Pause and Reflect

Around this time each year, I pause and reflect on the goals that I set back in January. I have realized for the first time that I actually follow quite a predictable pattern. With different projects at various stages of development and implementation, plans and initiatives underway for the following year, recruitment and the constant flux of relationship management across the school, the weight of the year can tend to weigh heavily on your mind. You can fall into a trap of letting the small number of negatives outweigh the many positives.

As I review the goals I had set for myself, I realize that I have achieved far more than I even set out to achieve. Given that I usually set quite ambitious goals, this period of reflection is a chance to look back on what I have accomplished in the past twelve months and to give some much-needed self-congratulations.

I look back on the successes (and failures), the wins, the moments of learning and the significant areas of personal and professional progress. As I reflect, I ask myself what I would do differently given the opportunity. I do not dwell on it, however. I pause and savour the moment, and then move on.

Each year I collect some data to help inform my future directions. In 2015, I completed the Genos Emotional Intelligence (EI) 360 survey, the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People 360 survey and a self-assessment using Paul Browning’s rubric for assessing trust and transformational leadership practice. I also used this rubric in 2016 and 2017. I have scheduled a Genos EI 360 survey for February of 2018 and it will be interesting to see how I have progressed.

My goals this year were on three areas – Developing Relationships and Trust, Enhancing Learning Culture and Personal Development and are listed below.

Developing Relationships and Trust

  • Visit classes for thirty minutes every day
  • Attend morning tea daily rotating across the three schools
  • Timetable fortnightly meetings with key people
  • Spend time equally across the three schools
  • Empower the Leaders of Learning and build a cohesive team to lead the different priorities of the three schools
  • Embed the GROWTH model of coaching into my daily interactions with others
  • Ensure accountability by always having actions after each meeting or conversation
  • Ensure graduates are supported throughout the VIT full registration process
  • Seek ways to affirm and thank staff members, publicly and privately, every day

Enhancing Learning Culture

  • Continue to provide permission to innovate
  • Engage staff in a managed process for focused collaborative review and improvement using both our Vision for Learning and Rubicon Atlas
  • Streamline and improve professional learning administrative processes
  • Develop a leadership development program informed by a coaching way of being
  • Drive the Centre for Learning, Research & Innovation’s strategic priorities and vision of success (See CLRI strategic plan)
  • Implementation of a new LMS that supports ongoing assessment and reporting and pastoral and data tracking across the College
  • Support staff in further developing an understanding of a Reggio-inspired approach in the Junior School
  • Develop the year seven model of contemporary team teaching and learning
  • Examine VCE data and engage key staff in determining an improvement strategy
  • Lead an elective review at year nine
  • Enhance experiential learning opportunities
  • Continue to drive Digital Portfolio rollout strategy
  • Meeting structure review in conjunction with Heads of School and Leaders of Learning
  • Develop an improved process for the placement of pre-service teachers across the College.
  • Conduct twenty-four recorded video observations of teaching practice and engage staff in dialogue

Personal Development

  • Sit colloquium for PhD candidature and begin collecting data
  • Collect 50% of data for PhD
  • Gain Growth Coaching International Accreditation
  • Train for a base level of fitness for Nepal Trek in December
  • Spend more quality time with family

Whilst I am happy with the progress made in most of these areas this year, being visible remains the biggest challenge of having a multi-campus role. One strategy for being visible that I recently come across was a Principal who every morning writes and hand delivers birthday cards to every student and staff member. A big commitment but one that quickly becomes non-negotiable through community expectation.

What strategies do you use to remain visible?

School Culture Recharged

There are not too many books that I read that I don’t like. I’m not sure if it is because I have a genuine love of reading or whether it is just a case of choosing judiciously.

