THOUGHT BUBBLES (TWO)

Some thoughts to share. When retired one has time to reflect and share. We need to keep education simple and not succumb to its confusion and unnecessary complexity.

DON’T ‘ADD ON’ INFINITUM

Many years ago an educator whom we sometimes referred to as the ‘Father of Devolution (decentralisation of authority and its investment in schools), Mr Jim Spinks (now Dr Spinks) gave sound advice. He was at that time Principal of Roseberry School in Tasmania. He told principals at a conference that a grave mistake in modern times was to add so much onto schools in curriculum responsibility and accountability terms, that schools became overwhelmed. As things are seen as being priority needs and are added on, there needed to be a counterbalance with some elements being ‘dropped off’. That was the only way to maintain equilibrium within school contexts.

Sadly, no-one has heeded the ‘drop off’ bit of his advice. Schools, their principals and teachers are buried under expectation to the point of suffocation.

Obesity is often stated as leading to poor health in adults and young people. Similarly and obese and over-stuffed requirement load placed on schools can lead to organisational dysfunction. We need to ease the burden and reinstate the joy in education by dumping what is extraneous from school agendas.

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TIME MANAGEMENT – SO CRITICALLY IMPORTANT

Managing time is something we all feel we can do well … yer time often passes us by. This can and does happen when we plan lessons to be carried out during the day. It often happens that we get so pre-occupied (involved) with what we are teaching that we don’t realise time is slipping by at a rate of knots (speed). This means it can be time to start the next lesson before we have finished the one with which we are engaged.

If teachers and school leaders get too far behind, they become flummoxed (panicky) and what has been planned tends to break down. It is important to keep an eye on the clock. Pace – the introduction, development and the conclusions of lessons need tro be logical and sequenced. They need to be managed within the time time set and which would have been discussed with mentor teachers.

It is easy to over-run time. This can happen when too much time is spent on the earlier sections of lessons, meaning you are starve43ed of time at the back-end (toward the conclusion) of the lesson.

Part of time management is the need to ‘insist’ that children and students being taught, stop and move on when you ask them to undertake evolving (changing) tasks. Unless this happens, your lesson development gets lost; children are doing different things at different times and at individual pace, meaning you become unsure of how the lesson is fitting within the overall time plan. This is turn leads to internal tension and frustration. The anticipation of satisfaction (belief you will feel good about lesson outcomes) does not come to pass.

Keeping a handle on (being aware) of time is very important but easily overlooked.

There are some simple things teachers can do, in order to keep aware of time.

1. Have a very visible clock with clear numbers and hands (analogue) prominently displayed in the classroom and be aware of glancing at time periodically.

2. Write on the board a plan of the day where lessons are referenced Against start and finish times. You can have children operate as ‘time monitors’ or ‘reminders of time’ to you; this helps them as well as yourself in terms of time awareness. It certainly promotes the telling of time among children.

3. Use an egg timer or similar device which sets to the time you have available and then rings when time has or is about to expire. my suggestion would be that you set the timer to go off prior to the lesson finishing, in order to give wind-up time. If a lesson is 40 minutes in length, set the timer to sound 30 minutes after lesson commencement, which gives you ten minutes warning to lesson conclusion.

3. Use a similar device but one that is an ‘hour glass’ type device. these can be bought in various places and set up so the ‘sands of time’ run through the ‘hourglass’. You and students can look up from time to time and ‘visually’ see time elapsed and time remaining.

4. Have and use a stopwatch.

5. Use time monitors who check time on the wall clock or on personal watches and let you know howe things are going, from a time management viewpoint. (I would suggest rotating this duty because it can help all class members with time telling and reminding about the importance of time

Time in relation to lessons is important. We are all blessed with the same amount of time to use every day. Being wise about and aware of time is important for all teachers and educators.

