaces only magnify a problem that is reflected and facilitated by these applications. When I walk down the street and someone “greets” another by sticking up their middle finger and the reply is something to the likes of “how are ya c…” it makes me wonder if the way we treat each other and expect to be treated is eroding in our community.

Maybe, I am just old fashioned?

Instead of a rise in anonymous messaging and self deleting applications, I would like to see us promote and foster plain straight forward decorum. Do we talk to our children or our students about “trolling“, do we talk about “haters” or even for that matter “doxxing“?

We all make mistakes, now these mistakes are often online. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children more about forgiveness, more about kindness, respect, human courtesy?

Couldn’t we teach our kids to disagree, without putting others down, without making it personal, without losing our cool?

I would rather see the rise of more @westhighbros than more of “this message will self destruct”.

What do you think?

Innovation is a Mindset

My Creations (15)

Disruption by Tsahi Levent-Levi via Flickr

The word “innovation” has been a driver in business for many years and is increasingly becoming part of the discourse in schools.

I think often when we talk about “innovation” in schools, there is a tendency to accompany that with new devices, or developing new spaces.

The dictionary defines innovation as;

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 4.50.58 pm

I believe innovation to be a mindset, not a title, nor something that occurs in a special space.

It’s how we disrupt our actions and methods to always seek something better. It may be in the routines we have created or the rules we maintain.  It may be in the content we teach or the way we teach it.

It may be hard to conceive of innovation without some form of digital technology participating, but innovation is definitely not limited in this way.

I believe it’s about the willingness to explore and challenge ideas, to take on the status quo and to implement change. To test and try and to respond to the results.

Not everything will succeed nor will all change be sustainable, thus there is inherent risk involved. Whenever there is risk, we need to ensure there is trust. I believe this is the biggest challenge in developing cultures of innovation, they must be cultures of trust first and foremost.

Understanding —> Shared Vision —> Trust —> Innovation

What do you think?

For some articles and perspectives on innovative mindsets check out these links:

The 7 key principles for an innovation mindset

Developing an Innovative Mindset

Forbes Best-Of Blogs: How To Encourage Innovation In Your Company

20% is Not Enough


This week I have watched the ACEC conference twitter stream from the sideline with more interest than any other with several students from my school attending as part of a Digital Leaders group. A great opportunity to listen to presentations, tweet thoughts and questions and interact with teachers and keynotes.

They have done a brilliant job of pushing ideas and reflecting genuine student voice and  have also been excited by the various learning opportunities showcased at the event.

For the first time for many of these students, they heard the concept of Googles 20% time (also adapted and referred to as Genius Hour or Passion Projects in schools).


After hearing about this idea over 2 years ago, I developed Passion Project time in my own teaching and had our faculty run the projects with students over a term. This year as part of a different team we have implemented this concept into a “Big Idea” project with our entire year 8 cohort.

The concept remains the same, students can work independently or in groups on a project of their choice. There are expectations to develop a proposal and present/share findings or experiences upon completion.

Whilst I treasure and value these opportunities for students, I also wonder: how long can we keep adding this into our week as an extra though? How can we justify to students that this learning is different to their classroom learning? How much does that devalue what they are doing in each subject?

“Ok in this ‘special’ time you can learn about things that interest you and are meaningful to you, in any way you like, but the rest of the time, it’s just stuff you have to do!”

My argument here is not that we ditch these projects. I found it was a great stepping stone in my own experiences of supporting students to complete very different projects but on a similar time frame. I have learnt a great deal in this time including how to scaffold and lead discoveries and push students to ask and develop their own questions.

I am suggesting that instead of keeping these projects or times separate from our everyday school experiences, it should just be part of our everyday learning in classes. Why can’t kids be involved in ‘real’ and meaningful learning experiences in all their subjects?

Instead of adding another subject/lesson into the timetable, shouldn’t we be looking at what is already happening in classes and working on how we can make that more meaningful?

Shouldn’t this kind of learning be more like 80% not 20%?

Let’s Get Together


‘The Conversation’ – Dominic Wade via Flickr

I spent today at a professional development session on moderation for leaders.  Initially I was apprehensive that the day would be focussed on how we measure and rank students against the Australian Curriculum standards, however it became quite apparent early in the session that I was wrong! (Phew)

Instead the objective of the session was to explore how we can encourage collaboration to reflect and question our practice to ultimately improve learning opportunities for students. YAY!

For me PD is golden when I can interact with others passionate about improving practice and learn from their expertise and experiences.  No better way to find a group of such people than to attend a session on the last Friday of the holidays on a cold winters day, when it would be rather pleasant to be tucked up under a blanket reading a book and consuming hot beverages instead!

Not to be and definitely no regrets.

It was brilliant to hear from other curriculum leaders and lead teachers as to how they work with colleagues to reflect, critique and move forward in their planning and programming. The questions raised amongst the group included;

  • how do we develop a culture of trust required to share practice?
  • how do we establish opportunities to reflect and receive feedback without making it personal?
  • how can we develop a deeper understanding of the standards to enable teachers to be designers and not deliverers?

