Leading the why through the how

Working in two separate schools this week led me to pondering how leaders find a balance between the “why” and the “how”.  It is great to have a vision but the real challenge is often bringing the vision into fruition.

Earlier in the week I was working with a senior leadership team around their approach to appraisal. This is a school who feel comfortable with their rationale and processes but want to focus on improving what they currently do and build teaching as inquiry into appraisal across the school.

We spent some time discussing the big ideas of appraisal, especially a focus on teachers leading their appraisal process and seeing it through an evaluative lens. Once happy with the why of good quality appraisal we moved onto the how. Interestingly this is what teachers had sought clarification around. Those who wanted this clarity didn’t express a desire to know the why but we’re feeling a tad anxious about the appraisal process in light of some big changes going on in the school.

At this point, I suggested that we use Simon Sinek’s Golden circles. I love these as a visual, structured brainstorm to be really sure that the vision is robust (the why), key principles guide the process (the how), and that the practices (the what) enable the vision to be enacted. 

I love this quote from Sinek’s Ted talk (viewed over 26 million times)

“Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.”

Each member of SLT worked on theirs alone at first and then we shared to clarify a shared vision. Both the principal and the DPs commented that this approach was really useful to test the why. There was a little confusion between the what and the how (or the how and the what) but we nutted these out together while discussing and sharing.

Once the why was agreed upon, and tested (albeit in a small way) it allowed the opportunity to take it to the HODs and continue to develop the how and what.

In another school later on in the week. I was involved in a discussion with some teachers. We were talking about the nature of the PLD contract, how it may be personalised for them, and what was “on top” for them in their practice. Overwhelmingly it was enacting the vision of the school – how to bring the why to life and see the future direction of the school play out.

Having the why is only the start. I have the pleasure of going to many schools through my work as an educational consultant. As I wait in school receptions, I peruse the walls of the public space. What is the mission statement, the vision for the school, the motto (in English, Latin, or Maori)? Is it visible? Who is the vision/motto coverings? Who may be left out? I always use this information as an anchor to place the work that I do with schools. 

The harder part of leading is connecting the why and how. We can be inspired by someone, their ideas, the vision that they have for the direction of an organisation but if there insufficient support for people to go on that journey with the leaders, is it too pie in the sky? Maybe this tension is the real challenge of leadership – how you might support others to share the why and build the how together. 

Further exploration:



Fear – a natural part of change?

I’m privileged to work with so many great teachers and leaders who are looking to shift their practice to best serve their learners. I do see this as a great privilege. In a staff meeting today, we donned our black hats to consider the challenges to moving towards student-centred learning where students and teachers co-construct the learning.

It was great – teachers were honest about the perceived risks and constraints around the shifts. Assessment pressures, time and resource constraints, concerns about “getting it wrong” were some of the points raised. Working where there is such high relational trust means that these were discussed objectively and respectfully – there were no judgements only supportive and respectful conversations. This led to dialogue around how we perceive our role in the classroom/learning and how a shift of pedagogy may lead to reconsidering what their role(s) look like.

The teachers are definitely on board with changing to sharing the locus of control with students but I think that talking about the ‘elephants in the room’ meant that they could be planned for and considered.

Making the uncomfortable comfortable:

I love using James Nottingham’s Learning Pit as a metaphor to talk about change and our cognitive and emotional responses to new learning. I’ve used this with students and teachers alike. The beautiful simplicity of the model means that it is really clear what the “pit” that we fall into as we feel consciously incompetent.


Love the connections with #SOLOTaxonomy as well! Moving from unistructural to extended abstract!

But the challenge is not just to know this but also to acknowledge when you are in the pit, and what the next progressions may be and how connections between ideas and responses are building towards the new understanding.

New learning involves taking a risk. And risks are rewarded. Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, said “He who does not expect will not find out the unexpected, for it is trackless and unexplored” Jumping into the unexplored is risky for many when faced with new learning. One thing that I do believe is that you must talk about and acknowledge the risk so that the scary nature of change can be mitigated.





