Bring your own ideas…

Those who follow me (and care) will have noticed I’ve been little quite online. But as I watch the ground swell of self-adulation, brand building and intellectual theft around “BYOD”, I have to say something…

Sadly nearly all BYOD programs will fail in the following years, because those dominating the discussion are more interested in their own agenda’s or preparing their PowerPoint for the next edu-conference.

What concerns me is the real “leaders” in this area are conveniently forgotten or maybe the edifying edu-conference presenters didn’t have time for the “bibliography” slide in their PowerPoint. If you are thinking BYOD then you must read Mal Lee’s work and more importantly, meaningfully reflected on the implications of Gary Stagers anti-BYOD dissection. You don’t have to agree with them, but you will fail if you dismiss them.

Me, BYOD/T is not my idea, I didn’t even like it in the beginning, but I stole it from Mal (Hat Tip) and thought meaningfully on Gary’s counter argument (Hat tip). So I’ve being running a BYOD class since the beginning of the year, I didn’t ask permission, write a policy or create a hastag. All I did was negotiate with my students what they could access and what they were prepared to bring to class every lesson.

This post is dedicated to the students who don’t read my blog. To the teachers and self promoters following me hoping to exploit their next “big idea”, if you want your BYOD policy to work; don’t write a policy, stop talking to non-teachers and tweeting about it. All you need to do is unite with your students, the people.

Let us all unite…

Weathering the storm of education

“Teaching is Traumatic” a hat tip to Summer Howarth and Steve Collis for the critical thought leadership in this area. As an educational leader I want to surround myself with professionals who have what Summer described as a “physiological reaction” to some of our more challenging issues, without it they are just robots. I read blog posts like this: “Today I Sucked” with hope for the future of education. I get to listen every day to the passion of educators around me at school talking about their trauma. Those that think educational leadership is a hashtag on twitter marginalise the realities of education like King Henry “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” using his troop’s corpses to fill the breach of Harfleur. The real educational leadership challenge is how do we support our teams and colleagues through these moments to improve outcomes for all students and build their capacity as educational professionals? Most importantly how do we do this within the realities of our context? We can click ‘dislike’ all we want, but we operate in a world of testing, reporting and accountability.

Sorry I wish I had a list of cool dot points to start you thinking, but sometimes I too, am lost…

Anyone can lead from the negative but it takes a real leader to lead from this positive!

Simply take a look at the teams you lead and the teams you are a member off, unless you live in Shangri-La, you’ll quickly see we lead and are led in less than perfect contexts. As leaders we can choose (yes it is a choice, most just choose not to see the alternative option) to lead from the positive or lead from the negative.

Common strategies of leading from the negative:

  • Actively seek out mistakes
  • Focus on the negative impact of mistake
  • Let others know of the mistake or impact
  • Only use mistakes to engage in deep dialogue
  • Intentionally allow/setup new team members to make mistakes
  • Tell others of  a teams weakness
  • When giving feedback only highlight the negatives
  • Provide new opportunities without equal coaching/support

How I try (not sure I’m successful as I would like) to lead from the positive:

  • Random acts of kindness – make a point of telling team members they are awesome when they least expect it.
  • Frame feedback from the positive – when giving feedback focus on the positives and discuss how the negatives can be flipped to the positive
  • Don’t dwell on failure – when someone fails they already know it, so don’t get them to relive it just discuss how they would do things differently next time
  • Never let someone fail big – small failures are fine, but big failures are my failure as their leader, so provide coaching and support to ensure it never happens
  • Never discuss failure in public, it’s a private 1:1 discussion or nothing
  • Talk openly about my failures and model failure as learning

Why is it so hard to lead from the positive and why do so many choose to lead from the negative?

Is a “Hat Tip” really so hard?

In the new world of big brands, badges of self-proclaimed awesomeness and virtual territorialism have we forgotten the hat tip?

I’ve lost count of how many blogs, web pages and self promoters who have taken my ideas and sold them as their own (the ones who have “innovation” in their name just make me chuckle), plagiarism is a totally different issue of professionalism. But in the last 18 months I’ve noticed an increase in educators referring to “someone I work with” in their blog or espousing an idea that blind Freddy’s best mate knows wasn’t theirs on social media channels. So maybe next time you share an idea that others contributed too (no matter how small), why not give ‘em a hat tip!

