I have always respected primary school teachers. My sister is trained in early childhood and special education, and several friends teach different levels of primary school. To each of them I have always said the same thing: “I don’t think I could ever do what you do.”
There was a reason nine years ago that I opted to train in secondary teaching. In fact there were several, and I was certainly quite adamant that I could not teach primary – and I mean that in the sense that I did not have the skills and patience and therefore would fail miserably.
So imagine even my surprise at myself when a month ago a call was put out for someone to help with the Primary New Arrivals Program at two (now three) of the primary schools in Sydney’s inner west and northern region. They needed someone for a couple of days a week – and I had a couple of days free – to work with students ranging from Kindergarten to Year 5. I found myself jumping at the opportunity and a week and a half later, I was walking into a primary school full of excitable and inquisitive little people. The children are warm and welcoming, and love to have a regular visitor. But of course, they also come with challenges, just different ones from the secondary students.
Some things I’ve learnt so far that I would say to any secondary teacher who finds themselves unexpectedly in a primary classroom:
1. Firstly, preparation is the key. There is no “ten-step lesson plan” when you are spending all day with the same 20-30 five to ten year olds.
2.The colour printer and laminator become your best friends. Invest in them and use them well. My Wednesday and Thursday nights currently involve me sitting in front of the television printing resources, then cutting, laminating and cutting them again. At one particularly dark moment when the laminator was eating my work, I asked a primary teacher friend if there was any reprieve from it…she laughed and just said “sometimes.”
2. That ever-patient and happy early childhood voice does not come naturally. It is a skill of which Kindergarten teachers are the gurus.
3. Get ready to sing and dance and look like a fool. I had to get over this phobia very quickly…and you know what, five year olds don’t care, anyway!
4. There will be bodily fluids involved at some point. Whether it’s being sneezed on, having drool left all over your stationery, or anything else…brace yourself.
5. They don’t care if what they have to say is completely irrelevant to what you’re doing…they will give you a full account anyway. Or maybe it seems relevant to them… who knows?
5. They are HARD work and they can be crazily needy. Yet it is also FUN and incredibly rewarding to see them achieve even the smallest of things – which for them are huge steps.
So yes, I have always respected primary school teachers, but that’s been deepened now with some insight and experience with the younger students.
Wait. What do you mean it’s Week 4 already?
This term feels like it has gone from nought to a hundred in less than 0.25 seconds. And it’s not slowing down…
As many readers of this blog would know, I made the move to Sydney at the end of the last school year. 2015 has brought with it a new city, new job(s), new school(s), new colleagues, new kids, new system, new processes…new just about everything. Needless to say my head’s been left in a bit of a spin at times.
Today provided a great opportunity to take a breather and take stock of what’s happened so far and the direction in which my role as a secondary EAL/D teacher in a Catholic girls’ school in the south-west of Sydney is headed. A cross-regional EAL/D Induction Day offered the chance to meet key contacts within CEO Sydney and other new EAL/D teachers, to generate greater clarity about our role description and to engage with a range of resources.
Some of these resources were the same as ones I had engaged with in Adelaide, but many are different. Some are designed specifically for EAL/D specialist teachers, and others are for mainstream classroom teachers. The fact that EAL/D strategies are effective for all students in a mainstream classroom is something of which I have become acutely aware in my time as a specialist teacher in Adelaide. However, the cultural demographics I am working within Sydney’s south-west have truly reaffirmed this in a very short amount of time. In a school where roughly 70% of the girls are identified as LBOTE or ESL, it is simply impossible for an EAL/D teacher with a 0.6 FTE allocation to offer direct support to every student. Therefore the role of the classroom teacher in developing the language and literacy levels of the students is of the utmost importance.
So here are some resources that have helped me on my short, yet information-packed journey within CEO Sydney so far and that would serve both specialist and mainstream teachers very well in the work with LBOTE and EAL/D students…
Written by the team at CEO Sydney, this book provides definitions of roles, strategies for identifying and assessing EAL/D students and for supporting them in the mainstream classes, suggestions for effective practice for EAL/D practitioners. Whilst the language of ESL is still used, chapters are being updated throughout 2015 to align with the language of the Australian Curriculum. The content, however, remains fantastic and useful for teachers of EAL/D in any state. Available to order at the CEO Sydney Bookshop.
