Posted in Criterion 1, Criterion 10, Criterion 3, Standard 1, Standard 3, Teacher Registration

The Importance of Community Engagement

Earlier this year I began my Masters in Educational Leadership and Management through Unitec. For the one paper, I was required to interview my principal about how he facilitated diversity at Whangaparaoa College. This is part two of the essay that I wrote about my key findings.

The school has a diverse range of learners which represent 52 different countries. 60.6 % are New Zealand European; 11.8% are Māori; 10.6% are other European and the remaining people include African, Chinese, Pacific Island, Latin American and Middle Eastern learners. This is a huge range of learners and community engagement is necessary to support the achievement of all learners. Although my principal is Pakeha, his leadership style is cognisant of the need to “resonate with Māori conceptions of leadership…” (Hohepa & Robson, 2008, p. 31) in which communication with the whanau is valued. One of the school goals, Objective 9, is to  “create a welcoming and inclusive environment; evidenced by cultural harmony, respect, and a positive two-way relationship with whanau/community” (School Staff Handbook, 2016, p. 2). He is aware that what works for Māori will work for all but that the reverse is not necessarily true. There are many ways that the school utilises to engage with this diverse community.

There is a whānau support group that used to meet regularly once a term when the school was establishing itself and working through some issues. Recently, this has not been as well attended by local whānau. When I asked my principal why he thought this might be, he explained that 10 years ago there were growing pains and the school was establishing itself as a new school so there was more interest in what leadership was doing. Nowadays, it would seem that the school community feel more confident in the way that school is being run so don’t feel the same need to attend meetings.

The Board of Trustees also has included a member of Māori descent to represent the Māori community. This was recognised the recent 2016 ERO report,  “The co-opting of a trustee of Māori descent to the board of trustees with te reo and Tikanga Māori, and links through to the Māori community” (p.4). This member can communicate with their community to report on all the positive initiatives that are lead by the principal. Hohepa and Robson (2008) describe 4 principles of Maori leadership and Principle 4 relates to the leader being a waka and “ensuring that the status of the community is such that the people can feel proud to belong” (p. 23). The community of this school are proud and the recent ERO report of 2016 supports this: “Māori students speak very positively about the school culture and learning. They value the opportunities they have to engage in the wider life of the college. They also appreciate teachers’ efforts to be culturally responsive and to affirm their language and cultural identity. Māori students demonstrate a strong sense of belonging and pride in the school” (p. 4). It would seem that the school is providing a supportive learning environment in which learners of diverse backgrounds feel that they are able to achieve well in.

Another way that the school engages with the community is through counselling and youth workers. There are five youth workers who visit the school and hang out at break times with learners. The counsellors collaborate with the youth workers and they contact home when needed. According to Bishop, O’Sullivan and Berryman (2010), “Effective leadership that aims to sustain an educational reform needs to develop a means to spread reform so that parents, whānau, and community are engaged in a way that addresses their aspirations for the education of their children” (p. 106). By using youth workers to connect and engage with learners the school is able to help learners feel that they belong and have someone to talk to about any issues they are facing. The councillors will also connect with learners to help them develop strategies to deal with their issues. The whānau are then contacted so that they are aware of the issues. When our learners are supported in this manner, they are more able to address their learning knowing that they are supported by the school and by their whānau.

When discussing communication, my principal explained that instead of assuming that a communication was received and understood, he will go the other way and assume that it wasn’t until it is confirmed. He will check by asking a parent what their take away from the meeting is. To him, it is really important that both parties are clear. He explained that families from other cultures may say that it is clear but will sometimes misunderstand. Shields and Sayani (2005) when explaining cross-cultural leadership state, “For us, the term requires that leaders take a stand in the midst of diversity, helping all members of the community to understand it and to translate those understandings into positive and respectful action” (p. 384). By checking that both parties are clear, respect is shown and both parties can move forward in a positive manner.

When it comes to practical methods of communicating with the community, the school has a website, an app, a Facebook page, a newsletter, and a sign near the main road to the school. My principal explained that he tries to make sure it goes out in three different ways at three different times. He said that it’s got to be in the newsletter, on the app, on the sign, on the Facebook page and on the website. This is for advertising an upcoming event such as an Achievers’ Breakfast or a Prize Giving Ceremony. He explained that to try and engage through programmes, strategies, and support methods is much more complicated but the school will keep trying and be listening. My principal believes that listening is important, and will also ask, what can we do better? According to Bishop, O’Sullivan and Berryman (2010), “Leaders of high-achieving schools are more likely to see their goals and expectations are well understood and to see that academic achievement is recognised and conveyed to the community” (p. 101). By providing so many methods of communication and being prepared to listen, engagement with the community is more effective and our learners’ whanau are aware of the progress that their young people are making.

