Monday, October 27, 2014

How might we ....Thinking about paddling in unison

Thinking about paddling the waka, not only in the same direction, but also in unison!

I'm about to get dangerously close to being excited by the prospect of strategic planning! The SLT has begun a round of workshops with Kay Hawk to help us formulate a structure for strategic planning. She has got us thinking about what are the Big Rocks that should form the foundations of our strategic thinking.

As well, Claire and I were fortunate to spend a day talking with Ewan McIntosh from NoTosh where we concentrated on specific actions  we could immerse ourselves in to better involve others and to capitalise on the huge pool of great ideas that exist in our building.

I followed up by reading his book How To Come Up With Great Ideas and was taken with the concept of "How might we ....?" The combination of these three words has helped me reconcile the conflict I have been experiencing with the legislative requirement to formulate a 3-5 year Strategic Plan and the desire to remain responsive and agile in a fast changing environment.

The "how" implies the need to explore a range of strategies. "Might" makes it clear that even though we might be successful with our strategy we may just easily be unsuccessful. And the "we" makes it clear that it is a shared activity.

The excitement comes from tying together the Big Rocks and the "How Might We" and linking them to our clearly established principles for learning. We're still in the early days of  strategising our strategic planning but this sort of thinking has put a neat energy into this activity.

Brainstorming the Big Rocks of Learning @ Hobsonville Point, Thinking @ Hobsonville Point and Relating @ Hobsonville Point
Linking the Big Rocks to our Principles: Innovate, Engage, Inspire
Once we've filled up the matrix with our brainstormed 'small rocks' we'll look at formulating them into "How Might We..." statements.

Such a process helps resolve the inner conflict. We're not going to base our venture on a plan but rather build it on a strategic foundation. If our foundation of Big Rocks are stable (as a result of firm links with our principles of learning) any plans we make can be fluid, allowing our school to remain an agile organisation.

An outstanding example of linking a myriad of processes (in this case around assessment and reporting) to one of our foundation rocks (learning design) to establish coherence is Di Cavallo's visual which she workshopped with our staff last week.

My desire is to have a strategic plan that looks more like the visual above than a numbered list of Strategic Goals and Targets.

Another important foundation rock for our school is a strong culture of collegial and collaborative professional learning where we openly share knowledge. The power of collaboration is brought home to me every day at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Sharing our best ideas on getting to know our learners

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner


Most of my posts have been describing the things we as teachers and students have been doing as we make our way through our first year. I have really enjoyed chronicling those things from my point of view.

Recently I have been doing a lot of pondering on leadership and how it plays out in an environment such as ours. I thought I would share some of my ponderings.

The title of the post refers to a great, inspirational book I read when I was at my athletic peak! (2 hrs 38 for a marathon!!). It emphasised the loneliness of such a crazy sport. Twice this week I have sought the peace and wonder of the Waitakere Ranges and done some great training. While the training is itself important I realised it was the aloneness I was seeking. Just like back in the marathon days it was those hours of solitude that helped bring some personal coherence to my thinking and I have found that happening again.

The question of leadership has been preying on my mind. Many of our people have been thrust into very big, important and impactful leadership areas which for many has been a big ask.

I remember when I was Deputy Principal I used to get frustrated with my boss (we're now great friends and he has been my most influential mentor) because he seemed to take so long to move some things forward. When I expressed these frustrations with him he used his great line of, "There might be another way of looking at this, Maurie."

There were 2 very important conclusions I formed from this man and our conversations. The first was the absolute golden rule that I would never express these frustrations with anyone else at all. He was the only one I shared them with. It is with a sense of pride that I understand the level of integrity that he presented me with as a way of acting.

The second realisation links to the blog post title. I had a much narrower view of the school and its complex relationships than he did.This is not surprising: I was a DP, a man of action, getting things done and ticking them off. He had a much broader view and was in for the long haul; not being there for years himself but promoting the vision, managing relationships so that was possible, charting a course through very complex issues and growing the people around him. Quick fire fixes may have given some short term solution but didn't keep us in the long game. And most importantly, quick fire fixes reduced the opportunity for people to learn from their leadership experiences and grow as leaders, rather than being shed.

By working with him I began to develop a sense that you didn't really understand the principal job until you actually were in the seat yourself. Even though he provided me with buckets of across school leadership opportunities, it wasn't until I took over from him that I truly realised it wasn't until you were there that you began to understand the role.

Especially in an environment as dynamic and challenging as ours it is vital that leadership, both of operation and preserving, promoting and growing our vision has to be distributed.

When speaking to a colleague who had opened a new school shortly after he had left he said one of the challenges he faced was continually pushing forward with new ideas as he was the one expected to be doing that. He felt that if he wasn't doing that then he would face criticism from those he was working with.

My view is different. I hope they say of my leadership at HPSS that I led the way with a vision and ideas early on in the journey but as time passed others picked up the mantle of bringing the vision to reality as a shared responsibility and that they saw this as opportunity and as a healthy way for a future focused school to travel.