A document specifying the characteristics and behaviours of EAL/D students as they progress in their language development. It has been used since the 1990s, and the South Australian Language and Literacy Levels document has developed from this and the ACARA documentation. Available at the CEO Sydney Bookshop.
Overview, advice, EAL/D learning progression, annotated content descriptors for English, Maths, Science and History, and student illustrations of the learning progression. Created specifically for mainstream classroom teachers. Available here.
CEO Sydney’s online learning modules for individual teachers, school groups and leadership.
Twitter Hashtag #ealdconnect
A handle for EAL/D teachers to connect and discuss learning on Twitter.
Stephen R. Covey’s fifth habit of highly effective people suggests that we must first seek to understand others before we seek to be understood ourselves. He points to the importance of actively listening with the intent of understanding rather than the common response of speaking or preparing to speak. Covey calls this ’empathic listening’, and argues that it goes far beyond “registering, reflecting, or even understanding the words that are said.”
Covey draws on research that estimates that only one-tenth of our communications is conveyed through the words that we speak, whilst a third is represented by our sounds and almost two thirds by our gestures and body language. Empathic listening aims to understand meaning through “listening” to each of these communicative means: “you listen with your ears, but…more importantly, listen with your eyes and your heart.”
There are a number of skills involved in empathic listening, according to Covey, and they comprise of four developmental stages:
1. Mimic content – “active” or “reflective” listening (minimally effective)
2. Rephrase the content – reform the meaning in your own words and reflect it back to the person
3. Reflect feeling – paying greater attention to the way somebody feels about what they are saying.
4. Rephrase the content and reflect the feeling – this final stage gives the speaker “psychological air”. The listener is seeking to understand everything they are communicating, not only what they are saying through words. This is an important principle in cognitive coaching.
Once we seek to understand, then “knowing how to be understood is the other half of Habit 5.” In order to do this, Covey draws on the Greek philosophy ethos, pathos, logos.
Ethos is one’s “personal credibility, the faith people have in your integrity and competency.”
Pathos is the feeling, our empathy for others.
Logos refers to “the logic, the reasoning” component of the argument we are seeking to put forth.
Seeking first to understand others and then to be understood is within the Circle of Influence that Covey refers to earlier in his book, and it helps to expand that influence. Regardless of other people’s responses or behaviour, an individual can still attempt to understand. The more truly empathetic we are, the more opportunities for creative solutions that will present themselves, fostering more effective and productive relationships between people.
In my previous posts, I have looked at the first three of Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey posits that when individuals (1) are proactive, (2) begin with the end in mind, and (3) put first things first, they move from dependence to independence. According to his thinking, when this triangle of ‘private’ or personal habits is achieved, we can look to move towards the higher plane of interdependence, wherein lie the next three habits.
Habit 4 is the tendency to “think Win-Win” – to look for the best outcome for all involved, in order to maintain long-term, mutually beneficial relationships in terms of family, social and business. Of course, there are other combinations of thinking involving winning and losing, all of which are outlined by Covey, and which may be appropriate in some circumstances. However, as he indicates, usually the most desirable outcomes for all come from Win-Win thinking.
Covey states that thinking Win-Win “is fundamental to success in all our interactions, and it embraces five interdependent dimensions of life. It begins with character and moves toward relationships, out of which flow agreements. It is nurtured in an environment where structure and systems are based on Win/Win. And it involves process.”
Character is the basis from which Win-Win thinking emerges, and everything else develops from the foundation. It involves integrity (the value we place on ourselves), maturity (defined by Covey as “the balance between courage and consideration”) and an abundance mentality (the belief that there is plenty out there for everybody).
Relationships develops from the foundation set by character. Through our integrity, maturity and abundance mentality, we are able to build trust with other individuals and work effectively towards shared goals and mutual benefits.