Is it really that hard…

Edumacational leadership 101 – Modelling

As a educational leader I find myself in a variety of contexts and engaging with a variety of personalities. To me this is a post of “obvious” but from a range of experiences in the last few weeks, maybe what is obvious to me, is not obvious too all? How we behave (proactively and reactively) defines how others view and engage with us but also define the culturally acceptable behaviours those around us have for each other.

Reactive modelling as mocked in the video is about being self-aware, we all have “moments” it just part of being human. It’s how we treat those around us during the moments and our daily routines that define our team culture. What real leadership is about, is proactive modelling through your daily routine. Your day to day behaviour and engagement with others will have a bigger impact on your team/school than any professional learning you ever deliver.

Examples of proactive modelling you should put in your weekly calendar:

  • Intentionally engage in learning focused conversations publicly, let everyone see what a positive and solutions focused learning conversation looks like
  • Every email you send should model professional and collegial communication, a significant majority of teachers email is rubbish and negative in tone, show them what a positive email looks like.
  • Make transparent decisions, you want others to learn the process as much as the outcome
  • Ask intelligent and solutions focused questions in meetings, set the tone for the type of questions you want to see
  • Plan not to dominate the floor, empower others to lead in your presence, especially when you are seen as the subject matter expect
  • Only use inclusive language

Examples of reactive negative modelling to specifically avoid:

  • Talking negatively about students in professional spaces
  • Responding to aggressive emails, just click delete
  • Talking about interpersonal issues between teachers publically, do it privately
  • Having a bad day, stay home or stay quiet
  • Talking down to others, everyone deserves dignity and respect

How you behave is what others expect from you, behave like a clown and expect to be treated like a clown. Is it really this hard?

Leadership Lessons from Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote

Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote represent 2 very common educational leadership archetypes, which are you?

Wile E. Coyote

  • Is so focused on a single goal with a single outcome, completely ignoring the bigger picture
  • Relies on external entities (ACME) to solve internal issues
  • Never thinks strategically
  • Looks to short term solutions to long term problems
  • Never prototypes or tests solutions before implementing them
  • Is blind to the fact that what he has always down doesn’t work
  • Tries to solve the problem without building a relationship
  • Never looks to the future

Road Runner

  • Has the bigger picture and is ready to respond to whatever challenges he faces
  • Solves problems using his internal resources and capacity
  • Seeks long term solutions to a long term problem
  • Never stops working towards the high purpose (running) no matter what gets thrown at him
  • Knows who he is working with and how to manage them

There are not only leadership lessons to be learnt from Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote but also team capacity building lessons. My aim this year is to build a team of Road Runners, that way no matter how many Wile E. Coyote we meet, we are ready to keep striving for the higher purpose of awesome student learning.


The greatest barrier to change is the fear of admitting we’re not perfect…

The greatest barrier to change in education is the fear of admitting we’re not perfect. Every time we claim awesomeness, when deep down we know we’re not we take another step away from perfection. As long as we claim we’re perfect, we never will be. So today I proudly say:

  1. I’m not perfect
  2. I make mistakes every day
  3. Every decision and project I have lead has never been perfect
  4. I can do better
  5. I desperately want to be perfect!

There I said it, now have you got the guts?

Or will you just claim you’re perfect, so you never have to change because it’s so much easier than looking reality in the eye…

What are the physical manifestations of your team culture?

Yesterday I was at Australian Technology Park, Sydney’s original rail works converted to center for technology and innovation whilst maintaining historical buildings and features. What struck me was the men’s urinal placed outside against a very public wall. Walking past this historical feature I reflected on how such a physical object (in the era of the sites operation as a rail works) would be a physical manifestation of the male macho culture rail works where known for. Thinking that the culture would have tried to changed in the last years of the sites operation during the 1970/80′s, yet physical manifestations such as this would have maintained the cultural status quo, no matter how much the workplace was trying to evolve with the modern times.