Seeing is believing

Part of my job involves being an observer in other teachers’ classrooms. At Evaluation Associates Ltd, we have clear beliefs (underpinned by relevant evidence, of course) that ongoing feedback, evaluation and support of teachers in the classroom supports them to grow and improve. Cycles of inquiry are used to build teacher and student capacity where purposeful classroom based observations are key evidence to see shifts.

Sounds great, right? And it is. Having someone else in the room, noticing what a teacher is doing, how they are interacting with the students and how the students work with each other is a great thing.

During or just after the observation, we interview the students to get their perspective on whatever the teacher is working on in their practice, and the impact of this for them as learners. Still great. Student voice and facilitator notes are used to inform a professional discussion. Still great, right?

On reflection, I felt as if I didn’t fully commit to the power of observations. Ideally, teachers would also make a video recording of their practice that they could analyse prior to meeting with the observer. When some of the teachers I was working with last year expressed reluctance, I pulled back and allowed them to opt out. But I’m not happy with that and want to change this practice within my own facilitation this year.

Why? Without the recording acting as another set of eyes that the teacher can use to monitor and reflect on their practice. Without the impartial eyes of the video, the facilitators’ observation notes could become the perspective on the teaching and learning – which is too limited.

Assessment for Learning (which I avidly believe in) has the ultimate aim of enabling learners to become self-regulating. Part of this is generating their own feedback and connecting this cognitively, conatively and affectively. My concern is that if teachers are not filming their own practice, and using this recording as an artefact for reflection, then they could be relying on the observer as “outsider” to bring in some points about quality or how closely they have  met their goals. In short, they are not really self-regulating as learners. The role of the observer and the observation is still essential but could be improved if coupled with the video as another point of evidence to use for triangulation.

Seeing how you go about things, or things that you may not have noticed about how the students are learning, or moments where you’ve shown progress as you shift your practice are all positive outcomes of filming. Getting over the surface features- the sound of your voice, the wee foibles and eccentricities we all possess, how ugly that jumper really is (it was always borderline in your head anyway) –  and using the video as an extra set of objective eyes in the room means that it can be really powerful.

So, where to from here? For me, I need to be more upfront with the teachers and leaders I work with about the power of observation and the usefulness of the video for active reflection. I raised filming at a staff meeting last night (nervously) and the overwhelming response was positive. The teachers were keen. If I come across objections to filming in my work, I need to use my OTL skills to unpack the beliefs which have led to this reaction and build on it from there. I don’t want to push anyone into the learning pit but understanding the “why” rather than just doing the “what” is key.

When thinking about my own practice, as well as the shifting practice of the marvelous teachers, leaders and learners that I am privileged to work with, I think I need to keep the mantra up – whatever we do, it has to be better than before.



This post broke my blogging drought!

Open to learning leadership

Notes taken during O2L workshop at HPSS

Jacqui Patuawa

  • Leadership through relationships, expertise, postions of authority
  • Leadership exercised through conversations – leadership is a dialogic activity

Student centred leadership

Leadership enables leaders to exercise problem solving and relational trust

Problem solving“If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and then five minutes solving it” (Albert Einstein).

In schools, we often have the opposite approach – time poor (or perceived) means that we jump to solutions, rather than agreement and critical evaluation of problem.

In schools, we spend a lot of time talking past each other.

Complex problem solving involves solution requirements (conditions that must be met to solve problem effectively).

Mark from Starpath project:

13 barriers to increasing student achievement

  • questionnaire to gain snapshot of leadership cohesion
  • ML rate seriousness of barriers in school
  • then rate effectiveness of SLT at dealing with barriers.

Disconnect between senior leadership and middle leadership in many barriers. Questionnaire different for SLT – what do you think your MLs will rank these barriers as.

All data generated in these surveys are perception based – need to clarify perceptions further.