When we have formed relationships, the flow on effect is the ability to come to agreements. These “give definition and direction to Win-Win.” According to Covey, there are five elements to the Win-Win agreement:
1. Desired results – identify what is to be done and when.
2. Guidelines – specify the parameters within which the results are to be accomplished.
3. Resources – identify the support available to help accomplish the results.
4. Accountability – establishes standards of performance and the time of evaluation.
5. Consequences – specify what will happen as a result of the evaluation.
Structure and systems of the company, family unit or social group are important to the success of Win-Win thinking. If the talking is win-win, but the rewards benefit one party more than the other (Win-Lose) then there is likely to be an overall negative outcome for all.
Processes are the means by which we achieve a Win-Win end. It is how people go about understanding the other point of view, negotiating accordingly, identifying key issues and finding possible new options for achieving results.
So, Covey’s 4th habit describes the essence of interdependence – of working together to achieve positive results for all parties, rather than one party finding themselves with a profit while the other is at a deficit. This may be okay in sport, where one team wins and another loses, or in some areas of business, however generally in order to be strong and sustainable, organisations need to be able to work together. And it is certainly a way of thinking that needs to underpin our educational institutions – highly interdependent organisations where if Win/Lose thinking is the standard, then students are being impacted on detrimentally.
In my last post about Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I discussed his concept of things being created twice – once as an idea, the mental creation. The second creation is the physical creation of that idea, which forms Covey’s Third Habit.
The third habit is that of “putting first things first,” or practising effective personal management in order to achieve our goals. It is the left-brain aspect of self-management; how we break down, analyse, sequence, and apply projects, problems and challenges.
Covey explains that is the human quality of independent will “that really makes effective self-management possible.” He argues that it is our capacity to “make decisions and choices and act in accordance with them,” as well as “the ability to act rather than be acted upon.”
So when we are approaching a project or problem our ability to self-manage, or prioritise, in accordance with our goals and values, has an enormous impact on the outcome, or second creation of the vision.
There are a number of “generations” of time management that Covey discusses, each with their own limitations. The first generation involves notes and checklists, followed by the second generation characterised by calendars, diaries and appointment books. The third generation seems to be a complex combination of the first two – combining the important ideas related to prioritisation and the “relative worth of activities based on their relationship to [our] values.” It also includes daily and long-term planning to accomplish the goals and activities of greatest worth.
Whilst this third generation has great worth, it has a tendency to take out the human/relational element of our daily interactions, making the scheduling and control of time counterproductive. So how do we move to the fourth generation of self-management that combines enhanced human relationships with the accomplishment of results?
Covey suggests a time management matrix that captures how this might be achieved.The matrix consists of four quadrants:
Quadrant I – activities that are urgent and important
Quadrant II – activities that are not urgent but important.
Quadrant III – activities that are urgent but not important
Quadrant IV – activities that are not urgent and not important
Ideally, we want to be focusing mainly on activities that fall within Quadrant II. This will act to prevent problems that result in us having to focus on the crisis-management of Quadrant I. When we find ourselves focusing on Quadrants III and IV, this is when Covey suggests we are at our least effective – when we feel like we are doing a lot but not progressing or achieving our goals. Working within Quadrant II will allow us to effectively achieve results in relation to our vision and values in a time-efficient manner, whilst building positive working relationships with people.
As educators, who are often have a lot to do and minimal time in which to do it, this could provide a useful framework for helping to prioritise our own work and projects. On personal reflection, I can think of several times when I have felt “time-poor” and frustrated with a growing list of things to do. Whilst this growing list is inevitable in teaching, perhaps I wasn’t achieving as much as I would have liked because I was working within the bottom two quadrants. Yet there have also been times when I have had a lot to do, but have felt good “flow”, perhaps because during these times I was working more within Quadrant II. So, as the new school year commences in a couple of weeks, one of the aims I am setting myself is to be conscious of when I am working within each quadrant, and then adjusting my priorities to bring my activities into Quadrant II.
Last week a friend sent me the link to this article by Peter Ellerton, a lecturer in Critical Thinking at the University of Queensland, published by The Conversation. Ellerton questions what we mean when we say students are learning to think critically.
