I hope you won’t mind me sharing a story with you from my last school - Kaiapoi Borough.
Believing In Kids - Giving Them Someone They Can Believe In - Living Proof It Works:
At Kaiapoi Borough School we received a lot of visits from ex pupils eager to stay in touch with us, keen to share how successful they have been at High School, and wanting to thank us for the ways we have supported them. Recently I had a visit from an ex pupil who called in to share where he is at in his learning journey, his sporting progress and his personal growth as a young man and a leader.
As I listened to him speak of the impact our school and our people had had on his life, I was almost moved to tears.
Kurt spoke of how he had been a tearaway, a thief, quick to turn an argument into a fist fight and with a “I don’t want to know” attitude.
Our staff persevered with Kurt and worked hard to build a relationship with him. I spoke often with Kurt about our values and our belief in him.
Kurt shared how those things stuck with him - how he came to realise the importance of goals and the huge importance of honest and regular reflection.
Kurt uses reflection in all aspects of his life. If he misses a crucial drop-kick in a league game, he doesn’t beat himself up over it, he reflects on what he did and what he could do differently to be successful next time.
Kurt reflected on the pathway he was taking at High School. He realised it was leading him down a one-way path to a wasted life.
Kurt joined a group called “Tama ki Tane” (Boys to Men) at Kaiapoi High School after the Counsellor there and a senior Maori student both took him aside and asked him to reflect on where he was going, what he was trying to achieve and who he was trying to impress. Now, as a year 12 Kurt can look back on a complete change in his life. He achieved a Merit in English last year. He has passed Level One NCEA. He is trialling for the Melbourne Storm Rugby League club and he is the first Year 12 Chief of the Tama ki Tane ropu at Kaiapoi High School.
I invited Kurt to come and speak to our staff on a Monday morning - a number of them were all but moved to tears also.
Kurt thanked them for putting up with him, for persevering, for caring and for giving him a foundation of skills and practices that set him up for success in the end. Kurt did this as a way of giving something back. He took a lot of satisfaction in being able to do this and he will be coming back in his own time to speak to our year five to eight students.
We don’t always work miracles overnight, but what we do does pay off sooner or later.
Here Is A Response from My Ex Board Chairperson:
Awesome story about Kurt. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes knowing that every word is true and well spoken. I watched Kurt perform in Kapa Haka at recent high school events and I could see the pride and passion he had in doing a good job. You are so right that encouragement and belief that children’s innate goodness will shine through is very important for all adults working with children, especially those who need extra guidance.
Another student who is doing remarkably well is Ammaron. I remember he also needed some special guidance from the KBS Board when I was there. My heart swells with pride when I see what a talented and hardworking young man Ammaron is turning into.
Both these boys/men needed the KBS and wider village to believe in them – well done for championing this positive and supportive approach to our children.
I would like to initiate a discussion around behaviour management and rewards and recognition.
Personally, I am opposed to a punitive behaviour management system. Obviously assigning lines, detentions etc is punitive. However, using stickers and certificates can also be considered punitive.
Here's some background reading for your edification on this topic...
Creating praise junkies.
To be sure, not every use of praise is a calculated tactic to control children’s behavior. Sometimes we compliment kids just because we’re genuinely pleased by what they’ve done. Even then, however, it’s worth looking more closely. Rather than bolstering a child’s self-esteem, praise may increasekids’ dependence on us. The more we say, "I like the way you...." or "Good __ing," the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what’s good and bad, rather than learning to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval.
"Good job!" doesn’t necessarily reassure children; ultimately, it can make them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious circle such that the more we slather on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. Sadly, some of these kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the head and tell them whether what they did was OK. Surely this is not what we want for our children.
To be sure, there are times when our evaluations are appropriate and our guidance is necessary -- especially with toddlers and preschoolers. But a constant stream of value judgments is neither necessary nor useful for children’s development.
I cherish the occasions when my daughter manages to do something for the first time, or does something better than she’s ever done it before. But I try to resist the knee-jerk tendency to say, "Good job!" because I don’t want to dilute her joy. I want her to share her pleasure with me, not look to me for a verdict. I want her to exclaim, "I did it!" (which she often does) instead of asking me uncertainly, "Was that good?"