“One of the most powerful aspects of collaborative moderation is the dialogue…when you take part in it you see people in a different light…you hear people questioning their own practice, gathering strategies for change, making sense of standards, understanding the curriculum and adjusting their teaching for improved learning” – Alan Luke

I can talk about my practice until the cows come home, I love critical feedback and thrive with people challenging my ideas and practice and have written about this before.  I know how valuable this is to my own improvement, but what I am still developing, is my ability to facilitate a collaborative processes for peers to reflect and challenge their own practice and that of others in supportive ways.

Todays session has provided an example of how this could play out with a focus on planning and assessment with the Australian Curriculum.  I really look forward to seeing how this can be facilitated this term with the curriculum areas I support.

Preaching to the Converted


I recently attended EduTech in Brisbane, Australia’s largest education technology conference with 4 colleagues from my school. It was a great opportunity to join likeminded educators from all over Australia to share and engage in ideas delivered by highly respected professionals and some legends of our time. These speakers are continuing to shape learning in Australian schools and across the globe.

Perusing the programme, I knew exactly who I did and did not want to see. Being connected through twitter, watching TEDtalks regularly, reading educational commentary and blogs means that the names of keynotes and many of the workshop presenters were very familiar to me. This is where I began to wonder, is being too familiar with these ideas and stories and attending these events robbing others who may benefit more from the experience?

Sitting amongst a sea of educators in anticipation of the first keynote, Sugatra Mitra, it was not hard to be excited.  I had seen his TEDtalk, read many of the articles and responses to the Hole in the Wall Project, I had even read and tweeted Edna Sackson’s (@whatedsaid) recent post about his visit to her classroom. Needless to say I had a fairly good understanding of Sugatra’s message. Then I sat and listened to stories I had already heard, ideas I already believed and opportunities I believe children deserve.  It was difficult to tweet anything to contribute to the dialog that I hadn’t already discussed. It was a challenge to discuss with my peers, ideas that I had not already processed and I thought, how very privileged and spoilt I am!  Three years ago, this keynote would have been incredibly inspiring, motivating and uplifting, but yet I felt a smidgen of disappointment. Being connected to an amazingly rich and diverse PLN online has led to an abundance of information and sharing that many of my peers currently do not access.

Why should I continue to have these opportunities at the expense of others?  Why shouldn’t the likes of “me three years ago” be given the opportunity to be inspired instead?

Whilst sharing a taxi with Dan Haesler on our way to the airport, I asked Dan, whether he thought it is a waste for the already converted to be attending these events. We briefly discussed the obvious benefits and the challenges we face getting the “unconverted” to make the most of the events and how the financial investment is also a consideration. In the short ride we really didn’t come to any solid conclusion, but to suggest that it would be preferable to take a mixture of “newbies” and “converts”. So part of my responsibility having my school invest in such liberties, is to ensure that I make sure my experience at the conference develops into something more than just a “takeaway” and perhaps open the door for others to access these ideas.

On a greedy note, it was still pretty cool to see Sir Ken Robinson, Ewan McIntosh and Sugatra live, plus I do have a slight FOMO issue when it comes to learning opportunities! 🙂


Integrity cc Flickr via Mamluke

Integrity cc Flickr via Mamluke

Integrity means that you are the same in public as you are in private. – Joyce Meyer

For me integrity is a principle I hold paramount. It is trait I admire and respect in others. In a school setting it means that regardless of who walks through your room, be it a peer, a parent or the principal your behaviour and the way you teach remains the same. It’s acting and following through on promises, and letting your actions speak for you. It is not expecting others to behave or act any differently than you expect of yourself.

It also means that you speak and treat people with respect regardless of their prestige or title. I find it extremely pernicious when people dismiss the ideas or beliefs of others based on their perceived worth or usefulness.

Modelling integrity for our students, expecting that they treat themselves and others with respect and be reliable and trustworthy will support the development of a community of responsible citizens.

“Your reputation and integrity are everything. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions.”

— Maria Razumich-Zec




Is Comparison Constructive?

Apples & Oranges - They Don't Compare

Apples and Oranges – They don’t compare cc Flickr Michael Johnson

A tendency to compare ourselves to others seems to be quite natural. We compare ourselves to our friends, to our teammates, we compare our children to their peers or their siblings and so on. While learning from others is a useful way to develop our understanding or make a decision, can it also reinforce unrealistically high or disappointingly low expectations?

I actually find it quite easy to avoid comparing my own children or my students to each other because I see them as completely unique and value their talents as precious to them.  I have incredible role models who inspire me to be better and examples all around of remarkable human beings. In each of these people, I can find qualities that I aspire to replicate.  Just as I see uniqueness in my own children and students, we are all unique too, each on a different journey, each with a different vision of what success is.

Should our goal be to compare ourselves less to others but more to our previous selves?  Am I better than yesterday? How can I be better tomorrow? Did I give myself an opportunity to think about what I did or didn’t do well or what I really want to be better at?

