Sunday, 25 November 2012

Blowing OFSTED away!

So I started a blog entry on Thursday evening, fresh from the most amazing fortnight of my professional career, possibly. A Carlsberg fortnight if you will. It had started with an SLT observation which had been Outstanding, albeit after some negotiation. There were then several meetings where I felt I made good contributions, including a coaching meeting with someone in my Faculty which both of us felt had been really productive, and had reaffirmed me in the need to connect personally with the people I work with, and help and support them, as well as challenging them. I had two sessions for the Aspiring Senior Leadership programme (which I realise I keep banging on about - sorry!), both of which were filling me with more confidence that I might actually have a contribution to make at that sort of level, and in the last one, I even felt I was developing a bit of my own thinking, having been a bit critical of a session where we learnt all about the primacy of data before being told "It's really about people and doing the best for your students". Why, I wondered, were we kow-towing slavishly to statistics and data which measured us on such narrow criteria if we were supposed to be about the whole child? Why, if academies had been given such freedoms to formulate their own curriculum, were we all trying our best to play "Look at us, we're the best!" using even narrower ranges of measures such as the E-Bacc? Was this really the best we could do for each of the students we teach? I've written about this elsewhere, so I won't labour the point, but you get the idea...

So a bit of observation success, some jolly nice pats on the back, a few green shoots of thinking for myself, all topped off with an HMI visit which stamped the school's reputation as Outstanding, World Class, and "blowing the lid off outstanding" indeed: Apparently this was a comment made about my own lesson. Well, I was quite chuffed. Blog, here I come, ready to show the world I know some serious stuff. The Internet would have to sit up and listen now. Might even get past the 200 followers mark on Twitter. Then everyone would know who was the king of this damn castle! Hell yeah....

Fortunately for me, the week had also pretty much exhausted me, and I feel asleep before being able to hit the PUBLISH button (except with my slumping forehead, which wasn't accurate enough to hit the screen in just the right place).


None of the self-congratulatory crap of the original post has since survived, as you can possibly tell (except in an ironic, disdainful, faux can't-believe-I-was-nearly-that-shallow kind of a way). By the time I reviewed it, most of the puffed up self-confidence had gone. Having read some brilliant blogs over the weekend, and some thoroughly humbling ones (my thanks to @Headguruteacher, @kevbartle and @Gwenelope for their contributions, whether they realise it or not), I came back to the realisation, which I've known all along, that chasing plaudits leads to an ego boost, and ego boosts are exactly what divert perfectly well-intentioned people from doing what they know to be right, by their students and their staff. Some may call it pragmatism in an imperfect world, but you have to ask yourself whether, by playing along with the rules of the imperfect world, you aren't condoning it, and won't eventually arrive at a rather unquestioning acceptance of it. In the name of pragmatism. Realpolitik, and all that.

So while my mind is feeling refreshed, and my ego is on a lull, I got on, and planned some more excellent lessons which will push my students harder than they've been pushed before, which will win no popularity contests, but which will get them to be able to think for themselves, hopefully with the same level of integrity I'm aspiring towards. That's my job. Every day. Even when HMI have gone.

Fortunately for me, the pace of a teacher's life and the sieve-like nature of my memory will combine hopefully to ensure I've forgotten all about last week by the time I hit the starter thunk in tomorrow's Year 10 lesson! Nothing like students to keep you grounded and focused on the main thing...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bottom-Up Management: What The Hell Have Toyota Quality Circles Ever Done For Us?

My Dad and I have few things in common. He's a naval architect, I've always been about the arts and humanities. He's a hard-nosed stickler for fact and logic, I have a habit of allowing romantic idealism to dictate what I do and say. A glass of good Burgundy allows our temperaments to declare a truce every so often, and in recent years, our shared love for my daughter has led to mutual respect. But when he starts talking about engineering, designing sails through computer modelling simulation programmes, or Japanese Quality Assurance mechanisms, as he did on our walk today, I tend to up the pace in the hope of getting him to focus more on his impending breathlessness than what he wants to talk about.