An impressive body of scientific research has shown that the more we reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Now the point isn’t to draw, to read, to think, to create – the point is to get the goody, whether it’s an ice cream, a sticker, or a "Good job!”
Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that’s often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.
As if it weren’t bad enough that "Good job!" can undermine independence, pleasure, and interest, it can also interfere with how good a job children actually do. Researchers keep finding that kids who are praised for doing well at a creative task tend to stumble at the next task – and they don’t do as well as children who weren’t praised to begin with. Why does this happen? Partly because the praise creates pressure to "keep up the good work" that gets in the way of doing so. Partly because their interest in what they’re doing may have declined. Partly because they become less likely to take risks – a prerequisite for creativity – once they start thinking about how to keep those positive comments coming. More generally, "Good job!" is a remnant of an approach to psychology that reduces all of human life to behaviours that can be seen and measured.
Unfortunately, this ignores the thoughts, feelings, and values that lie behind behaviors. For example, a child may share a snack with a friend as a way of attracting praise, or as a way of making sure the other child has enough to eat. Praise for sharing ignores these different motives. Worse, it actually promotes the less desirable motive by making children more likely to fish for praise in the future.
What kids do need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached.
That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. "Good job!" is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops, for doing things that please us.
The real problem isn’t that children expect to be praised for everything they do these days. It’s that we’re tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values.
So what’s the alternative?
That depends on the situation, but whatever we decide to say instead has to be offered in the context of genuine affection and love for who kids are rather than for what they’ve done. When unconditional support is present, "Good job!" isn’t necessary; when it’s absent, "Good job!" won’t help.
If we’re praising positive actions as a way of discouraging misbehavior, this is unlikely to be effective for long. Even when it works, we can’t really say the child is now "behaving himself"; it would be more accurate to say the praise is behaving him.
The alternative is to work with the child, to figure out the reasons he’s acting that way. We may have to reconsider our own requests rather than just looking for a way to get kids to obey. (Instead of using "Good job!" to get a four-year-old to sit quietly through a long class meeting or family dinner, perhaps we should ask whether it’s reasonable to expect a child to do so.)
We also need to bring kids in on the process of making decisions.
If a child is doing something that disturbs others, then sitting down with her later and asking, "What do you think we can do to solve this problem?" will likely be more effective than bribes or threats. It also helps a child learn how to solve problems and teaches that her ideas and feelings are important. Of course, this process takes time and talent, care and courage.Tossing off a "Good job!" when the child acts in the way we deem appropriate takes none of those things, which helps to explain why "doing to" strategies are a lot more popular than "working with" strategies.
Say what you saw.
A simple, evaluation-free statement ("You put your shoes on by yourself" or even just "You did it") tells your child that you noticed. It also lets her take pride in what she did. In other cases, a more elaborate description may make sense. If your child draws a picture, you might provide feedback – not judgment – about what you noticed: "This mountain is huge!" "Boy, you sure used a lot of purple today!" If a child does something caring or generous, you might gently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: "Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack." This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing.
Talk less, ask more.
Even better than descriptions are questions. Why tell him what part of his drawing impressed you when you can ask him what he likes best about it? Asking "What was the hardest part to draw?" or "How did you figure out how to make the feet the right size?" is likely to nourish his interest in drawing. Saying "Good job!", as we’ve seen, may have exactly the opposite effect.
This doesn’t mean that all compliments, all thank-you’s, all expressions of delight are harmful.
We need to consider our motives for what we say (a genuine expression of enthusiasm is better than a desire to manipulate the child’s future behavior) as well as the actual effects of doing so. Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life -- or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head.
It’s not a matter of memorising a new script, but of keeping in mind our long-term goals for our children and watching for the effects of what we say. The bad news is that the use of positive reinforcement really isn’t so positive.
The good news is that you don’t have to evaluate in order to encourage.
Copyright © 2001 by Alfie Kohn.