Relational Trust

Bryk and Schneider (1970s) investigated effective schools – outcome was that leaders with high relational trust


Determinants of relational trust:

  • Interpersonal respect, personal regard for others, competence in role, personal integrity.
  • Your competence is often measured by the way that you deal with others’ “incompetence”
  • Personal integrity – walking the talk. Congruent. Espoused theory vs. theory in practice

Check out: Steven Covey for further reading.

Higher levels of relational trust = higher levels of student outcomes

Connections to Argrys and Schoen! Love them. Learning = detection and correction of error. In schools, we often detect and correct espoused theory. 

Theory of action:

Key beliefs:                 Interpersonal values:                  Actions:              Consequences: Relational trust, Solving problems

What is driving the practice? Engaging in teachers’ theories, for them they are real.

ET – espoused theory

TiU – theory in use

from closed to learning to open to learning conversation

  • Closed – win don’t lose, keep control of task and process, avoid negative emotion
  • O2L – demonstrate respect for self and others, maximise valid information, build internal commitment

Maximise valid information

involves testing and improving the of our own and others’ thinking

Thinking includes opinions, reasonsing, inferences, and feelings


  • Disclose the reasoning that leads to your views
  • provide examples and illustrations of your views
  • treat own views as hypotheses rather than taken for granted truths
  • seek feedback and disconfirmation

What is the disconfirming evidence? Considering this will take you deeper into defining (and solving) issues/concerns.

Demonstrate respect for self and others:

Treat others as well-intentioned, as interested in learning, and as capable of contributing to your learning

Get curious, not furious!

Build internal commitment:

Foster ownership of decisions by seeking honest reactions and building.

OTL values:

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 14.54.49

Power of checking and confirming confirmed! A solution is not good enough if it is not going to advance the work on the problem.

Common ground needs to be named, otherwise it could be murky. If not a common ground, could be that the conversation is useless if one party does not see the problem as a problem.

Inquiry to avoid advocacy – people ask questions that they know the answers to as it is preferable that the other person tells you.

Minimising your concern:

CTL pattern

Trivialising or minimising your concern

  • be honest about the seriousness of your concern

Sandwiching your concern by giving positive feedback before and after raising your concern.

  • disclose early on that there is both positive and critical feedback if that is the case.

Avoid a culture of niceness – OTL is not about “difficult conversation” but about a culture of support and challenge.

Issues between the staff lurk like land mines, until addressed, we never get to the issue.

Professional reading February 2015

This is what I am currently wading through / have recently read/ re-reading old favourites. Lots of this is to do with the PLD leadership and assessment contract that I’m lucky enough to be facilitating this year or part of my leadership role at HPSS.

Clarity in the classroom by Michael Absolum
Formative assessment in the secondary classroom by Shirley Clarke
Weaving Evidence, inquiry and standards to build better schools ed. By Helen Timperley and Judy Parr
Student-centred leadership by Viviane Robinson
Problem-based methodology by Vivane Robinson
Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence synthesis
Lead with Wisdom by Mark Strom
Theory in Practice: improving professional effectivenessh by Chris Argyris and Donald Schön
Assessment for Learning: putting it into practice by Paul Black, Christine Harrison, Clare Lee, Bethan Marshall, Dylan Wiliam

I love seeing the overlap between these texts. Will blog more shortly.

Being a professionally “connected” educator

For me, being connected is one of the most important parts of being a teacher. And in this case, I do mean connected to more that just my colleagues in my school. Connections enforce or challenge us, provide means of learning more, trialling more and improving our own learning journey.

When an aspiration of the New Zealand Curriculum is to foster young people who are “confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners” (NZC, 2007) it seems like a natural assumption to have that as the vision for all New Zealanders. Likewise, educators feel the need to develop this capacity in our students and therefore we must know what this looks like in an ever changing world.

Being a connected educator is more than just attending a PD course for which a flyer turned up in your pigeonhole. It is more that just reading emails that have been sent to you by professional associations. Being connected involves something more active. It is through participation in a range of learning. The range is the key.