All of which made today's conversation a bit of a revelation really. I often talk to him about some of the great things going on in my school, and the way it's well led etc, and he tends to be sceptical, to say the least. The public sector doesn't really do efficiency, as far as he's concerned, and most public sector workers are a bunch of defensive, self-serving plonkers who wouldn't make it in the real world.  That's what his eyes say, at any rate. He's always diplomatic enough not to say. But the vehemence with which I try to defend the best practice I've come across only seems to confirm him in his opinions. So today's conversation was a surprise, to say the least, as it started me thinking about cross-over between business practices and those we have in schools.

A bit of background. My parents lived and worked in Japan for ten years before retiring, Dad as a very senior manager in his company out there. He dislikes people who are anything but who they are, and therefore had little time for many ex-pats. He liked the Japanese a lot, and their culture, though he saw their faults as well. In particular, he admired many of the larger Japanese car companies, and the way they ran their business. Today's conversation (yes, I realise it's been three paragraphs, but I am getting round to its substance, honestly!) was about Toyota's "Quality Circles". I'd been talking at length about my school's brilliant initiative of Teaching and Learning Communities (TaLK groups, for no reason other than to bugger up a perfectly good acronym), where we discuss and share best practice with each other without any interference from senior leaders, and how brilliant and revolutionary this was, and what impact it had had on staff, empowering them and yada yada... "Sounds like an inferior version of Toyota's Quality Circles", he says to me in his usual dismissive manner. "They've been doing that for decades. Hence the badge."

Erm, okaaaaaaaaayyyyyy....

Deflated is an understatement. Yet again my enthusiasm for something I care passionately about had been shot down in flames with a minimal number of words. The only reason I even persisted with the conversation was that he'd piqued my interest with the badge comment. "What do you mean?" says I.
And he proceeds to tell me.

Toyota's quality circles (as illustrated right: I know regular readers will think I've abandoned my gimmick of a picture or video half-way through to keep you awake, but I assure you the gimmick is alive and well...) represent the way the company thinks is the most efficient way to ensure quality across every product.

Essentially, the people deemed to know most about the efficiency of the production process and the quality of the final outcome are those on the production line, so they meet with shop-floor managers and senior managers on a weekly basis, tell them what improvements to make to the systems, and the managers make the improvements so the people on the front-line can do their job as effectively as possible. "When I'm fitting x onto y, I have to walk across this other person's path to get the part. Why don't we have a box of x parts right next to me so I don't waste that time?" sort of thing. (I'm not sure many Japanese cars have x parts which are fitted to y bits, but you get the idea). Management's job is to help them out by listening and implementing.

That really got me thinking. How often are staff in schools impeded from doing their jobs by people higher up wanting to introduce this or that initiative, and giving it a higher priority than the "main thing"? Sound familiar? How many teachers do you know who could easily tell management a thing or two about what's wrong with the school? View from the chalkface anyone?

I've been in on a variety of leadership training events recently, all of which have had merit, but all of which have also had the underlying assumption that the leaders are the experts, and that vision and leadership from the top are what will drive a school forward. and while I'm not contesting the need for both of those things, I'm coming to the conclusion that leadership is as much about making the best use of the talents of ALL those in the organisation. And if you have 90 teachers working 85% timetables day in day out, it would be a fool who ignored their expertise, surely. So why aren't we asking them what gets in their way of Outstanding teaching? And then removing those obstacles? And while we're at it, what about asking the students the same thing? What stands in the way of your Outstanding learning?

For me, this path towards senior leadership is getting me to really think about my own educational philosophy more and more, and work out its most and least important elements. I'm miles away from anything coherent (stop me if you spot anything that looks half-decent, for God's sake, as I might well have sped past it!), but slowly but surely pieces of the puzzle are being given to me, often from the strangest sources. Like social networking sites. Or walks in the woods.

So, next leadership resolution from me... I will learn to listen, and I will learn to ask for the opinions of those who are in a better place than me to know what's needed at the coal-face, and what's getting in the way of quality. That sort of humility ought to be one of the tests during the SLT interview process. Maybe my Dad has a point after all, and maybe I can start by not being so arrogant as to think I know better than him just because I work in the public service...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Leadership and Integrity

Another session in our programme to develop Aspiring Senior Leaders today, so I thought I'd write today's post on something a little more serious than my last efforts. If you believe me to be capable of such a thing.