He points to the fact that educational outcomes often state that students will develop their ability to think critically, but this in itself is rather vague and not fully developed in any discipline, let alone in a cross-curricular context.
What Ellerton then proposes is a structure for approaching critical thinking across the curriculum. This structure is based on four key pillars:
1. Argumentation – “the process of intellectual engagement with an issue and an opponent with the intention of developing a position justified by rational analysis and inference.”
2. Logic – formal logic (deduction – the set of processes used in mathematics or a Sudoku puzzle) and informal logic (induction – how we generalise and analogise – often used in scientific processes).
3. Psychology – metacognition, “how our minds actually work”, and “the realisation that thinking isn’t so much something we do, as something that happens to us.”
4. The nature of science and statistics – learning about “the differences between hypotheses, theories and laws” to understand the credibility of science, and the use of statistics to empower students “to tackle difficult or complex issues.”
Ellerton is referring specifically to the teaching and learning of critical thinking at a tertiary level, but the structure that he proposes could be applied to a secondary or even primary school setting at an age-appropriate level. These four pillars could be defined in curriculum documents that propose the development of critical thinking skills, providing teachers from across disciplines a framework for explicitly targeting them throughout their programs. For example, it is incredibly empowering for a student to be able to understand and use metalanguage to describe and explain their cognitive and creative processes, or to analyse the processes used by others. Argumentation could take many different forms, from a debate, to an historical analysis, to a scientific report. Logic, the nature of science and statistics can also be embedded throughout the curriculum to teach critical thinking and enhance, not detract from, the content.
This isn’t to say that these skills are not being taught at all. What Ellerton is arguing for is the formalisation of a critical thinking curriculum in order to ensure that we are doing justice to what is an incredibly important and higher order thinking skill, and one that enhances content and allows our students to explore more independently and at a much greater depth.
In a previous post I discussed the first of Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: being proactive.
The second habit explored by Covey is the idea of “Beginning with the end in mind.” Covey suggests that as we work proactively in our personal and professional lives, we must have a clear vision of what we are aiming to achieve. One might automatically think of goal-setting, but it goes further than that.
Covey tells us that, “”Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation, to all things.” So, the creation of something starts first with our ideas and goals, and is then manifested in the physical creation of a tangible object, or the achievement of something potentially intangible. Covey gives the example of building a house. The first creation comes in the plans, the second creation in the physical construction of the building. Similarly, as a teacher there might be a vision for the establishment of, let’s say, a program targeted at improving students’ literacy skills. The first creation comes in the vision of how it would work, the second creation would be in the program’s development and implementation. We start by deciding on a specific target.
Covey says that when we understand these two creations and assume responsibility for the manifestation of both, we act within and extend our Circle of Influence. If this self-awareness is missing, then we are are at risk of allowing other people and circumstances outside our Circle of Influence to shape our lives by default. Essentially, we allow ourselves to be acted upon for the achievement of others’ personal and professional goals.
Another distinction made in this discussion is the difference between leadership and management. Leadership is the vision, the first creation, defining the aim. Management is how a person or organisation goes about achieving the second creation. Leadership has to come first otherwise the process of management will lack direction.
“To begin with the end in mind means to approach my role…with my values and directions clear.” According to Covey, this means that effective decision-making is principle-centred. He discusses that at the centre of our personal or professional lives may be many things that are important to us- spouse, family, money, work, possession, pleasure, friends, enemies, church, self – but these may skew our process of making effective decisions. “Whatever is at the centre of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom and power.” So, if our work is the centre of our life then it will affect our sense of identity and worth (security), our direction in life (guidance), our perspective on life (wisdom), and our capacity to act (power) potentially at the expense of other aspects of our lives. If we aim to make principles our centre, then we are able to act proactively rather than reactively, and can make more effective decisions about the things that are important to us, knowing that the choices come from a solid foundation.
In order to effectively begin with the end in mind, Covey refers to left brain (logic)/right brain (emotion, creativity) psychology. He suggests that by drawing upon the power of the imaginative, creative right brain we able to engage in the powerful technique of visualisation. Research by Dr. Charles Garfield has found that “almost all of the world-class athletes and other peak performers are visualizers. They see it; they feel it; they experience it before they actually do it.” In other words, they begin with the end in mind.