I have no doubt that this is the path to a better me.

This Year Make a Move, Shake it Up


Change cc Flickr photos – Sebastien Wiertz

This time last year I was struggling with the belief that not everyone shared the basic premise that all kids can learn (see Clear to Me Opaque to Others).  Over the year I have spent more time listening and working with individuals and small groups and gained a greater understanding of what it is they believe and want to achieve. Time to build some relationships has definitely made a difference, after all no one goes to work with the intention to be terrible or do a poor job. Starting from this point I have been able to see more clearly what breeds reluctance or fear in trying something new.

I believe it is essential that whatever the small step may be to change our practice for the better, we must commit to take that challenge.  For some it may be something grand, for others it may be small shift in habit or attitude or just acknowledging that support is needed.

I have the most respect for staff whom I know are feeling frightened by trying something new, but are willing to do so because they know it will benefit the kids. If we are willing to be vulnerable and admit “this is hard” or “this is scary” or “I am feeling intimidated by this” but then seek support from others we are truly modelling the challenge of learning for our students.

So this year, what will you do to make a move or shake it up, to take a chance, to make a change?

Growing Changemaking Communities

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by *patrick

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by *patrick

Education leaders such as George Couros and Stephen Harris are always seeking ideas and examples from beyond the education arena to develop and strengthen learning and leadership in schools. I think there are many lessons to be learnt from corporations as they continually reflect upon what contributed to their success or their failure.

I am not suggesting in any means that schools should fashion themselves entirely on a business model – our core business is kids, not making a profit, but I do think the more that business looks at building success on the basis of developing relationships and connection, the more we can learn from their change journeys.

This morning I read this article by Alexa Clay – “5 Tips for Growing Changemaking Communities in Your Company“.  Clay puts forth the importance of building an entourage which she describes as;

“people who bring you energy and ‘get it’ Your entourage is what gets you through the darker times and plays a much needed role in keeping you going when things appear stuck”

I have previously written about this idea in terms of our Circle of Influence and Who Makes You Average. I feel strongly about the team that we build to cultivate and grow ourselves and our school.

Clay says the following in which I have added the alternative (schools) or (classrooms) substitute:

And corporations (schools) aren’t merely collections of individuals. Corporations (schools) are communities. Behind every business (school) is an environment where people are looking to find connection, fulfillment, and identity. And yet, within and across cubicles (classrooms), it can be so hard to connect on a human level. So how do we bust through? How do we generate communities to really unleash game-changing innovation within big corporations (schools)? And how do we grow our entourages into truly powerful networks of change.

For each of the 5 tips Clay suggests to move towards developing changemaking communities I have included a ‘school’ alternative.

1. Visualise your relationships

Company model: …. go beyond the usual suspects and think about organizations or communities you might never engage with …Map out these actors and understand their competencies and points of leverage within the system. Then spot areas where a shared agenda could emerge.

School model: there may be people in your school that have a passion or interest in what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t assume it will always be the same people who put their hand up for everything, develop opportunities for support staff, parents, families, ex students and others to be involved in what you’re trying to achieve.

2. Find your counterparts

Company model: …make sure that you connect with like-minded intrapreneurs within these organizations. Systemic collaborations require an enterprising spirit to be ignited and sustained. So find the right allies in other organizations that you can rely and depend on to accelerate these types of initiatives. You’ll save time and energy by working with others who share the same mindset as you.

School model: Connect with people who share your passions both in and beyond (local or global) your school.  Develop a network of educators on the same journey and share and build from each other. Utilise #twitter , google+ or other ways to connect and share and forge the development of your community.

3. Practice code-switching

Company model: Be able to shift how you communicate, depending on your audience–know the right language to use depending on your stakeholder. Part of building community has to do with knowing how to translate your prerogative into the language of others.

School model: depending on whether you are engaging with your allies, leadership or those whom may be resistant, your communication will need to change.  No point going full blown excitement on a peer that is reluctant to change anything at all, save that for your ‘counterparts’

4. Foster a subculture

Company model:  at times, it might feel like the culture you’re trying to create is not reconcilable with the culture of your organisation. Ask yourself what is the delta behind the culture that is and the culture that you are trying to create. And the delta should be fairly small. Most people don’t like massive change.

School model:  Change is hard! Start by developing a small culture which you can cultivate and grow eventually infiltrating the rest of the school.

5. De-couple your entourage and your ego

Company model: Communities don’t revolve around one person. Nor should the success of an idea or innovation be dependent on one person. To be successful you need to be able to democratize ownership of your ideas. Beware of isolating yourself with a community of enablers. Get the “scary people” within your organization or from the outside to champion your work. They are key in getting your ideas to scale.

School model: Make sure there are people within your community who are willing to question and challenge ideas (critical friends). Success will be measured not by what you envision on your own, but by what is owned within a vision.

“most game-changing ideas are 10% epiphany and 90% relationships and community building….People don’t just lean in to ideas; they lean in to communities where they can discover purpose and meaning.”