We were talking about the qualities of leadership. There was a neat little mantra for us to digest, about leadership revolving around "Principle, Purpose and People" (and because of the rule of threes and the repetition and capitalisation of the first letters, you know this must be Good).

The principles relate to our moral purpose, as leaders and as educators in general, to create a stimulating and challenging environment in which teachers and students can improve as learners and as people. Laudable. No controversy there. Loud applause from the gallery.

The Purpose we spoke about was described as our core business, the school's raison d'ĂȘtre. We are there to lead in the process of education, to teach young people to be as great as it is possible for them to be, and to teach them the tools (and the content if you wish: I'm not getting into that dichotomy here!) to achieve their goals. We are there to create the right conditions, the right ethos, the right curriculum, and lots of right things generally. Again, no argument. Applause, bows, screams, throwing of underwear onto the stage etc.

Finally we talked about the People, and the importance of the social relationships in schools. We talked about this with equal reference to the students and the teachers we lead, which was refreshing. Sometimes I hear so much "it's all about the students" that I get the feeling we as teachers are supposed to sacrifice everything from our health to our happiness in the service of young people, and be thankful for that privilege. But if you want to corporatise the language of education, and insist that students are our "core business", then logically they are actually the product of the education system: In this analogy, the customers might be parents, if we're feeling generous, or the needs of the state and commercial capitalist economy if we're not (notice how skilfully I negotiated those tricky ideological waters with impartiality, by not telling you I'm a closet Marxist what I believe to be the case). The position of the teacher, then, is as either a manufacturing tool - I've been called worse - or as a skilled craftsperson. Either way you look at that analogy, one of the most important factors in creating the ideal education product is either the sharpness of the tool, or the skill of the craftsperson. The health and well-being of the teacher is important to achieving great educational outcomes, and I was glad we were stressing it at the session today, ironically just ahead of our Staff Well-Being Committee meeting tomorrow.

The double irony, however, was that this discussion of the qualities of a leader had just been preceded by another session on the importance of data. Why data? What is data? Why do we need data? And all of the answers came out which you'd expect. "It allows us to track students, to monitor progress, it allows us to measure success, and create accountability systems etc". All of which are not in themselves remotely bad. Except when we start to interrogate the success criteria a little more closely. How far is your school's attainment "above the average"? How many of the students have met their 5 A*-C grades? How many have secured the E-Bacc? It struck me that few people in the educational world (on Twitter I've had the privilege of meeting several, including @Johntomsett and @Headguruteacher) ever actually question these measures of success, despite extensive evidence they ought to be questioned. How many great people who have shaped the last century would have been written off by our current educational success criteria? Einstein is the first to spring to mind, John Lennon another, but there must be hundreds of thousands more. Why? Because we accept the narrow definitions of success which are thrust at us. Do you have your English, Maths, Science, Language and Humanity? You shall succeed! Well, I've got news for you: I got them, and I got them with good grades. Didn't make me a success, I can assure you. And I can find you no shortage of my colleagues who'll back me up when I say that, the kind souls.

So here we go, my first attempt to do something very real, with integrity. I'm going to suggest to you that a truly strong leader is the one who has the courage to put the PEOPLE he serves first, students and staff. A truly strong leaders bases their PRINCIPLES and PURPOSE around the needs, desires and highest aspirations of those people they serve, and the communities they serve. And if that means saying no to external pressures which fallaciously propose to invalidate your achievements, those of your teachers and your students by comparing them to others with a bogus set of ideologically-driven standards and agendas, then today is the day I stand up and say NO.

Really really loudly.

And pray that I don't get shouted down by the hoards who fell for the rhetoric of failure and success in the first place.

Quick post-scripts: If you're a senior leader who is busy jumping up and down with your pitch-fork loudly proclaiming a revolution, ask yourself this: Would you give someone like me a job if it was within your power?

