Monthly Archives: December, 2014

Covey’s Second Habit: Beginning with the end in mind

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.

Understanding, compassion and support the key to successful transition for New Arrivals

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.

 

Covey’s First Habit: Being Proactive

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.

Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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.

Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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.

Proactive Focus (positive energy enlarges the Circle of Influence) - Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Proactive Focus (positive energy enlarges the Circle of Influence) – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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.

Reactive Focus (Negative energy reduces the Circle of Influence) - Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Reactive Focus (Negative energy reduces the Circle of Influence) – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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.

Learning to lead…first steps

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.

 

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Dale Carnegie has a bit to say that is relevant to our schools!

These holidays I have set my self the goal of blogging at least weekly about some wider learning and reading that I have finally got the time to do!

Last week, as I traipsed through my digital newsletter and magazine subscriptions, I came across this Life Hack article titled 15 Best Leadership Books Every Young Leader Needs to Read.

Now, whether a teacher is looking at a career pathway that moves towards leadership or not, I strongly believe that as teachers we have the inherent responsibility to be leaders in our school and wider communities. So, this list grabbed my attention and I started going through the list deciding which titles seemed most relevant to my context, and then seeking them out on iBooks.

The first two books I decided to take a look at were Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ and Stephen R. Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ More on the latter another time…this week I began with Carnegie’s book.

How-to-win-friends-and-influence-people

Originally published in 1936, the title of the American author and lecturer’s book makes me cringe a little. But once I got myself beyond that stigma, the majority of the book was fairly sound. There are a number of editions, but the one going for $0.99 on iBooks consists of six parts:

1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

2. Ways to Make People Like You

3. How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

4. Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

5. Letters that Produced Miraculous Results

6. Seven Rules for Making Your Home Life Happier.

Whilst appreciating the generosity with which Carnegie gives out advice, the book did become quite repetitive. Each section is split into chapters that explain a main principle of working with and leading people. Many of these are highly applicable in the classroom and when working with colleagues in education. They are, essentially, about building effective relationships and could act as a handbook for new and continuing teachers alike.

Below are the principles from the first four parts of Carnegie’s book, with a brief comment on how the first two sections might relate to the classroom or teachers’ office. This will be followed by a summary of Parts Three and Four.

PART ONE: FUNDAMENTAL TECHNIQUES IN HANDLING PEOPLE

“Principle One – Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.” We need to consider how we communicate to our students, parents and colleagues when we believe a situation is less than satisfactory.

“Principle Two – Give honest and sincere appreciation.” I see this in the sense of the way we give feedback on work, but also the way that we acknowledge positive behaviour and choices rather than focusing on the negative.

“Principle Three – Arouse in the other person an eager want.” How do we engage students so that they want to learn and participate in the classroom?

PART TWO: WAYS TO MAKE PEOPLE LIKE YOU

(N.B. In the educational sense, I see this more as ‘Ways to Engage Positively With Others’ rather than making them like me)

“Principle One – Become genuinely interested in other people.” Listen to students and colleagues. Get to know their interests and talents.

“Principle Two – Smile.” The old “don’t smile before Easter” just doesn’t make sense. Be firm, of course, but students are allowed to see that we are human and we need to make them feel welcome!

“Principle Three – Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” In other words, learn your students’ names. ASAP. This acts as a behaviour management technique on top of being just a common courtesy.

“Principle Four – Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.” (See Principle One.)

“Principle Five – Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.” How does what you would like to see happen fit with what the other person is interested in? They are more likely to do it if it addresses their interests!

“Principle 6 – Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.” Make sure students and colleagues know they matter, absolutely. To be honest, without them you probably wouldn’t be there either!

PART THREE: HOW TO WIN PEOPLE TO YOUR WAY OF THINKING

“Principle One – The only way to get the best out of an argument is to avoid it.”

“Principle Two – Show Respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.””

“Principle Three – If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”

“Principle Four – Begin in a friendly way.”

“Principle Five – Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.”

“Principle Six – Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.”

“Principle Seven – Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.”

“Principle Eight – Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”

“Principle Nine – Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.”

“Principle Ten – Appeal to the nobler motives.”

“Principle Eleven – Dramatise your ideas.”

“Principle Twelve – Throw down a challenge.”

PART FOUR: HOW TO CHANGE PEOPLE WITHOUT GIVING OFFENSE OR AROUSING RESENTMENT

“Principle One – Begin with praise and honest appreciation.”

“Principle Two – Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.”

“Principle Three – Talk about your own mistakes before criticising the other person.”

“Principle Four – Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.”

“Principle Five – Let the other person save face.”

“Principle Six – Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be heart in you appreciation and lavish in your praise.”

“Principle Seven – Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.”

“Principle Eight – Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.”

“Principle Nine – Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.”

Carnegie Quote

Learning to read: print or digital devices?

These holidays I am have set myself the challenge of blogging weekly about an element of my professional reading/learning/formation that I have focused on during that week.

Earlier this week I received an email from a colleague containing a link to an interview with Maryanne Wolf, a professor at the Centre for Reading and Language Research at Tuft University.