The further we progress into the 21st century the more strongly I feel the need for us to teach discernment. In fact, if I had to settle on one skill as crucial for our children beyond the basics of literacy and numeracy, I think this might be it. It fits within the Key Competency of Thinking, and it should be assuming ever greater importance.
Nowadays we have Google in our pocket, we have constant access to information, and are pretty much constantly surrounded by “information”. We live in a print-saturated, image-saturated, talkback-saturated, social-connectivity-saturated, sound-saturated, video-saturated, environment. The numbers for Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, YouTube, and iTunes are mind-boggling in the extreme.
On the face of it, Google in our pocket seems to be such a great benefit. But access to information should not be the main purpose – understanding information is the purpose. We need to look at how our children – and ourselves – are using Google. The pattern tends to be that most searchers sample the first link or two, and very few go past the first page or two.
One of the biggest problems is that our children tend to believe whatever they find on the internet – “if it’s on the internet, it must be true.”
American educator Alan November has shared some thought-provoking sessions on verifying what we find when we search on the web. whois.com is a useful tool recommended by Alan. He shares the search results from Google on “Doctor Martin Luther King”. On first look, the fourth entry on Google’s result page appears to be a considered, erudite review of the great man’s life. However, the further into that site you go, the more controversial and disparaging becomes the material, until it eventually leads children to a set of flyers they can print out and distribute in their community. The source of this web site is the Ku Klux Klan. You can guess their motives.
We need to teach our children discernment – the ability to judge what is right. When faced with challenges outside our knowledge, we need the right tools and dispositions.
It’s not “knowing the answer” anymore. It’s not even being able to find the answer. It’s knowing how to behave intelligently when I don’t know the answer.
Previously we sought answers – usually simple and factual, to finite questions. Now our students are beginning to realise there is a difference between information and knowledge. One touches the surface – lands and sinks. One involves understanding – lands and generates ripples.
The problem now is not access to information, nor is it the up-to-date-ness of information. Instead, the issue is truthfulness – reliability – usefulness – source. We need to look for slant – bias – hidden agenda.
This of course could and should lead to discussions on... What is news? What is newsworthy? Who decides? So consider this: if we don’t teach discernment to our children who will? If we don’t teach discernment to our children what might the resultant outcomes be? We need to be asking questions that Google doesn’t know the answer to. Finally, discernment is something we need to teach in partnership with parents.
At any given time, we carry around with us thousands of views, opinions, and beliefs, and often regard them as facts. Today I was reminded of the story of Schrödinger's Cat by an Apple Distinguished Educator who wore a T Shirt declaring Schrödinger' Cat is Not Dead.
A cat, along with a flask containing a poison and a radioactive source, is placed in a sealed box shielded against environmentally induced quantum decoherence. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead.
Part of the premise, as I (barely) understand it, is that reality is influenced by us observing it. If we were not observing, what would be happening would be different.
I guess what this says to me, is it is very hard to be very certain about anything. In fact, it's quite likely that the more certain I am, the less likely it is that I am fully informed.
This sounds somewhat esoteric and confused, but the point I am taking from it is that I find it increasingly important to be open-minded.
I used to think I knew so much. I am a passionate person and tend to be strongly opinionated. I still am when it comes to many things such as the importance of equality of opportunity, the importance of valuing the whole child in the learning process, and the aesthetic beauty and operational beauty (simplicity, effectiveness and efficiency of use) of all things Apple, the importance of family, the importance of preserving our beautiful world and so on.
I am becoming increasingly aware that in reality I know so little. Schrödinger''s cat is a very small example of a whole world of understanding that is completely beyond me in terms of physics. And what of politics, religion, science, art, literature, politics? I have so many small and imperfectly formed kernels of information, and yet even with such a small reserve to draw on, I find it all too easy to make sweeping statements, hold untested opinions and claim understanding that simply has no foundation of merit.
I have changed my thinking about parochialism and realised the need to see not just our ANZAC neighbours as whanau but all nations. The selfless acts of the workers at the Fukoshima Nuclear Plant, and the Japanese USAR volunteers who came to Christchurch and showed such reverence for human life, are just two examples of why we should see our world as a whānauhood.