Your THUNK for the evening...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Flipping Learning: Some useful tools

In my last effort to enthral the blogosphere with my own low-level version of "expertise"(and from your kind comments back I seem to have succeeded in managing everyone's expectations downwards remarkably well!), I talked about my journey into the idea of "flipping the classroom". It was all very abstract and you missed nothing much, although in fairness you should really read it again before this post, if only to give my stats a boost: Zero is a lonely little readership figure.

Today I thought I'd get concrete on your asses, and give you some idea of the sorts of things I do in class to flip the learning. These could be regarded as fairly subject-specific, but I think the principles are applicable in a range of areas, or so I'm informed by reliable colleagues. More reliable than me at any rate.

A few examples:


In my subject, I have to teach students how to use a great many pieces of software for design, editing, and now with the growing use of iPads in my lessons, apps. I've found the biggest waste of my time has consistently been the teaching of how to use said software to all students together. Software is something people learn very differently, especially in gender terms. There are the academics who need the theory, the kinaesthetics who need to fiddling with software or hardware as they go along, the visual learners who can't get it from verbal instructions: You name them, they're in my classroom, all together. And when I used to teach them to use software, half of them switched off immediately because they just wanted to get on with it, the other half switched off because they needed more time and / or a different method of learning. 

Enter the flipped learning scenario: A video tutorial, often accompanied by a written document, which students have to lear for homework. I tell them I don't mind how long it takes to learn, how they learn it (indeed many of them will come in after school to watch the videos while using the app / software / camera), they just need to know how to use it before they start on a given task. The students know I won't answer questions about how to use equipment or software, they have to get on with it themselves. In the end, they learn it, or they collaborate with others to get it as they go along. Either way is fine by me, as they can always go back to the videos any time they like to check. This range of resources allows them to learn in their own time, at their own pace, without the embarrassment of knowing they're holding others back: More importantly, it frees me up to talk about what they're creating, designing, writing, explaining etc. 

This example of flipping has freed up so much time for me that the resulting quality of the practical work produced has increased dramatically in the last few years, and allowed students a far greater sense of independence and achievement. All of which I take credit for, naturally. The tutorial videos don't take that long, and I've created them a variety of ways using screen capture software such as Adobe Captivate, Camstudio and the like, or even Explain Everything on the iPad. Having created them, I upload them to the department's own Finham Media Youtube channel, and I tweet or email the links to specific videos to students. For more complexes pieces of software, such as video editing software, I can create a number of different videos for each stage of the editing process, and then once uploaded, make them into a sequential playlist, allowing students to move from stage to stage at their own pace. Example below...

Extended Learning using TED-Ed: 

I love TED. For those of you who've never heard of TED, I could wax lyrical(ish) for ages on this brilliant website. I won't. You've endured me long enough. But its mantra of "Ideas Worth Spreading" should be justification enough for you to toddle on over there right now and check it out. No, wait, finish this first...

When they brought out the ability to flip TED talks using TED-Ed, I thought it was genius. Here's one I Blue Peter-ed earlier: Tom Chatfield: Seven Ways Video Games Engage The BrainAn excellent way to get students watching thought-provoking videos, and also to test their retention of the knowledge by setting them simple comprehension questions about the material, as part of the package: No programming skills required. You simply create the multiple choice questions, nominate the answer which is correct, and you're done, as you can see below, if you have excellent eyesight...

More than that, though, it allows differentiated learning with the Dig Deeper Section, where you can set more open questions to engage deeper learning, and the And Finally section which allows you to go wide open and engage those who are willing in some profound thinking. I tend to use the THINK section as part of the flipped homework, and I then use the middle DIG DEEPER activity as the start of lessons.

    As with the software tutorials, I expect all my students to be able to complete the basic understanding questions, given that they can replay the video as often as they like, and there is even a video hint mode allowing them to get to the exact section of the video which has the answer to the question! Am I helping them too much? Not really. The initial questions are just a simple way for me to ensure that all the students engaged with the homework, and to gauge how hard it was for them. I can immediately tell those who need extra support right from the start of the next lesson, and those who've clearly engaged with it on a profound level, and need something even more profound to make further progress. And that's where my planning of the next lesson starts...

    What I love even more about Ted-Ed is the ability to take ANY video from Youtube and flip it. There are loads of interesting videos out there, and much as my students don't appreciate me getting some other teacher's video (they oddly have a preference for my dulcit tones, which somehow reassure them!), there are lots of people making videos out there who are real experts in their fields, and who can really push them forward much more quickly than I could.

    So there you go: A couple of suggestions for how you can flip your classroom. Have a go! Let me know!

    (A rhyme! A rhyme! My final crime!)

    (I'll get my coat...)

    Sunday, 18 November 2012

    Flipping the Classroom

    Some call it a revolution within the educational world, others call it a gimmick. Some criticize Salman Khan for his lack of expertise in teaching, and claim his concept of "flipped learning" is trying to replace real teachers. Some say it's just good old-fashioned prep work he's advocating, under a new fancy-schmancy term.

    For me, a lot of the hot air about "flipping learning" and the Khan Academy programme misses the point. Flipping is about changing the nature of your relationship with the students from didactic teacher to individual facilitator. My role in the classroom is different depending on which student I am dealing with. The key principles of flipped learning for me are:
    • Getting students to take responsibility for their learning
    • Exchanging this for an application classroom, where the teacher's job isn't about ensuring they are learning the basics, but about developing their individual ability to apply their learning, and "closing individual gaps"
    • Allowing students to learn at their own pace, something our current assessment model in England is woefully inadequate at (remember Sir Ken Robinson's comments on how ridiculous it is to educate children by "batch number"? If not, refresh your memories here).
    • Freeing the teacher up to make highly individual interventions because your diagnostics can be done at the start of the lesson: You become the "guide at the side" rather than "lord at the board" (I realise that's not how the expression goes, I just can't remember how it does, but this summarises it nicely!)
    Setting the students the learning to be done as homework rather than in the class allows students to access material at the pace, time and in the manner they find most effective. With the help of new media and instant messaging (Twitter et al), students can contact me as soon as they hit a problem, and we can solve that then and there. They can even do it through comments on the video or material itself. However, this relies on them being proactive enough to want to get through the obstacle. But with flipped learning, even if they don't get through the obstacle by themselves, I can set diagnostic exercises at the start of every lesson to tell me exactly where, when and why they got stuck. Something like Socrative is an invaluable tool in this process (I've previously done a tutorial if you want to check out its capabilities and how it works in the classroom):


    Once I've worked out where the sticking point is for each individual, then I can set them the next stage of their learning, whether that's a forward step or a temporary backwards one which allows the student to get it, or do more practice until they're confident. The students learn at their own pace, if this is done well (and far be it from me to tell you that it's happening well in my classroom!).

    Before I close this little post (dammit, forgot the funny video again! Hold on, I'll draw you some kind of amusing cat before the end, I promise!), here are a few natural corollaries that interest me as I move through my journey to flipping, some with fairly profound consequences for me personally and my professional development:
    1. You have to be prepared to give students time to master the topic. This may be counter-intuitive at a time when we are being pushed to meet targets, but you have to find a way round that. Your alternative is to move on before the students have truly got it, and leave them with what Salman Khan calls "big Swiss Cheese holes in their understanding" which will bite you on the backside later on in the learning journey.
    2. You can't attach guilt to students not doing homework: Students need to know that homework is not a bolt-on, with additional "stuff" for them to do at home because parents need them to be quiet for longer! Homework is the basis of the learning journey. You have to make students realise that they're simply missing vital stages of their learning, and will fall behind if they don't complete it. But if there are genuine reasons they can't do it at home, you have to play it at their pace, and move them forward from whatever stage they present themselves at.
    3. While teachers could take a much more hands off attitude, the optimum response to flipped learning is to get stuck in and guide everyone individually. While this doesn't mean the end of lesson plans, it does turn you into an expert surfer, because you have to think on your feet to tackle whatever comes up.
    4. As a teacher, especially of high achieving students, you have to be prepared to let go of the notion that you are the expert in the room. Some of your students really will fly as there isn't any form of artificial ceiling keeping them down. You have to be prepared to accept that, and simply guide them towards even more progress, with or without you
    5. On a more positive note, and heaven knows you're probably craving one of those right now, the flipped classroom is an ideal environment in which to maximise the use and effectiveness of new media and new technology. Individual ownership of devices such as iPads or Android tablets, and individual choice of applications to complete tasks go hand in hand with the individualised learning and autonomy promoted by the flipped classroom.
    6. The idea of the flipped classroom seems to fit in well with the principles being developed within SOLO Taxonomy, where students work through various phases of understanding until they can truly master concepts. I cannot claim to be any form of expert in this area (thanks to @aknill for his guidance so far on the matter - If you're not following him, you should be!), but I think there is a lot of potential for meshing the two concepts together effectively. If anyone out there is already doing it, I'd love to know more.
    In a future post, I'll try and be a little less vague and share some of the ways I do this in my own classroom with concrete examples, but for the moment...