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FOCUS – SO NECESSARY

One of the key points in my life was when in 1983 when I attended a leadership development program held for Principals in Darwin. By that time I had been an educator for quite a few years and was Principal at Nhulunbuy Primary School.

We were encouraged by Dr Colin Moyle, Director of the Victorian Institute of Educational Leadership to develop a focus or mission statement. This statement he suggested should be of 25 words or less. He suggested we think carefully about it as being a statement that would offer both vision and reality.

For me, the timing was exactly right. I had been an educator and school principal in both Western Australia and then the Northern Territory for a number of years. For quite some time I had wrestled (thought about) albeit subconsciously with the need for some ‘statement of direction’ that would act for me as both a motivation and a guiding principle.

It can be hard to define purpose and it seemed that Colin Moyle’s exhortation was a way of drilling down to what motivated us as leaders.

I gave a lot of sincere thought to developing a Mission Statement. It needed to be something that would stand by me motivationally and in guidance terms. There was sufficient time offered us by Dr Moyle to reflect before coming up with a response.

My reflections were sincere. I wanted my mission statement to reflect priorities, sincerity and the way I felt about what I was doing. It needed to consider my present situation and encapsulate feelings toward the future.

I developed the following as my statement of purpose:

* To fulfil and be fulfilled on organisational terms: Family, work, recreation.
* To acquit my responsibilities with integrity.
* To work with a smile in my heart.

These precepts embraced within 25 words have been my drivers (motivators and guiding statements) over the years . I had them printed on the reverse side of my business card. Although now technically retired, these precepts are still reminders, inspiring me to do my best at all times.

I commend to you the worthwhileness of developing a mission statement. It is something you will never regret.

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PRINCIPAL MENTORING

There is certainly a need for principals and leaders new to school based leadership, to be nurtured, supported and given assistance when it comes to their adjustment into leadership roles.

It is not easy to be a school leader, particularly when one considers that expectations held for schools require the consideration and melding of many expectations. Support for Principals that leads toward the building of their confidence and assurance is both necessary and important. Over time, countless stories, albeit anecdotal, have done the rounds on the vulnerability school leaders feel in confronting issues. They want to make right decisions but feel there may be matters requiring consideration they have not taken into account, or simply overlooked.

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‘NEW’ INITIATIVES REDUPLICATE HISTORY

The sad thing about many new educational initiatives is they are simply a revisitation to the past – to history once contemporary and long since forgotten. Along come a new set pf leaders and teachers who want to try on new things. So often they do that by going back to where systems have come from – and they do it without taking cognisance of past failures. They simply do not consider the past as they make it their future. And so often that future fails, often for the reasons that saw it fail in past times when it was contemporary. In the words of Peter, Paul and Mary, “when will they (we) ever learn”?

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DEPERCHMENT

For many a year I have pondered the notion of ‘deperchment’. Deperchment is a process whereby principals and other organisational leaders, metaphorically, are like birds on a tree branch. ‘Up there’ looking down on the domains of their responsibilities, they become easy targets for those who would like to take pot shots at them, aiming to destabilise them for an array of reasons. It may be the leader is doing a poor job and seems to be cocooned from replacement by the system. It may be those within the system at all levels taking aim and not always for legitimate reasons. It may be a parent or community member winding up at the poor leader through system channels for perceived poor performance.

Deperchment as a potential end-point means leaders are often insecure, hesitant, and worriers about the target on their backs. Deperchment is anathema and a sad reality of leadership life.
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TOP PRIORITY

For me, the best of all leadership outcomes over the years stemmed from being able to make a difference, a real difference for both staff and students. I used to get into some degree of difficulty at times with hierarchy for minimal or lagging compliance with commands and demands. That was often a structured response and one for which no apology was due. Being a ‘people principal’. Knowing and being known to staff and students really mattered. People development was (and still is) a key priority for me. I know it is for all of us but it is easy to get sucked into the maelstrom of organisational perspective – which can lead to diminishment of effort at the coalface.

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