The full article can be found here: http://pdk.sagepub.com/content/96/3/14.full

Wolf begins by differentiating the language and cognitive demands of learning to speak versus learning to read. The acquisition of oral language is, by and large, a natural process occurring through immersion. “You can put a child anywhere in the world in a speaking environment, and it will naturally trigger their language. It will happen. ”

This is not the case with reading. Reading requires being able to a decode symbolic code that is “both visual and verbal”:

“Reading is both a symbolic act, but it’s also an extraordinary act in terms of cerebral complexity and plasticity. Though it begins by connecting vision and language processes, it goes on to connect concepts, background knowledge, all the aspects of language like syntax, semantics, and morphology. Over time, it adds inference, analogy, perspective taking. It adds so many cognitive skills that, by the end, the reading circuit involves a panoply of some of the most basic processes connected to some of the most sophisticated cognitive and linguistic processes that human beings have ever achieved. The outcome is an extraordinary range of processes that all come together to propel thought. “- Maryanne Wolf, November 2014

So reading is already a far more complex act than speaking, but it is further complicated in an age where we talk about multiple literacies. Wolf refers to teaching children to be “biliterate” – people who are able to recognise different kinds of reading (in this case print versus screen) and apply different reading strategies appropriate to the context.

A particularly interesting discussion between the interviewer and Wolf is in regards to the development of children who learn to read from a screen. Wolf’s research currently involves looking at the physiological differences in reading strategies. She is interested in the difference in development between children who only learn to read via technology, children with a print/technology hybrid, and children with no technology.

So far her research shows minimal concern for children who learn to read with a device such as a Kindle, but a deficit for those who primarily learn to read on devices with more obvious distractions – web pages, advertisements, multimedia, etc. Although, this does not mean those reading from Kindle-like devices are safe from developing ‘lazy’ reading habits – if they are exposed to other screen media with distractions that cause them to read for “speed and immediacy” rather than deep understanding, then they are like to apply these same strategies to others forms of reading. “So the question becomes whether the mindset formed in a digital cultural milieu is really programming children always to be expecting the next attractive stimulus, rather than focusing their attention and concentration.” (Wolf, November 2014)

For the purpose of this discussion, there is print-based reading and digital reading – both reading in their own right. But the key issue is this: do we adequately help children to develop the skills sets required to differentiate between the two? I recognise in myself that I read a website differently from how I read a book. Online, my attention is divided between words, images, audio and audiovisual. When I read a print book, I am able to focus in on precisely what is being said and decode at a much deeper level. I even find it physically easier to focus for longer periods of time on a book that is printed compared to an e-book. I am a highly-literate and technologically savvy young adult and this print/screen dichotomy challenges me at times. So if adults find it difficult, how can we help young children to develop this “biliteracy” as Wolf calls it?

In order to be fully literate a person needs to be able to infer meaning from text at a deeper level. There is evidence to suggest that these skills are best acquired through print-based reading to begin with. Wolf suggests a kind of mentoring system where primary school children’s deeper inferential skills are charted in order to determine at which point to introduce digital reading and the associated skills. I must say at this point, I do not intend to say that digital literacy is less complex – in fact, it probably requires greater critical thinking and discernment as to what is regarded as fact or quality. But the deeper inferential skills need to be developed first in order to achieve these ones. Insomuch, Wolf does not negate the importance of technology; rather, she sees it as a complement to the teaching and learning of reading, but certainly not as a replacement.

And as a classroom teacher who sees many teenagers distracted by their flashy computer screens all day, mindlessly consuming what Google spits back at them, and struggling to read a printed text for five minutes, I can’t help but agree. My challenge is how to address it so that they develop the literacy skills sets required for the digital age that they are native to but not necessarily cognisant of.

Why Term 4 Is Crazy, Yet Deserves Gratitude – And Not Just For Holidays

Anyone who says the last couple of weeks of Term 4 are relaxing are kidding themselves. I find that a certain delirium sets in, usually from about the middle of Week 6. At our school, Week 6 signals a flurry of activity that lasts until the very. last. day. Year 12 exams, Year 8 camp, Year 12 Graduation,Year 10 and 11 exams, Year 10 Australian Business Week, final assessments for Year 8s and 9s, reports, Spring Fling and Swimming Carnival…and then, breathe? This is all only by the end of Week 7, so not just yet. There’s still a week to go…

At my current school, only the Year 8s and 9s remain in the final week of the term. Teaching programs are over, reports are finalised, but there is a recognition that students need to remain engaged in relevant learning. An “Alternative Week” program is devised for the first three days of the week, kicking off with the Year 9 Graduation into the Senior School and followed by a day and a half of non-graded life-skill based lessons and a Project Day. Once again, the dedicated staff who have just wrapped up their teaching programs plan, run and supervise mini programs. This year I have been involved in the Project Day with the Year 8s and 9s from our House. We took a focus on Centacare, our chosen Catholic charity, and created soft toy bilbies for children accessing their wonderful playgroup service, ‘The Bilby Bus.” All well and good, except that sewing is not my forte…so I got to develop my own life-skills as well!

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This is my somewhat cross-eyed and slightly amateur-looking attempt.

Thursday of Week 8 is House Day (excursions in House groups) followed by the final day (tomorrow – hooray!) tidying up odds and ends and concluding with a Christmas liturgy.

Add into this mix any final meetings and the End of Year Mass and Awards Ceremony, and you have an insane two and a half weeks.

Yet, despite the chaos and borderline craziness, there is something about this flurry of activity that is very rewarding. Working with students in an environment that is not dictated by subject area, staff members pitching in to help maintain one another’s sanity (one very kind colleague who CAN sew helped my class and I out all day) and seeing the pride in the faces of students, parents and teachers as kids accept awards for their hard work and amazing achievements. These moments bring together a sense of culmination and of achievement…that a year, which may well have been very challenging one, has turned out to be a successful one and one to be grateful for.

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