This thought lead me to reflect on what are the physical manifestations of my teams culture?:

  • We have a pin board with a photo collage of past and present team members. This is a representation of how we value our team members, both past and present.
  • We only keep equipment and resources that are working, current, used and of value to student learning. This establishes that we don’t keep (physically or ideologically) what no longer works or will not be used.
  • We have quality second hand furniture set out in a way that maximises the use of space. This models space as a technology, but also that education is about the effective use of scarce resources.
  • Every team members has tablet and laptop. This empowers anywhere anytime technology and communication defining the culture of communication and collaboration.
  • We only have posters, picture or signs that are positive and relate to learning (excluding statutory WH&S, etc posters). This sets the positive educationally focused tone for the team.
  • We have a defined collaboration space within our professional space that is not owned by anyone. This ensures that collaboration isn’t just talked about but enabled to happen.

“If you don’t define your team culture, it will define you!”

Negative physical manifestations of team culture educational leaders should be more aware off:

  • Negative de-motivational posters like this or this anywhere in professional spaces. Don’t just remove the posters, remove cause and cultures that drive the thinking behind such bill posts.
  • A lack of spaces for professional collaboration. How can we talk about collaboration if we don’t provide suitable spaces to enable it.
  • Hording resources and equipment beyond their useful life. How can we expect our team to adopt new pedagogies, ideas and cultures if we model the inability to let go of the old.
  • Sterile spaces, in search of looking innovative (other extreme of hording). Always remember humans live here, clean white spaces are pretty in “Good Homes Magazine” but they don’t encourage use.

“If your physical manifestations don’t match your team culture, or if your team culture doesn’t match your physical manifestations, it might not actually be the team culture…”

When leadership fails…

Those that know me, know, I like to lead from the front foot or what I call ‘change leadership’. In the last few weeks I have been in a very superficial leadership role in which I had no choice but to watch passivity as leadership failed. I watched quietly as a leader made comments like “I don’t care” when asked for direction/leadership and pulled a highly productive team together moments before a big push to success only to tell everyone to “shut the f**k up”. I tried as best as I could to ‘lead up’ and ‘lead over’ but, I too failed. I was left to use the moments to simply observe the fallout. Whilst it has been personally an extremely frustrating time for me, it has (by deficit modelling) ratified for me what I believe successful leadership looks like.

These are my four pillars of leadership:

Pillar 1: Build a future – collaborating with my team we reflect on the past and present then map a path to where we want to be.

Pillar 2: Talk it up – applying my personal energy and actively seeking communication points I purposely articulate repeatedly the future we want to build.

Pillar 3: Work with others – working across teams, enables everyone to work towards the future efficiently and models collaboration.

Pillar 4: Map the path – employing my network and networking skills I build the future beyond my team and enable them to connect with those who can support them build the future they want to have.

Leadership may have failed, but it won’t take me with it…

The best part of my day…

I love my job, every day I make a concerted effort to engage deep professional conversations with my team focusing purely our core business of learning. Sadly I speak to many educational leaders who talk about how they are always focusing on structural issues or non-core business but are desperate to effect change creating (a self-fulfilling dichotomy). So here is how I make sure that I have a best part of the day every day but more importantly that the best part of my day is also the biggest part of my day:

  1. Embrace my role as an instructional leader, I am not a janitor or an administrative clerk. As I move around the school I may need to pick up the occasional piece of misplaced rubbish or complete pointless paperwork but I don’t let the tasks define me as a leader.
  2. Be guided by my emotional intelligence, it knows far more about the premium solution than my intellectual intelligence ever will. Leadership requires an endless series of decisions, the day I forget my emotional intelligence is the day I always make more work for myself.
  3. Actively engage in constructive problem talk (pg 43), problems happen, engaging everyone in the solution dream, design and delivery process to build capacity. Creating a culture of issue solving, rather than a culture problem identifying.
  4. Never forget my social contract is with my students. I am accountable to (and only to) my students learning, if what I’m doing isn’t improving their learning then it’s not a priority to me.
  5. Empower everyone, if they want too, I let them. Empowerment is not just about up-skilling and giving permission (albeit an important part), empowerment is an open license to participate and a culture of barrier removal.
  6. I don’t let monkey’s get me down.

How to you maintain the relentless focus on student learning?