I have changed my mind about thinking, realising that what we refer to as what 'we think' is actually often based on too little thinking and too little information. A truer phrase might well be, "I assume".
I have spent too long assuming too much, and must become more open minded. My action goal needs to be to listen more, and assume less. As a colleague once taught me, "When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me."
I have been reading a bit of Maslow and also Colin Wilson's "A Criminal History of Mankind", which references Maslow's work.
One of Wilson's theories postulates that there is no such thing as Evil but rather a (perhaps total) lack of empathy in these so-called Evil individuals.
I took a little time out to peruse some of the comments posted for the Trade Me auction for the "MAORI" number plate. There have been some quite appallingly racist comments posted and other responses that show that some readers find those comments to be sad and despicable.
I used to feel incredible anger at what I perceived as 'redneck' racism and ignorance.
To be honest, I possibly leaned too much the other way at times - tending to see everything from the indigenous or non-white point of view.
What should be obvious - but clearly often isn't - is that people are people and skin-colour is not a defining characteristic. There are what most would refer to as 'good and bad' in every race and no one race or people has the market cornered on rightness, goodness, badness or the proclivity for laziness or criminality.
To be successful on society's terms requires that we have options, opportunities, hope and a positive self-image. A lack of most of these is what leads to crime, laziness, violence or substance abuse.
As things stand, we have a considerable section of our society who do not have options, opportunities, hope and a positive self-image. A large proportion of this section of our society have not been successful at school - or to put it another way, school did not work for them. They are what is called our "Education Tail”.
National have introduced National Standards to address this Education Tail. Many would argue this is because it is easier to blame so-called "slack" teachers for society's problems than it is to address the much deeper and more difficult reasons that give rise to an underclass in our society and a poverty line that has 16% to 25% (depending who you listen to), of our population living below it.
National Standards are not the panacea for our Education Tail. The 16% to 25% below the poverty line is our Education Tail right there. In fact, bearing poverty line levels in mind, we are arguably the most successful education system in the world. Ranked at three or four in most areas of education performance, we are only beaten by countries with a poverty level of 3 or 4%.
To return to the racism issue and the issue of apparent evil, I believe empathy is the key ingredient that is missing. If we take one of our own reasonably recent cases, that of Clayton Weatherston, he is fought to have his case reheard in the Supreme Court as he felt the sentence he received for stabbing his girlfriend 216 times was unfair. He argued provocation - she did not respect him - and that this was not given due consideration. Any reasonable person considering this would find such thinking appallingly egotistical and utterly self-centered and remorseless. I think it shows a complete lack of empathy. Clayton sees everything from his - and only his - perspective. During the original trial, his time on the stand was spent providing a totally egotistical review of his superior intelligence, his personal needs and feelings and the apparent slight on his intelligence and feelings by the victim, whose punishment was therefore somehow at least partly justifiable in his eyes.
Clayton is an extreme example of such self-self-centredness and lack of empathy, however the continuum that leads to Clayton is peopled with those who steal, hurt, racially abuse, bully and see things only from their own point of view.
We are all of us designed to look out for number one - failure to do so could well mean we don't survive very long. Most of us also learn that it is right and good (and often rewarding and mutually beneficial) to have a shared commitment to our fellow humans.
As educators, one of the most important things we can teach our children is Empathy. Most of the negative behaviours and responses that general society finds unacceptable are an indication of a lack of empathy. So how?
Empathy arises out of Education and Experience. This is why it concerns me that we are being forced into a very narrow Education focus - teach the basics of reading and writing and maths to the exclusion of almost all else in order to be perceived as a successful school. In doing so we will be producing a batch of graduates with an empathy deficit. The repercussions for society will be huge. We will end up spending even more to protect the haves and their possessions from the have-nots, to incarcerate the angry and resentful who have no hope, no opportunity and no self-belief because they were differently smart.
