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Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

Tag: Zoe Ross

Reading leadership

Image from London Transport notice

Sage advice from the Tottenham Court Road Tube team.

Arising from a conversation with Simon Warburton on his blog and on Twitter and a request from Zoe Ross, below is a limited selection of the most influential books I have read related to leadership in the last twelve months.

I want to make it very clear that no book or approach has the ‘answer’ and the usefulness of the book will ultimately depend on where you are in your leadership development, your style, the particular environment you work in and what other things you have read.

Core Purpose

I worked with Mark Lauder, the Headmaster at Ashville College, in a previous school and was always amazed by his ability to focus on the core issue and strip away extraneous information. What Mark did (and I did not realise at the time) was to reduce the issue to one of core purpose – does it really fit with the principles driving the school? Returning to principles provides a sense of clarity and drive hard decisions by saying ‘no’ to certain things that detract from the main focus.

From Good to Great – Jim Collins

Some people have an issue with the ‘getting the wrong people off the bus and getting the right people on the bus’ metaphor in the book (although the author of the post, Keven Bartle, admits that he has not read the book). My view is that it depends on the situation you are in and focussing on this issue detracts from the most important aspect I took away from the which is ‘core purpose’ – what is important to the institution and what drives it? Focusing on this means turning down things that are tempting but do not really link to the principle guiding the institution (it has caused me to turn down a number of speaking engagements as they do not fit into my core purpose or the core purpose of my school). One criticism is it business focus and I was pleased to find that Collins has written a monograph for the ‘Social Sectors’ as a companion to the main book (which might answer Bartle’s criticism on the use of the metaphor).

Start With Why – Simon Sinek

I use Sinek’s idea of the ‘Golden Circle‘ all the time in my thinking as it always forces me think whether the problem under discussion really fits with our core purpose. Sinek argues that institutions know ‘how’ they do things and ‘what’ they do but they do not necessarily know ‘why’ they do those things. Starting with ‘why’ provides clarity for all subsequent actions.

Building capacity

Teaching involves building the capacity of students. Leadership also involves building capacity and the book below has really also made me think carefully about my work with students, colleagues, parents and other organisations.

Multipliers by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

This book has had a major impact on my thinking. I found it has given me concrete tools to build the capacity (as the book terms it, ‘how the best leaders make everyone else smarter’) and it identified quite clearly the things I have have done in the past to ‘diminish’ the performance of others. I cringed when I read certain parts of the book that identified precisely the poor leadership/management processes (as I could see myself in them). Continuing in this manner was not really an option. I have been extremely fortunate to read the forthcoming version focussed on education and I do believe it will be of use to everyone in a leadership position in schools.

Interpersonal skills

I have to say that this area is something that has developed over a period of time through watching others interact and trialling some ideas myself. I have tried to work really hard on this in the last twelve months and I believe it has helped in interactions with colleagues, parents, students and representatives from other organisations.

What Every Body is Saying – Joe Navarro

There are many books on body language and non-verbal communication and they (I would argue) get to the point very quickly. However, this book really cemented for me the importance of paying careful attention to conversation and non-verbal signals (possibly because it helped the author solve crimes). As with any non-verbal communication book, the real work comes from working on noticing cues until they become the default setting. It has certainly helped me defuse/respond to a number of situations effectively.

Starting a new job

Starting a new job well is crucial, especially in a leadership role in another school where you have to assimilate a new culture quickly. The book below really helped me think carefully about what I had to learn and my limitations and goals in the first few months of my new role.

The First 90 Days – Michael D Watkins

Ian Phillips, Assistant Head at Haberdasher Aske’s Boys’ School, recommended this book to me and it provides a framework for thinking about your role and practical strategies to minimise the difficulty of coming to grips with a new culture/role.

A selection of other books/magazines that I found useful in the last twelve months:

Harvard Business Review (Kindle Subscription)

Mind over Mind – Chris Berdik

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive – Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni

High Performers – Alistair Smith

The Gold Mine Effect – Rasmus Ankersen

The Innovator’s DNA – Clayton Christensen

Mistakes were Made (but not by me) – Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson

Adapt – Tim Harford

Future Perfect – Steven Johnson

 

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Conference Update #4 – Workshop leaders

A brief update on workshop leaders. I am incredibly pleased that colleagues from the state, independent, HE sectors and outside institutions around the country have given up their time and expertise freely to share at the conference. Without your generosity and desire to improve, it would be a poor event and I want to thank you all.

