Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sabbatical Part 6

Since it was Sunday they let us have a late start – 10.30am – with a 1.45pm finish. I slept till 9.00 but couldn't help thinking that a normal 8.30 start with a 11.45 finish would have made more of the day available to enjoy the city.

After watching the first 2 games of Federer v Nadal we duly walked to Harvard for the first session. This was Pam Mason's, the Institute's Director, and it was very disappointing. It was on effective literacy programmes, but I learned nothing.

Her session was followed by a very interesting and quite entertaining presentation by Hunter Gehlbach on surveying. He produced a list of Top Ten Tips for surveys which will prove very useful.

We then went to our small group session which we hold every day. I find these extremely valuable and are disappointed when they finish. A suggestion I would have for future courses is to make these sessions longer. Having enough opportunity to discuss and synthesise the thoughts going around is vital or else it will be lost.

Our facilitator, Melissa, does a great job in involving all of us and getting us thinking. The members of the group are diverse and we could learn so much more from each other if we had more time to discuss and argue.

We began a great discussion today which would benefit from further time. I made the observation that the system in which US principals carried out their complex job was quite brutalising and based on low trust. I dont think I expressed myself well but I was trying to say that the view that I was gathering of their job was one in which:
they were hamstrung by protectionist unions which had little interest in the promotion of the interests of the profession i.e. improved teaching and learning.
they were held accountable at a microscopic level without seemingly being given the means to perform
they are forced to focus on the short term rather than long term
they are seen, and see themselves, as administrators rather than as educational leaders
there is a clear differentiation between 'them and us' when it comes to principals and teachers (they call themselves administrators)
This experience has made me more determined to protect the position that we as principals have in NZ and to push for even more high trust mechanisms.

The reduction to zero suspensions in our school, the significant improvement in attendance, the high levels of retention, and the very high levels of achievement (all of which are outstanding achievements for a decile 1 school) have come about because I (and my predecessors) have been able to be educational leaders, not administrators, and have been able to take a medium to long-term view to problem solving.

I have been in my school for 16 years. The average for the rest of my group would be about 2.

Enough of that. I'm getting tired and still have tomorrow's readings to do.

Terry and I trained into Boston after class and booked our train tickets Boston to NY for Wednesday, NY to Philly for Fri and Philly to Boston on the Monday. Barbara behind the counter has been the first real helpful official we have come across.

Bostonians must still be a bit like their ancestors – reserved. I have greeted many people on our daily walk to class and back. I usually receive anything between ignoring and ignoring unless they are another tourist!

We found a cool bar where we had a couple of beers and a burger watching Nadal defeat Federer. We came back 'home' after seeing Paul Revere's grave and then pooped out to a neat local bar down the street called River Gods for Pizza and beer.

Feeling much better today!

Time to read and begin my evaluation (which I will share with you of course!)

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