We know beyond all dispute that there are many differently-smart people for whom school was torture, frustration and irrelevant, who nevertheless found a way to succeed in spite of school. Richard Branson and Barry Crump for example. But what of this list - Rabindranath Tagore, George Bernard Shaw, Sigrid Undset, Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, Bertrand Russell, Winston Churchill, Richard Feynman, Andrei Sakharov, Arno Penzias, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar - these people all hated school and yet also all won Nobel Prizes for everything from Literature to Physics.
We need a system that provides for the differently-smart child as well as those with a proclivity for traditional subjects delivered in a traditional manner. We need a system that teaches children - and expects children - to be citizens, to grow and to demonstrate empathy. Imagine if instead of National Standards, we had National Expectations for Empathy and all of the other crucial life-tools we need to be providing our children with.
All of society would win and our incarceration tax-dollars could instead be used to support an education system that is potentially a world-beater and a world-changer.
Prof. Gerry Sussman said, “Being smart in the arts is the same as being smart in engineering is the same as being smart in writing is the same as being smart in anything, really. It’s the ability to manipulate all the pieces of the puzzle in your mind, try to fit them together, and when they don’t fit quite right … you sand the edges/corners and make them all fit.”
Teaching your students about art is a good idea:
It's been proven that early exposure to visual art, music, or drama promotes activity in the brain.
Art helps children understand other subjects much more clearly—from math and science, to language arts and geography.
Art nurtures inventiveness as it engages children in a process that aids in the development of self-esteem, self-discipline, cooperation, and self-motivation.
Participating in art activities helps children to gain the tools necessary for understanding human experience, adapting to and respecting others' ways of working and thinking, developing creative problem-solving skills, and communicating thoughts and ideas in a variety of ways.
The arts are not so much a result of inspiration and innate talent as they are a person's capacity for creative thinking and imagining, problem solving, creative judgement and a host of other mental processes. The arts represent forms of cognition every bit as potent as the verbal and logical/mathematical forms of cognition that have been the traditional focus of public education (Cooper-Solomon, 1995).
The British aesthetician and critic, Herbert Read, went so far as to say, "Art is the representation, science is the explanation… of the same reality" (Fowler, 1994). The arts are able to teach divergent rather than convergent thinking and encourage children to come up with different, rather than similar, solutions because the solutions to artistic problems are multiple.
The arts break through the black-and-white, true-false, memorise-that, name-this that cause Eisner concern. This kind of reasoning is far more the case in the real world, where there are often many ways to address a problem and, "An effective work force needs both kinds of reasoning, not just the standardized answer" (Fowler, 1994).
In his music advocacy speech at the 1996 Grammy Awards, Richard Dreyfuss announced, "It is from that creativity and imagination that the solutions to our political and social problems will come. We need that Well Rounded Mind, now. Without it, we will simply make more difficult the problems we face" (Dreyfuss, 1996).
The results of balancing the arts with other learning areas in the curriculum have shown that where 25% or more of the curriculum is devoted to arts courses, students acquire academically superior abilities (Perrin, 1994), demonstrating an apparent relationship between learning in the arts and other areas. Perrin also refers to long-term educational aims, saying that workers at all levels in our post-industrial society need to be creative thinkers and problem solvers and able to work collaboratively, they must be judicious risk-takers, they must be able to push themselves towards high levels of achievement, and they must have the courage of their convictions, and that arts education develop such skills. Perrin suggests that these attributes are nurtured in the arts because "the student artist (musician, dancer, visual artist, writer, or actor) learns by doing" (Perrin, 1994).
We may agree with Einstein and Iris Murdoch and also with Polanyi, that "we can know more than we can tell" (Polanyi, 1967). There are, though, other ways of "telling" besides verbal language. The arts as ways of knowing are as potentially powerful as any other form of human discourse and they are just as capable of contributing to the development of the mind on a conceptual level (p.48).
