Over the past 18 months, another staff member and I were privileged to attend the Aoraki Emerging Leaders program run by Interlead as part of our PD as middle leaders. This saw us not only engaging in a change project within our school but also traveling up to Timaru at least once a term to discuss pedagogy surrounding change and leadership along with learning from other middle leaders in the secondary schools from this area.
This course has now wound up, and our inquiry and project have run its course our next steps will be to ensure that the change we created with all our senior teachers is sustainable as we head into 2018. So, below is a very short summary of the project and some of the things we discovered in our journey.
Title of the Project
Prepared to Lean Level 1-3
A rationale, the ‘why’ behind this change
We wished to be able to equip the students with a wider skill set, both academic and personal, in order for them to be able to work towards the senior school goal of achieving more merit and excellence grades.
The process taken.
We discussed together ideas that we had between the two of us before then narrowing down to an idea would work in well with the wider school goals along with sharing our ideas with the principal. Key to this was the meeting where John from Interlead came down to the school and discussed our ideas with us and principal. We enlisted agreement and sponsorship from our principal before discussing with all NCEA staff two terms prior to project start. We introduced the ideas at staff meetings over the last two terms of 2016. This allowed time to introduce the idea to staff and revisit it a couple of times before introducing our finalized idea . We gained support by pulling staff in rather than pushing the ideas. We were aware that we should dream big and go for a larger amount of time (aiming for five days off-timetable) and then ‘settle’ for a smaller amount if needed (three days). We shared our ideas with staff, they contributed their own and we refined our project as time went by in negotiation with staff. Staff opted in to areas they felt they could contribute to, some ran parts of the programme, others assisted, but all were involved. In terms of gaining student's voice; we completed a survey of all Y10 students before entering Y11 to gain a more specific and wider perspective of how they felt. This enabled us again, to enlist agreement and support from students regarding the project as they could see how their needs were being met by staff.
The outcome achieved
The outcome achieved was an 100% agreement from NCEA staff to go ‘off-timetable’ for the first three days of term in 2017. The first day and a half were to be taken in seminar sessions by a variety of staff on the school premises and the continued day and a half taken off site at the school lodge beside Lake Ohau. This enabled staff to contribute as and where they were most confident. Staff who were not leading seminars acted as support crew for those who were, covering the ‘brain breaks’ outside or moving between groups. This also allowed staff to get to know new students to the school and Y11 students to become more confident and familiar with NCEA staff. Seminars covered topics such as NCEA subjects choices, reflections/advice from Y12/13 students about NCEA, resilience, growth mindset organisation, making connections between each other, stress ( good and bad) and NCEA Literacy. STudents also developed a literal take-away binder which then and their mentors could refer to closely throughout the coming year.
In terms of the outcomes received the verbal discussions with students have been only positive. Students have referred to the binders mostly in discussion with their mentor teachers They have been able to use them to keep a record of their subjects and credits gained.
In terms of continued staff buy-in we have already had staff approach us with ideas for speakers and topics for the 2018 school year. We feel this reflects the amount of buy-in that our staff have felt towards the wider goal.
What you have learned as a leader of change
Sponsorship in terms of time is one of the largest gifts that SMT/SLT can give any person who wishes to be a leader of change. Time is highly valued at a secondary level, and to ask teachers to give up classroom ‘time’ to support a project is huge. The fact we had 100% acceptance of the off timetable idea showed us that our staff really support the values and knowledge we were wanting to build in our students.
We have learnt that framing and promoting a change project involves:- adequate lead in time , obvious benefits to all involved and a clear shared vision. If change can be linked to wider school goals this also enables a better acceptance and sponsorship of goals. The continued success of a change project involves keeping it visible on the table and not cluttering it with other business.
Working as a team meant already a TEAM of two - we were able to build on each others strengths and weaknesses.
Other notes on the course
I could not underestimate the value of the readings and collaborative PD that John from Interlead supported us through. This provided a stronger basis and understanding of the change and how it may impact us personally/professionally. The plethora of readings also supported us gaining a wider understanding of the pedagogy surrounding leadership and change within an educational context.