    Here's what you were really waiting for all this time: Your patience  has been amply rewarded I think you'll agree...

    Saturday, 17 November 2012

    The power of coaching

    Today's post from the land of ineptitude is brought to you by the concept of coaching, a much misunderstood and oft maligned idea. It thanks you for your attention...

    Part of this ASLDP course I'm on (one of whose primary aims will be to get me to master the acronym before I'm through!) is recording our thoughts and experiences as aspiring senior leaders, hence the blogging thing. I talked about it during my first post. You may not remember. Pay attention please.

    Yesterday I got the chance to use one of the concepts we've explored in our first session: coaching. In real life. With real consequences.  While dressed as Rob Roy. This last point is incidental and irrelevant, but hey, big it up for Children In Need please, and its remarkable ability to make teachers who are otherwise highly professional come in to work dressed insanely and, in my case, armed with a Claymore. At least I wasn't Chicken Lickin' or Bananaman (you know who you are...).

    So, coaching. What a powerful idea. I've done some coaching before on an OTP course last year, and on the Leading From The Middle course years ago. In principle, I know it's a powerful idea, but I'm not sure I've ever got the most out of it, or understood the profundity of its power. But I was giving feedback on an observation yesterday to a colleague who knew exactly how the lesson had gone, and could tell me exactly what was good about it and what was not so good. I've been mentored before, and I know that this is the point where I should have got onto targets for improvement, "tweaks to transform", Even Better Ifs etc. And for a while the discussion did revolve around that, and then it didn't. I did a U-turn. Because what I was hearing underneath the words was about a profound feeling of anxiety that things couldn't get better, and I didn't see much point in going on with this elephant in the room. So together, my colleague and I rolled up our sleeves and we looked these worries in the face, and stared until they blinked first. A lot of teaching is about confidence, and without it, it's hard to act on suggested improvements. Lack of confidence is a paralytic, and an obstacle which, given all the external pressures on us as teachers, was one we could well do without. We talked about the issue, and as I asked questions, my colleague had epiphanies, and came up with the solutions, or at least had the willingness to try and come up with a variety of strategies to see if they improved things. We agreed to put them into action together, to bash ideas off each other whenever we needed, and I said I'd be there for support as and when required. And we left each other, both of us with a renewed sense of optimism about the future.

    Thinking back on this last night, it struck me that today I'd coached for the first time, properly. I'd ignored my desires to solve the problem (typical bloke!), or to give solutions, and I'd listened really carefully. And that listening led to the turning point in the conversation, and quite possibly the relationship. We could have ploughed on towards targets and "must do betters", but we first needed to get this person in a frame of mind where they realised that this wasn't about them as a person, and shouldn't be impacting on their self-esteem. That they were fine as they were, in effect, as a human being. And they walked out with their head held high. And I walked back into my office, and felt like a good human being. As a teacher and as a potential leader, I'd just found the X on the treasure map.