The key learning area of the arts is able to provide children with unique and multiple ways of exploring, forming, expressing, communicating and understanding their own and others’ ideas and feelings. It provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary to understand how the arts reflect and depict the diversity of our world, its cultures, traditions and belief systems. The procedures within the arts can contribute to the development of the potential of the whole child by proving children with the opportunity to:
The future of this world rests upon the shoulders of its youth. It is our responsibility as adults and educators to ensure we do all in our power to aid the development of children’s potential. Equity in educational opportunity is essential if society is to tap all the possible resources in the shaping of its future, and the arts are an integral and undeniable part of this development of potential.
"In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity."
"The will to win...the will to achieve...goes dry without continuous reinforcement."
I have been reflecting a little on what stops me from being as successful at sport today as I (like to think I was) 30 years ago. It all comes down to desire and self-dsicipline. Sure life priorities and old age come into it. Priorities is just an excuse though. I could hit the hay earlier, get up earlier and do the ten k thing again - if it was my priority, it I could re-summon the self-discipline. Old age is just an excuse too. Sure the reflexes are a little slower, but that's where experience and an old head can compensate - anticipation compensating for reaction speed.
Brian Tracy is one of America's leading authors on the development of human potential. He said this..."If I had to pick the #1 key to success, it would be...self-discipline. It is the difference in winning or losing; between greatness and mediocrity.
Self-discipline is the key to personal greatness. It is the magic quality that opens all doors for you, and makes everything else possible. With self-discipline, the average person can rise as far and as fast as his talents and intelligence can take him. But without self-discipline, a person with every blessing of background, education and opportunity will seldom rise above mediocrity.
My question is how much are we encouraging our children and supporting our children to be self-disciplined? It's so easy to do things for them, to make excuses for them, to offer them the 'easy option'. I'm not advocating child cruelty, boot-camps, or bully tactics to live vicariously through my child's success at something I'd wished I could do, or could do better.
No, I mean expecting kids to make a bit of an effort, a genuine commitment to seeing things through. How many kids give up stuff without even giving it a good go?
The most important success principle of all was stated by Thomas Huxley many years ago. He said, "Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not."
That's self-discipline. That's what I need to work on, that's what I am going to encourage in my son as supportively but persistently as I think is right.
"No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined."
~Harry E. Fosdick
“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
Simplicity is about finding the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
Context often distorts good analysis of a problem. That’s why finding the obvious isn’t all that obvious! The challenge is simplifying the problem - and thus finding the purest, simplest and most obvious solution!
Simplicity is about subtracting the redundant, and adding the meaningful.
HOW SIMPLE CAN YOU MAKE IT?
HOW COMPLEX DOES IT HAVE TO BE?
The process of reaching an ideal state of simplicity can be truly complex. The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. When in doubt, just remove. But do be careful of what you remove.
Daniel Pink is someone whose philosophies and thinking I admire. I read his book “Drive" a couple of years ago, and it seemed to encapsulate my evolving thinking to that point very well.
I loved Dennis Littky’s “The Big Picture”. I read it, re-read it and wrote notes in the margins and in the spare pages at the back. When I gave that copy to some of my leadership team, they said they understood me and what Drives me, much better.
Daniel's work helped me critically reflect further upon my leadership practices. I had been very focused on encouraging our students to be self-motivating, self-moderating, self-monitoring, reflective leaders of their own learning. I needed to ensure I expected the same of my staff.
The difficulty is this can lead to a laissez-faire approach where motivated students and staff set high standards and strive for them, and others do not.
So what to do?
Daniel’s work in Drive makes it clear that carrot and stick approaches are not the answer. This ties in with the writings and studies of Alfie Kohn. Kohn's book, “Punished by Rewards” should be compulsory reading for teachers, parents, business leaders, and especially politicians.
I often refer to what is almost becoming a mantra - High Trust, High Expectation. This works for most, in fact for most it works extremely well, providing it is built on a base of a strong and meaningful relationship between the trusters and the trustees, the expecters and the expectees (I doubt that is a word).
There is one key element that is also needed, and that is reflection (as mentioned above).
Reflection needs to be taught and it needs to be practised. Do something 20 days or more in a row and it becomes a habit. So, at the end of each lesson, at the end of each learning period, at the end of each practice, at the end of each day, take some time and teach your children to reflect and how to reflect effectively.