My longest connection has probably been through my subject association, the New Zealand Association of Classical Teachers. When I first started teaching the support is received through the association was phenomenal. Not only I was encouraged to attend term by term meetings where I could listen to some of auckland’s most experienced and innovative Classics teachers, gleaning as much as I could about content, pedagogical content knowledge, and assessment practices, I could also attend a well-organised, professional and slick conference to improve my content knowledge and meet some more people. Initially, I was passive – and in awe of the ‘big names’ in classics – but over time I grew in confidence. I realised that I had some ideas to share and that some of what I was up to in my classroom was useful to others. So I began to share and I haven’t stopped since. Initially this was through presenting workshops at conferences (locally, nationally, and internationally), then I was part of the NZACT Exec as the Vice-President of the association, then I was part of planning and running two conferences in Auckland, now… I have been the president of the association and am involved in leading (with the exec.) us through some big changes ahead as we drag ourselves more firmly into the 21st century. The connections aren’t just about being on planning committees and steering a council, instead they are about sharing. I share widely within my association. I post links, ideas, comments and concerns using social media, I have put some of my teaching units on google drive (a work in progress) and openly share those with another who wants them, I use my blog as an ongoing place to share my thoughts on teaching classical studies and any resources that may be useful. Also, I try to help people. I know that I am not always so fast to respond to emails. But some of this is through helping others to network, to make connections. Sometimes, this is through providing resources or finding a means to an end. And sometimes, it is just about being someone to bounce ideas off. I don’t think that I have all of the answers, I never could profess to such a lofty ambition, but to connect deeply to the pedagogy of classics teaching is massive for me.

Another connection that is invaluable to me is in national assessment through working for NZQA as a contractor. Not only am I connected to other professionals but I am up-to-date with changes and developments in pedagogy and practices of assessment. A part of my contract work that I really love is leading Best Practice Workshops for Classical Studies teachers around the country. The workshops provide the opportunities to facilitate conversations, to challenge teachers’ assumptions about what NCEA does and does not allow them to do, to support others to make professional connections and to share in a love of our subject.

Connections and networks are key and social media provides more and more support around those. I have been using Twitter for just over a year now and I love to interact with various people in various networks. Some of these connections are education based. I follow and interact with New Zealand and international educators. Because I am passionate about classical studies, drama and social science as learning areas and subjects, I love that social media allows me to interact with people involved in a range of areas. From tweeting with internationally renown classicist Mary Beard, to keeping abreast of the educational shifts in The Arts in the uncertain educational setting in the United Kingdom at the moment and how this is affecting drama teaching, to reading blogs by leading educationalists such as Grant Wiggins and Dylan Wiliam, to sharing my own resources, thoughts and ideas through international networks using various hashtags (#soloTaxonomy, #Aug2K and #edchatnz are some of my faves at the moment) means that I have up-to-date and relevant PD coming to me via my phone, iPad or computer all the time.

Facebook, Pinterest and blogs provide other ways to connect to ideas. Not only do I use these sites for my personal life but I have also use them to connect with others using Facebook groups or collaborative Pinterest boards, to follow interesting and engaging people (I use my Pinterest to organise links and ideas – education and non-education alike – and have just started reblogging as well). I attended by first google hangout about using badges in google (I may be a slow starter on the opportunities google presents) and was so impressed by the experience that I am going to host my first hangout in the next two weeks. I have been working my way through the courses that google offers for teachers to up skill as well. I am connecting with ideas, technologies and pedagogy to improve my practice. I love being involved and learning and the ease with which the internet allows for this means that there is no excuse to not be in the know.

This month looks like it is going to be connections month! I kicked things off yesterday with the annual meeting of the NZACT exec. Next weekend is the inaugural #edchatNZ conference held at Hobsonville Point Secondary School where I am presenting some thinking that I have been doing based around making NCEA more manageable. My little contribution is a drop in the bucket compared to what is on offer but I am super keen to learn from others there on a variety of things. The following weekend, I am fortunate enough to be flying out to the United Kingdom to attend the Commemorating Augustus conference held at the University of Leeds to enhance my own professional expertise and learning. Then, in the following weekend, I am off to Christchurch to run the last Classical Studies Best Practice Workshop for the year. Phewww! What a month. There is another conference I would love to attend in early September but a month of jetting around will have taken its toll on me by then.