Confirmed workshop leaders so far (additional info in brackets):

Zoe Ross (ICT, Social Media, entrepreneur )

Neal Watkin (AST, History and TEEP Trainer)

Eric Wareham (Science, SLT, TEEP Trainer

Jen Ellison (Head of Science)

John Mitchell (History)

David Rogers (Geography, Jamie’s Dream Teacher winner)

Laura Knight (Director of eLearning, HoD of MFL)

Dr Tori Herridge (Science, Natural History Museum, London)

Dai Barnes (Head of ICT)

James Michie (Head of Media and KS4 English, ICT)

Dave Stacey (History and ICT)

Chris Gibbard (Maths)

Kristian Still (PE, SLT, ICT and English)

Alex Battinson (HoD PE, Boarding)

Nathan Lowe and Flitch Green Academy (Primary, SLT, whole school use of technology)

Wren Academy (Building Learning Power, Student Voice)

Ashlyns School

Andy Kemp (Maths, SLT)

David Didau (English, SLT, Learning and Teaching)

Tait Coles (SLT, Learning and Teaching)

Sarah Capewell (SLT, Latin/Greek, Classics, mobile learning)

Bill Lord (Primary, SLT, Learning and Teaching)

Ian Yorston (Science, ICT, Computing, being unreasonable)

Adam O’Connor (History, Learning and Teaching)

Dr David James (English, Leadership, IB)

Mark Anderson (ICT)

We still have more workshops to confirm in the coming weeks so please keep checking the blog. With such an impressive array of teaching and learning talent, I am sure that you will walk away from the event with something that will sharpen your work and improve the learning in your classrooms. Combined with presentations from Alistair Smith, Professor Bill Lucas and Dr Bill Rankin, this really is a year’s worth of inset in one day!

All of this does come at a cost and I would like to reiterate that we are not making a profit on the event. Ticket prices will be announced shortly and we are working hard to keep it as affordable as possible which is helped greatly by the fact that workshop leaders are giving their time freely. The price we are aiming for is significantly cheaper to comparable inset sessions and we think it will be pleasing to all (just check how much it would be to book one of our speakers/workshop leaders for an hour). However, we do still need help. If you would like to support an event that spans sectors and key stages with a focus on inspirational teaching and grounded in helping students do their best, please get in contact.

Update: Twitter hashtag is #TLAB13

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TeachMeet Mozilla #TMmozLDN2012

I am sold on the model of practitioners sharing their work in informal settings. I have attended and helped steer a number of TeachMeets over the years (and will be hosting a few in the near future) and I love the natural, easy conversations that occur between the presentations. With this is mind, when Doug Belshaw, announced that there was to be a TeachMeet in London on the 7th October hosted at Mozilla’s London headquarters, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

As usual, Doug’s organisation was spot-on and I enjoyed the presentations (especially a ten year old Mr Ross showing us how to use Mozilla’s ‘Hackasaurus‘ tools) and I was eager to learn more about Open Badges as an idea. Essentially, Open Badges are ways of displaying achievements and skills for all kinds of things, especially the things that are not paid attention to in the normal progress of education. I was keen to hear Zoe Ross’ experience about the use of Badges in her school. You can find out more about the work Zoe and her students have done towards the creation of their own badges here.

One thing that struck me in the conversation about Badges was the thought that they can operate on three levels. On a micro/Classroom level, they can be a great mechanism to structure expectations. In one sense, this is similar to merits/points but with slightly more specified in terms of behaviours. What was great about Zoe’s work was the students identifying and creating the badges for the attributes they expected of good learners. I can see a lot of ways this could be very useful within individual classrooms and especially with boys with ideas of ‘levelling up’ and being part of a larger structured learning game (see Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys with the Latin lesson example to see what I mean).  An effective school is full of effective lessons and this would be one tool which could really help create the right atmosphere for progress.

The second level would go beyond one classroom. It would tie in to an existing framework of educational achievements such as Guy Claxton’s work around Building Learning Power (with a useful badge type system similar to the implementation at Cramlington Learning Village). Another example is the International Baccalaureate Middle Years/Diploma Programme learner profile. The attributes identified by these systems would be useful for any school to aspire to and moves us to a more rounded view of education.

Were it to be successful in an institution, I think the third (macro) level would really offer the opportunity for Badges to be of value to the rest of society by considering the boundaries beyond the school.  It was Tony Sheppard who suggested that Badges could be like the Duke of Edinburgh Award, validated by an external body that has status and continually refines the expectations for the award whilst being mindful of its core values. Imagine Badges for IT skills validated by the Chartered Institute for IT but designed by teachers in schools. The day gave me a lot to think about in terms of my new role.

Beyond the discussion of Badges in education, I was very interested in Miles Berry’s presentation on using HTML5 to create presentations; something I think I will try with my IT student this year. I also had the inevitable ‘iPad is terrible’ conversation which I found entertaining as I use an iPad, Kindle, Chromebook, Mac and PC in my daily working life. No one device can rule them all (in my honest opinion and possibly another blog post).

I can only recommend that you get yourself to a TeachMeet soon; they really do help you to look at education (in all its forms) from a different point of view. Thanks once again to Doug and the Mozilla team for hosting a very interesting event.

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