The Reflective Practitioner is objective, considered, honest, seeks improvement, and is semi dispassionate about their performance. By this I mean they are realistic - they understand that luck plays a part in any performance, that over congratulating yourself for success can be as dangerous as flagelating yourself for a failure.
Persuasion is a huge component of what we do in education. Much of our time is spent in helping (persuading) the reflective practitioner to make necessary change. Change to make progress, through to change to achieve a paradigm shift.
This change process and its success, lies in our ability to persuade people to embrace new ideas, concepts, approaches, mindsets and strategies. As if this was not sufficient of a challenge, we are trying to achieve this in a world dominated by rapidly changing technology. Gone are the days where you could quote research figures off the top of your head. With google in our pockets, everything can be verified at once - checked or challenged. There is no longer a monopoly on information. We are moving into a world where learning can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. Google in your pocket makes the art of persuading and moving people in a better direction much more challenging.
So with these challenges how do we persuade change in our schools?
Robert Cialdini’s research into influence and behavioural science can help us to encourage (persuade) others to embrace change.
Three core qualities to move people towards change:
• Attunement – Can you see through a different set of eyes? The old saying of ‘walk a week in my shoes and you will understand me.'
• Buoyancy – How do we stay afloat facing the choppy seas of change, rejection, and set-backs?
• Clarity – How do we make sense of information? We must move from information hunter-gatherers, to quality control, curators of information. We need to be able to sift and sort, to verify and validate.
I see similarities between these three and Guy Claxton’s Four R’s
Reciprocity - which we renamed Relationships. ‘Being ready, willing and able to learn alone and with others'.
Resilience - 'being ready, willing and able to lock on to learning'. Being able to stick with difficulty and cope with feelings such as fear and frustration.
Resourcefulness - 'being ready, willing and able to learn in different ways'. Having a variety of learning strategies and knowing when to use them.
Reflection - 'being ready, willing and able to become more strategic about learning'. Getting to know our own strengths and weaknesses.
To encourage (persuade) others to embrace change, Pink suggests that we should focus on small wins. As we continue to find success through these small wins they will eventually move people to where we need them to be. For this to happen we must move the locus of control. It is important for us to not let power overtake our core values, as it will make it hard for us to understand and value the perspectives of others.
One of the reasons I have loved this opportunity to start anew at Western Heights is because it has allowed me to reinvent myself - to be the best me I can be. All the things I wished I’d done from the start at previous schools, I can do from the start here. All the mistakes I’ve made in the past can be learned from, and hopefully avoided.
We have to become a better version of ourselves in order to improve our ability to move people to where they need to be.
To be that better version of ourselves again comes back to reflection and to interrogative self-talk. This is so important, but finding the time and the space (the quiet place) for it is always a challenge. This is where a PLG (Professional Learning Group) is so helpful.
Last week I met with a PLG of principals from around New Zealand. We reflected, discussed, debated and challenged. The "crowded curriculum" was a topic that led to some tough questions and some internal questioning of what we believe, what we accept, what we know and what we think we know.
Interrogative self-talk helps us stay afloat. Interrogative self-talk can motivate us and help us achieve our goals. Pink provides a great analogy in Bob the Builder, who asks the question can we fix this? Asking the question is the first step to achieving the fix.
Persuasion, motivation, encouragement, empowerment - are catalysts for change. The key as leaders is not to leave them hanging…
We need to ensure there are resources, infrastructure, support systems and the climate in place, for action to evolve and take shape.
One of the greatest frustrations is to see people full of hope and fervour losing that Drive because the environment and infrastructure didn’t support the change they were trying to make. Persuasion from that point becomes ten times harder.
Why Why Is So Vital - Buying the Why
It is so easy to focus on the how - how we will change this, how we will improve that.
What we must focus on is the Why. If our colleagues and co-learners understand the why, and are fully persuaded by the why, they will persist, they will be resilient and they will be resourceful to ensure this necessary change happens.
Greetings to all the families and friends of Western Heights school.