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Posted in Criterion 12, Criterion 4, Criterion 5, Standard 3, Teacher Registration

Leadership evaluation

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Do I ask my faculty to evaluate my leadership or not? This question niggled at me for a week or two before I did anything about it. My reasons for doing included getting some feedback on areas that I was unaware that I needed to work on. I also wanted confirmation that I was doing okay and on the right track but I was a bit scared about the negative feedback that I might receive. However,  I was not expecting that everyone would think that I’m wonderful. So it took a bit of courage for me to finally ask the faculty for their feedback.

I did some research online to find a leadership evaluation that I could adapt. I found the Team Leader Evaluation Survey and adapted the questions into this Google Form. My evaluation consisted of 30 statements which were responded to using multiple choice or a linear scale. Respondents could strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree. I avoided having a middle option so that people could not sit on the fence. One member of the department commented that she thought the responses were too black and white so this could have been a weakness in my survey. Perhaps I could have made 3 options to respond to by including ‘slightly agree’ and ‘slightly disagree’.

7 people completed the evaluation and the results were largely positive with people either agreeing or strongly agreeing for the majority of the statements. Some of the questions only one person disagreed so I don’t see those as areas to work on. Two people disagreed with the following statements so I have identified them as areas to improve:

  • Creates a positive team environment
  • Builds trusting relationships
  • Is tactful, helpful and compassionate towards others

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! These are areas that I thought I was doing okay in! Ah well, I did ask.

Creating a positive team environment

According to www.Good.co, there are 12 ways to create a positive work environment. I got some good ideas from this and also recognised a few things that already happen in our department such as a motivational quote that one member puts up each week and birthday celebrations. Some ideas that I will adopt include sharing something positive that someone is doing at the beginning of our faculty meetings and giving positive reinforcement such as:

  • I appreciate the way you…
  • I’m impressed with…
  • I really enjoy working with you because…
  • Your team couldn’t be successful without your…
  • I admire the way you take the time to…
  • You’re really good at…

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Building trusting relationships

This is something that is very important to me and something that I focussed on a lot last year. I think the people who disagreed with this statement are the ones that I need to further develop relationships with. According to the MindTools website:

Good working relationships give us several other benefits: our work is more enjoyable when we have good relationships with those around us. Also, people are more likely to go along with changes that we want to implement, and we’re more innovative and creative.

This website has a lot of good information with links to quizzes to help work out emotional intelligence strengths, manage boundaries, and assess your people skills. It also has great ideas about developing relationships. One tip that stood out to me was to avoid gossiping. This is a challenge and something that I know most people deal with. After a few Friday after work drinks with colleagues the conversation can often turn to workplace gossip.

Another tip when dealing with a difficult relationship was to “..try not to be too guarded. Ask them about their background, interests and past successes.” This can be difficult as sometimes I don’t even want to engage with my more difficult people! However, I do need to get over this to develop the trust needed.

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Being tactful, helpful and compassionate

I believe that I am usually pretty tactful but sometimes I do say things without thinking and can come across as a bit rude. If I am tired or emotional this is more likely to happen. I do believe that I am helpful and compassionate so I will be aware of the disagreement on this but I don’t see it as an area to work on at this stage.

Once again the MindTools website had some good advice on being tactful. The tips that stood out to me were:

  1. Create the right environment and think before you speak. Listening before speaking and responding with empathy can help to connect with people and see things from their perspective.
  2. Never react emotionally. Understanding and recognising the triggers which make you react emotionally will help to control emotions.

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So I have a few things to work on and have researched and discovered some helpful tips to get me started. Even though I was nervous about asking my faculty to complete the evaluation, I am pleased that I did as it has given me a lot to think about. I am also pleased that, overall, I am doing okay.

Posted in Criterion 10, Criterion 11, Criterion 3, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Criterion 9, Standard 1, Standard 3, Standard 4, Teacher Registration

Year 9 Priority Learner Progress

Have I seen any improvement in the learning/behaviour of my PLs so far this year?

I have 9 priority learners in my year 9 English class, there were 11 but 2 have been moved to a different class. They comprise of a mixture of Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha learners whose curriculum level ability range from level 2 to 4. I have definitely seen an improvement in the behaviour of this group this year. One of my learners was very disrespectful at the beginning of the year and now we have a positive relationship. They are all completing their learning and four out of nine have passed their first common assessment test. Four did not submit the test and one failed.

Explain the possible reasons for this. What did I do that worked/didn’t work?

I am happy that four learners passed their assessment and I attribute this to the task they were given which was well scaffolded and easy to understand. I have also developed positive relationships with these learners and have given regular feedback/feedforward on their learning. Using Google Classroom has been effective as it means that I can check on what learners are doing by looking at their document in the Classroom folder in Google Drive.

I am disappointed that so many learners did not submit their assessment even though they had completed some of it and I had seen it. I sent a letter home to these learners and did receive some supportive replies from parents who said that their child would complete the assessment and send it to me but only one of these did this. The learner that did submit their learning achieved well.

Where to next?

I have been doing some reading about how to help Maori/Pasifika learners to achieve and, as these strategies will work for all learners, I will apply some of these principles. I will focus on teaching until my learners understand as I sometimes can get impatient and not do this.