Covey recommends creating a personal mission statement – essentially a set of goals, but based on the principles or values that are at the centre of our lives. Visualisation is posited as a helpful strategy for creating this. He also refers to an executive who wrote his mission statement using the idea of roles and goals. Identifying our roles can help to ensure that we do not focus too much on one aspect of our lives at the expense of others. Once the roles are defined, we can visualise long-term goals for each of them based on our personal values. The acronym S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound) is often referred to in discussions of goal-setting. Covey also highlights that “an effective goal focuses primarily on results rather than activity.”
Essentially, the idea of beginning with the end in mind lends purpose and direction to our personal and professional lives. It allows us to see where we are, where we want to be, and how we can get there. By working proactively with a defined end in mind, we are able to give ourselves agency in determining the trajectory of our lives, rather than allowing our lives to be defined by the people or circumstances surrounding us.
The last fortnight has seen quite a significant change for me with a move from Adelaide to Sydney. This move has brought with it small challenges as I adapt to a new environment.
And it’s been simple things that when you have lived somewhere for a long time, you tend to take for granted. Things like locating the local supermarkets, gym, post office, and other necessities. Then you have to get there! Sydney (4.4 million people) is much bigger and busier than Adelaide (1.3 million people) and its roads go here, there and everywhere. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I actually had to strike up the courage to drive myself a couple of kilometres to get to the local Woolworths, and even then I refused to drive across the main road so parked the car in the suburb and then walked the rest of the way.
But my personal situation epitomises the stereotype of an employed, middle-class, Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking Gen Y-er born and bred in Australia. So it has been simple for me to ask a stranger for help, to take out my iPhone and “google” it, to text or call a friend who happens to be a local.
However, on reflection, the experiences that have had me mildly nervous pale in comparison to the experiences of those members of our community who have arrived from overseas (as asylum seekers – potentially with traumatic backgrounds – or simply as migrants) and do not have English as their first language. It must be an overwhelming experience to arrive in a new country, where a language other than your own is spoken, and have to negotiate what we see as such simple tasks. Understanding where to go to purchase food, to seek medical attention, to pay bills – such tasks have a cultural load to them and for someone who is not yet accustomed to that culture, it would be a huge challenge and it is little wonder that people sometimes choose to remain in isolated groups where there is a shared language and culture.
Fortunately, there are some wonderful organisations and support systems within communities to help people settle into their new lives, help them enrol their children in schools, meet new people, and to navigate cultural expectations and norms. I know of schools whose New Arrivals Program also offers out of hours English classes for parents, community groups that provide “buddies” to guide migrants to essential locations, basic cooking classes and meet-and-greet nights for newly arrived people and members of the wider community to engage with each other. Yet the extent to which these systems succeed also relies on the understanding, compassion and support of the broader Australian community. Our society is a rich tapestry of many languages and cultures, and if there is one thing we can learn from the country’s incredible reaction to the recent horror in Martin Place, it is that we cannot afford to be ignorant of one another. If as a society, we openly engage with, embrace and support the many cultural and linguistic groups that are constantly moving to our shores, then it will make people’s transition, future lifestyle and engagement with the wider community far more positive.
This week I started reading Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The first habit that Covey addresses in that of being proactive; being proactive in one’s family life, career, and relationships with others.
Covey defines proactivity as being responsible for our own lives. It is subordinating spontaneous emotions to values, and taking the initiative and responsibility to make things happen. This is in stark contrast to being reactive – being governed by factors external to ourselves and our locus of control. “Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values – carefully thought about, selected and internalised values” (Covey). The distinction is also framed by the phrase “Act or be acted upon” – take the initiative and responsibility, or be governed by external factors that you may not be satisfied with.
In order to increase self-awareness of proactivity, Covey discusses the Circle of Concern/Circle of Influence approach.
Our Circle of Concern is comprised of factors in which we have mental or emotional involvement such as health, children, work, national issues.