For me, connections are not just about the things we attend and the things we do. It is the events we give time to and the thinking that we do. For me, this is about attending the theatre, movies and reading widely. As a drama teacher I see this as a massive part of my professional learning. I am off to a play on Tuesday night and then, hopefully, several when I am away in the UK. As a teacher, I cannot count the number of times I have left a play or film and turned to my husband and said “I am going to teach that/ use part of that for teaching” because I can’t turn my teaching brain off. I am going to watch Hercules at the movies. Not because I think it will be any good, but because Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was so passionate about bringing the story of the Greek hero to the big screen that it became a 10 year passion project for him. There is a classics connection in this but also as a Learning Team Leader at HPSS, one of the jobs my team has is leading in ways to explore passion based learning in secondary schools. What an exemplar to use!

I read. Voraciously. I have a personal reading challenge for the year (Whitcoulls Top 100 as well as at least 52 books) I read books on education, leadership, teaching content and novels for enjoyment. I do try to read “what the kids are reading” so this year I have also read “Divergent” and The Fault of Our Stars”. I read articles and blogs – my focus at the moment is on exploring SOLO taxonomy and assessment in greater depth to think more critically about how it can be used in different and more innovative ways.

A criticism that I often get is that I work too hard. To be honest, sometimes I do and like everyone else, I get run down, despondent and (in a recent development) a little teary. However, the reality of being a “confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learner” is that a lot of the connections am involved in I don’t see as part of my “work”. It is hard to try to live up to the aspiration of the NZC without it eating into the time away from the school building. A balance for me is always travel and holidays. Yet even then, I feel that I am still “connected” to the world around me.

Building a learning community – my experiences at Hobsonville Point Secondary (so far)

I’m working really hard to build an awesome sense of community in Taheretikitiki. As a Learning Team Leader I see this as an integral part of my job. I am thrilled with how this is going. The learning coaches have an awesome bond, we work hard, support each other and cover each other as needed. Term 2 saw us support each other through overseas conference, illnesses, birth of a baby, various contractual obligations, minor meltdowns and everything in between. Our students are used to us popping in and out of each other’s hubs.

I really like the informality in our community. We meet out in the open, and always have, and laugh, cry, reflect, plan, and get off task within earshot of our students. We (hardly ever) complain and we love to try innovative ideas. The hub workload seems manageable and I am confident in each coaches ability to do the job. Not everyone does things in the same way but we share best practice and work smarter, not harder.

With our students, we have had a mix of hub and community events. The hub is the nucleus and the community surrounds it. In term one, we started with building great community spirit during when participating (and winning) in inaugural HPSS athletics day. We also had a celebration of world book day as a community where each member, including coaches, shared their favourite books and had to write post-it reviews as to why the books were worth reading.



Term 2 saw us move to more community based events. We had the inaugural Taheretikitiki student led Unconference – see the action on http://taheretikitiki.blogspot.co.nz – and we mixed our hubs up to plan for their learning across the community. Danielle led more than one hub through exploring Caine’s arcade and focusing on some deep learning there. Bryce was instrumental in organising the inter community sports challenges with Josh, our sports rep. Our three student reps on the student council led the community through various things, including the consultation for the council about the local area (led by Bill, a student in my hub). Steve led several hubs, including mine, through deconstructing the New Zealand Curriculum so that they could track their own learning. I’m sure that Lea and I did things too…

So where to next? We are going to keep working on our community blog. We feel that this is an important way to get our kids voices out there and connect with our parent community. At this stage, the blog posts have been written by me, which is a start but not good enough. We’ve developed a roster to have each hub updating it once a week. Watch this space! We are also about to embark on a community challenge around our Hobsonville habits for the term. I have had this idea stewing since term one and I hope that it flies.