In saying that School Culture Recharged: Strategies to Energize your Staff and Culture really missed the mark for me. The authors engage in circular reasoning with statements like “culture shapes people, people shape culture” without actually providing many concrete suggestions as to how this might take place. Many of the few examples given are simplistic and obvious ranging from “praise people for their work” to “smile because it’s contagious.” Other suggestions include, “if you have teachers struggling with classroom management, you might suggest they try dressing more professionally” and “add donuts to meetings to help make attendees feel appreciated.” At least I got a laugh or two…

Culture is a nebulous concept to be certain. But a quick glance at the literature should enable us to go a little deeper than what was presented in this book. Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952) in a critical review of culture list one hundred and sixty definitions, whilst more recent studies attempt to explore the nature of culture as being either an external or internal entity, fixed, variable or existing only in the mind of an individual. My simple definition of culture would be that it is a set of shared and enacted values, beliefs and ideologies.

Whilst I did enjoy the small section that explored how leaders can strategize by positioning influential people at different points in the organization, the book adds little to those looking for actual strategies to enhance school culture.

acer Iconia Tab A501 – Review

The tablet has dimensions of 260x177x13.3mm and weighs in at around 730g, weighing a good 100g more than an iPad.  Whilst 100g doesn’t sound much, using the Iconia Tab for any lengthy period of time results in fatigued forearms – it really is a two-handed device.  (The acer protective case for about $50, that folds into two positions, is a must and gives your forearms a rest.)

The display is a 10.1 inch LCD capacitive touchscreen with 800×1280 pixels – and is actually quite nice to look at. It boasts NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 mobile processor and verison 3.0 (Honeycomb) of Google’s Android platform. At the moment the Iconia Tab A501 can play back video at 720p HD, but with an upgrade coming soon via Honeycomb, will soon play at 1080p. The stereo speakers are surprisingly good, sounding much better than the sound coming from an iPad, and of course the Iconia Tab comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Other features include:

* 32 GB flash memory

* 1 GB RAM

* 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash rear camera

* 2MP front camera

* microSD card slot catering for up to 32GB of extra storage

* HDMI port allowing 1080p video output 

The user interface of the Iconia Tab is at times a little unresponsive — launching applications can sometimes take a while and the user interface is perhaps not as intuitive as it could be. The touchscreen also appears to be somewhat insensitive. Battery life is about 6 hours with intermittent web surfing, video streaming, game playing etc. Streaming video from Youtube over Wi-Fi was very good and the interface enables you to stream 720p with a simple touch. 

Whilst supporting Flash, the Iconia Tab still has difficulty in loading and playing Flash-based web games…. And whilst on games, the one thing that continues to under-impress me is the quality of tablet games currently on the market. Aside from classics like the very simple and yet at times infuriatingly difficult Angry Birds, the current games on the market lack depth, sophistication and replay ability. The Iconia Tab comes with Let’s Golf, Hero of Sparta and NFS Shift – the later whilst sporting nice looking graphics, basically only uses the gyro functionality of the tab to allow the player to steer – whilst fun for about 5 minutes, that’s all there is to it.

Downloading the DocstoGo app for $15 allows for viewing of Microsoft docs, pdf’s, and gives the ability to create new docs and edit existing ones – it also allows the Iconia tab to read your usb as an external storage device. (I have noticed that some apps on the Android market are device and location specific…) Video playback from usb supports H.264, mp4, oog, wav & wma – but no native avi support is frustrating. 

Starting at around $690 in Australia (JbHiFi), which is only slightly less than the starting price for the equivalent iPad 2 ($800), the Iconia Tab is still not quite there – especially considering the latest report from McAfee; the popular anti-virus maker reported that Android was the most targeted mobile platform for malware during the second quarter of the year.

acer Iconia Tab A501

I am in the process of reviewing the A501 acer Iconia Tab. The tablet features impressive specifications — boasting NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 mobile processor, a 10″ screen, version 3.0 (Honeycomb) of Google’s Android platform and a range of other features including USB input. Other features include:

  • 32 GB flash memory
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 5 MP rear camera
  • 2MP front camera
  • microSD card slot
  • HDMI output

First impressions are that it is heavy (765g according to the packaging), navigation is not as intuitive as iOS, there appears to be a slight delay and some insensitivity built into the touchscreen, and that some apps for the Android platform are device specific…

So, is it going to challenge the iPad – not if first impressions are anything to go by. More details soon.