    To summarise this episode, here's what I've learnt: It may be useful to others, it may be you're already doing it. If you are, good for you: You are truly a special human being I would like to emulate.
    • Coaching isn't mentoring. It doesn't need to be done from a position of power or authority. It's done as a peer, from the position of an equal. This is important, as those of you who know anything about me will know there are few areas where I can genuinely speak to anyone from a position of authority or superior knowledge. Apart from on puddings. Or the misery of being a Scottish rugby supporter. Few can match my expertise in these fields. Unfortunately for me, their use is limited, and their earning potential even more so. But it means I can still coach.
    • Coaching requires equality, I've always been told. Actually it requires more than that. It requires the subjugation of your ego if you're the coach. It requires much listening and attention on the other person. It requires you not just to resist the urge to tell people how to do it, it needs you not even to think about how you would do it. How you would do something is irrelevant to the coaching situation, because you're not the other person, and they're ultimately the ones who have to do this for themselves. I have to work on that one.
    • Coaching is...
      • A journey which necessitates a relationship of trust
      • About unlocking potential, and about helping the person you coach to make themselves the best person they can possibly be in whatever sphere they are asking for coaching
      • Coaching is something which ought to be directed by the objectives of the person being coached, but you as the coach have to show them that you share those goals
      • Coaching should always be developmental and non-judgemental
      • Coaching should be challenging but supportive at all times. The challenge is implicitly being asked for when someone asks to be coached. If you haven't asked them whether they want to be coached or not (and I'm not sure I did yesterday), then the chances of them succeeding are small, because you're imposing on them. People need to know that they want to be coached in the first place.
      • Coaching is facilitative rather than didactic
      • Coaching involves reflection on the part of both people involved
      • Coaching is entered into for the promotion of growth and improvement
    And finally, coaching is hard. But incredibly worthwhile. As I found out yesterday, it can take both of you on a journey you had no idea you were capable of taking. And that can only be a good thing.

    Oh, and because I forgot to give you the usual funny video interlude to break up the excessive amounts of text, here are a couple on how not to do it. Enjoy...

    Wednesday, 14 November 2012

    For starters...

    You were sucked in by the title, eh? Admit it! You thought "What sort of an idiot would post a title about his failure to learn better?" Yeah, well, you were sucked in by a cheap punning title, not me...

    So this is my first blog: a few brief intros and an outline of why I'm filling the internet and Twittersphere with my own bilge should probably preface any further writing.

    I'm a secondary teacher in the UK, have been teaching over 17 years, have been in charge of one department or another for 16 of those, and have managed four different departments or faculties covering three different sets of subjects. Sounds very grand, but I'm pulling the wool over your eyes to draw attention away from the fact that I teach Media and Film.

    Embarrassing? Yes. But only because of the connotations everyone already has about my job, ironically enough usually derived straight from the media itself. Not the most reliable of sources.

    I'm actually very proud of what I teach: I think students need to know the extent to which the media manipulate them, and others try to manipulate the media in order to manipulate them too! I regard it as a service to society. My view is seldom shared by others, especially those who teach "proper" subjects...

    I'm also incredibly proud of the way I teach: I took a leaf out of this guy's book before I even knew he existed...

    (I know, you've picked up on the shameless use of a funny video to make sure I don't lose your interest: You're cleverer than me) I make sure I don't give content: I teach skills, and I teach students how to learn for themselves. I don't make it easy for any of them, and hopefully I give them all a brain-ache by the time they leave the class, but I make sure they know that it's for their own good, and they all see the benefits in the long-term. Teaching has never been a popularity contest I was ever much good at, but seeing the potential in students was.

    Until eventually some unwise owl suggested this was a skill I could use to lead staff. This is the journey I'm embarking on today, as an "aspiring senior leader". The view on the journey looks like a beautiful tropical island as seen from the sea, but the journey itself often feels like it should have an abrupt drop, like walking the plank. I will never get used to thinking of myself as anything but a fraud in most fields, but hopefully that will be put to good use: Humility and knowing you always have more to learn are key leadership qualities, I think. I don't want to become a leader who leads because they feel a God-given right to do so, or because I think I know better than anyone and everyone else. If I lead anyone, I'll be asking for their help. And indulgence...

    So, first blog over for the Aspiring Senior Leadership Development Course. Not so painful. For me at any rate. I wasn't the one who had to read it though.

    Over the coming months, I'm going to try and blog regularly about my journey, my interest in media education, educational philosophy, my antipathy for government involvement in education, my love of learning through technology, my growing conversion to Apple products which has taken me somewhat by surprise (as it has my bank manager!), and all sorts of other things. Your comments are welcome. Your support is appreciated. Your positivity will be repaid kindly through karma.