Within our Circle of Concern, there are some things that we have a level of control or influence over, and other things that we do not. The things that we can do something about form our Circle Of Influence.
According to Covey, our degree of proactivity is determined by which of these circles we are focusing the majority of our energy on. A proactive person will focus efforts on the Circle of Influence, working on the things they can do something about. This positive energy causes their Circle of Influence to increase.
Conversely, reactive people focus their energy on the Circle of Concern. Things they might focus on include weaknesses of other people, environmental problems and circumstances that are out of their control, which may result in blaming, accusations and feelings of victimisation. This negative energy and lack of progress on the things that they could do something about means that their Circle of Influence decreases.
Covey’s discussion reminded me of an activity I once had to do as part of a professional development workshop. Participants had to fill in a Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence for the development of a Languages project within the school. Things that might have fallen into a Circle of Concern included curriculum constraints, length of lessons, other people’s reactions, whilst the Circle of Influence would have involved the activities, effective lesson planning, how to respond to others. It was certainly a helpful task to start to narrow down goals and to consider the what would be the most effective aims and methods of the project.
As educators, it is very important to be proactive. Proactivity helps to facilitate positive working relationships with students, parents and colleagues. In our time-poor environment it helps us to prioritise tasks and achieve them efficiently rather than labouring over things that we cannot control and experiencing negative emotions as a result of this.
And ultimately, from a well-being point of view, when we feel like we are achieving our goals – like we are being effective – we are more likely to experience a sense of satisfaction in our work and personal life.
What does it mean “to lead”? Or to be “a leader”? Or to show “leadership”? These are words and phrases that we use often in students’ reports and that we include in CVs and cover letters. But what do they actually mean? To me, leadership has always been about initiative, collaboration, communication and action. But others may see things differently. Perhaps we think about people who have been famous leaders and use them as a symbol of our definition of leadership. But what makes them leaders? Is it who they are, what they do, how they go about it or why they do it (or a combination of all of these)?
Throughout the past four weeks, I have engaged with an online course titled ‘Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power.’ Presented by Randal Tame from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, this is an introduction to leadership skills and strategies available free of cost through Open 2 Study (an initiative of Open Universities Australia).
There are four modules to the course, with a week allocated to the completion of each module and its assessment.
1. The Romance of Leadership
2. Leadership Theories
3. Leaders and Followers
4. The Practice of Leadership
For me there have been two main take-aways for this particular Professional Development which have helped start to refine my definition of leadership. Firstly, the four rules of leadership and secondly, the three skills of leadership.
The Four Rules of Leadership:
1. Be one of us – someone who is seen as an effective leader is seen to be “like” the group they are leading. Leadership theory states that the most influential person is an in-group prototype who is adaptable to changes in the group identity.
2. Do it for us – a leader must be the champion of the group’s interests. They do not treat themselves differently from any other member of the group and are perceived to be fair, respectful and creating a vision with the group
3. Craft a sense of us – a leader helps to form a sense of the group’s identity and to help members understand who “us” is. They are representative of the group. There are three aspects to this – the leader’s use of language, how they structure activities and actions, and how they harness the energies of the group.
4. Make us matter – a leader builds credibility within the group by making the group identity important and acting in a way that benefits the group.
The Three Skills of Leadership:
1. Reflecting – discovering what really matters to the diverse sub-groups within the group
2. Representing – Communication, collaborating and motivating. Working with each sub-group to attend to their visions and values and bring them together in a cohesive approach.
3. Realising – helping the groups to accumulate things that are of value to them, and working with them to create a social world within the organisation in which they want to live according to the collective values. This involves goal-setting and using relevant policies and practices to achieve the defined goals. It is important that these goals are S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound) and that the strategies are R.I.T.E (Relevant, Implementable, Timely, Engaging).
As a young teacher who has had some leadership opportunities and whose role increasingly requires working with and leading staff in EAL strategies, I am interested in further developing my skills and practice and this course has provided a great theoretical starting point. At the beginning of the first module, Tame recognises that the course can only scratch the surface of leadership theories and practice, but it is certainly a useful foundation for further study.