Sunday, February 8, 2015

Infectious Dispositions and Powerful Partnerships

When reading Charlie's latest post I was reminded of something I used to say quite often at my last school to keep myself on track in developing my own mindset or to encourage others to develop their own mindset.

Both optimism and pessimism are infectious. Which one do you want to catch? Which one do you want to infect others with?

When I was first dabbling in school leadership I received some advice which directed me to spend time in all parts of the staffroom making sure I sat and talked with all staff and all groups. I followed this advice for several years consigning myself to some miserable and motivation-sapping experiences. While torturing myself on one particular occasion I kept having my attention drawn to a noisy, laughing crew across the staffroom. I soon recognised them as the movers and shakers in the school and they seemed to be feeding off each other's energy. As well, around them were other staff members with smiles on their faces being quietly infected by this raucous crew. Around me was doom and despair!

From that moment I decided to reject the earlier advice and make sure that whenever possible I was in the company of positive, optimistic, excited and energetic people. It's proven to be a great tactic. I think I had come across something which now falls into my understanding of growth mindset.

Google search for Warm and Demanding came up with this. Go Steve!

I also got to thinking about the concept of Warm and Demanding which has been gaining some currency. I recalled a conversation I had with a Social Studies teacher about 20 years ago who was performing below what I expected from a teacher. When he dismissed my concerns and expressed what I saw as low expectations for his students and the low expectations he had for himself I said firmly to him that these kids would only ever be in Form 4 Social Studies once in their whole life and they deserved to be given the best teaching we could give them.

I ended up having little impact on that particular teacher who very shortly after moved away from teaching in NZ. I think that was one of the first times I began to explore what initially became 'warm and strict' and has now emerged as 'warm and demanding'.

Both of these thoughts have made me realise that it takes a long time for thoughts to percolate in a meaningful way and that 'philosophies of leadership' develop through experience over time.

I can't let this post go by without celebrating the awesome living out of our principle of powerful partnerships that occurred as a result of our Waitangi Whanau celebration last Thursday.

We all know that relationships are at the heart of learning, but how successfully do schools really play that out? I am so rapt that we have stuck to our guns and committed our first 2 weeks of school to 'induction' (= getting to know each other as learners). And how many schools take the opportunity to cement relationships from the start of the year with their parents and wider community?

We had a stunning evening at HPPS sharing time with our families and many affirming conversations were held. I was moved to tweet 2 of the conversations when I got home.

One of the highlights for me was seeing a Dad, his daughter and Pete, our teacher, performing music together to the crowd.

I encourage you to check out both Sally's and Steve's blogs on the evening as they describe so well the link to our principles of learning.

I was blown away by last year's Waitangi Whanau event and wondered how this would compare. I think this year's was another step up. There seemed to be a real sense of pride from our parents about their schools. I kept hearing parents talking about high levels of engagement by their kids, their keenness to get back to school and how much they felt part of the schools.

I can't help but think that both students and parents are chomping at the bit to be fully engaged in schooling. Let's make sure we don't get in their way.

No comments: