A few days ago I received an email, due largely to the fact that my name is the contact for our newly forming Westland Community of Learning. The email asked what I seem to think is a rather silly question. Would I like to join in a Global online discussion with Micheal Fullan, Steve Munby, Vivienne Robinson, Tony McKay, John Hattie, and Phil Brown? Gee... let me see if that day works for me... uh YES! Of course there will be plenty of other participants - and it was really inviting our cluster of principals to participate as a hub, not just me - but still - a huge YES to that. 20 groups from NZ have been invited to join and little ol'Westland is in the mix with the big kids ;)
So, given that I was already struggling to get my head back into school, particularly the classroom, this is a great distraction, and inspiration to start thinking.
The first set of questions to think about...
my knee jerk answers are...
1. Some how flexibility needs to be built into policy - and TRUE recognition for the challenges we face and incentives to stay when we are doing great things. By this I don't mean higher salaries- although money is always nice to have, it doesn't really solve problems. Support in the way of effective coaching, time to think and research solutions, Professional development that supports the changes and successes rather than distracts or moves backwards.
2. Building relationships and trust. One of the most frustrating things I have found in the last few years is the level of division and mistrust within education. It's not true in all cases, but I seem to be more aware of it now than ever before. Teachers don't trust their school leaders to move their school in the right direction. Leaders don't trust their teachers, or have misplaced trust. Leaders who don't trust themselves and give all decisions to teachers - not in a positive/collaborative leadership way, but in a 'they won't listen to me or will be angry if I get it wrong' way. and the level of distrust between the union and govt is the most disappointing of all. nothing will change until the relationship changes - (I suggest a total divorce and look for a new style of partnership). The 'mindset' of all sides needs to change - we are here for a common purpose, to give our children the best future possible. Start with the key things we agree on and build from there, looking for solutions rather than the difficulties and giving permission to take risks and leaps of faith, knowing that we won't be punished.
3. Which pockets are we looking at? Those with the dynamic leader? Or those that out live the leader - and where are they? The only thing I can think of is PD - but not the 1 day listen to the guru PD - but High quality, face to face, ongoing, coaching at the coal face. And if you want to see the full potential - take it to the fringe first - get the experts out of their cities, away from the schools and communities that aren't really struggling and fight the hardest battles first for a change.
4. Community accountability -well-being accountability - accountability for positive relationships, and positive change - not just test scores. I believe successful system-wide school collaboration actually needs more than just schools to collaborate. We all know that there are many factors that impact the success of our students. We need to seek out strategies that allow us to be the village that raises the child - not just 1 school.
more reading, talking and more thinking needs to go into these answers - but I find it always getting the 1st impression down is a good place to start.