Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Effective Teams Transforming Schools

It is true to say that when an individual feels they belong and their contributions are valued, they develop a loyalty toward their team, organisation or even school.
Loyalty stems from the connectedness of staff, the support provided between colleagues and the value colleagues feel in being a member of an effective, proactive team.  The feelings of appreciation and value motivate individuals to persist, persevere and unite to achieve common goals and to work through challenging circumstances.

Elena Aguilar (n.d), on the Edutopia Blog, writes that strong teams are essential within a school.  They  are essential to retaining and sustaining teachers and further strengthening the relationships colleagues form between one another.  Familiarity with teaching styles, ideas and work ethics is a firm foundation upon which to build.

She also includes 5 elements of "What Makes A Good Team".

  1. A good team knows why it exists.  The team members are all there for the same reason.  They are united by a common goal.
  2. A good team creates a space for learning.  The team provides its members with opportunities to learn from each other, to take risks in a supportive environment and to ask as many questions as possible.
  3. A good team creates healthy conflict.  Everybody is different and entitled to their own opinion and if this opinion creates constructive dialogue, the thinking of team members is pushed.
  4. Members of a good team trust each other.  There is equitable participation among members and shared decision making, conflicts are managed, people listen, a team member becomes a facilitator within the group and monitors disagreements and ensures the the team doesn't deteriorate.
  5. A good team has a facilitator, leader or shared leaders.   A facilitator ensures the kind of intentionality, planning and facilitation in the moment that's essential for a team to be high functioning.
I was searching for an inspirational anecdote about a school in a low socio-economic area that managed low levels of literacy, low-level English speakers, students from non-English speaking backgrounds, behaviour challenges and a community of parents who felt disconnected.  I didn't need the Internet because 20km down the road, this school exists.....or I should say, existed.
I had the privilege of working there as a literacy support teacher.  The staff at this school had united, faced the challenges that students brought to the school community and worked together to provide not only effective learning experiences, but quality learning experiences that engendered confidence, pride, appreciation and success.  I should also mention that if you hadn't worked there for at least 10 years, you were 'new'!
The school Principal lead the team with a set of living and learning standards that she encouraged the students and parents to strive towards.  Every staff member felt valued and appreciated. Every staff member was open to the learning experiences of each day.  The feelings of pride, confidence and success spread beyond the staffroom and into the playground.  It wasn't always plain sailing.  the transformation over a period of years has been remarkable and a testimony to persistence, perseverance and unity toward a common goal.

Aguilar, E. (n.d.). Effective Teams: The Key to Transforming Schools? | Edutopia. K-12 Education & Learning Innovations with Proven Strategies that Work | Edutopia. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Principles of an Open World

Don Tapscott’s principles of an open world include collaboration, transparency, sharing and empowerment.  They are all relevant to current learning trends and relevant to the position of the teacher librarian within a school. 

For the teacher librarian, collaboration means opening up planning times, planning ideas and inviting the classroom teachers to avail themselves the skills a teacher-librarian has to complement and enhance students’ learning experiences.  Collaboration is inviting teachers and students to buckle up and jump aboard the information super highway via stories and imagery from books old and new, to up-to-date facts, figures and information over through our historical past and out through PowerPoint, publisher and presentation.

Through effective collaboration, will come transparency.

Transparency for the teacher librarian means effective communication, the development of trusting work relationships and the assurance of high quality learning experiences in the library.  Between the TL and classroom teachers, all aspects of planning need to be open, communicated and relevant to collaborative planning.  Between the TL and leaders of the school, transparency includes resources, budgets, timetables and planning schedules.  Transparency will also provide the TL’s with an opportunity to demonstrate, share and further develop his or her own skills, interest and talents as a teacher-librarian.

Through transparency will come the opportunity, and the need, for sharing to achieve the common goals of the classroom teacher, TL and students, and fulfill the visions of the schools learning curriculum.  Sharing for the TL means that the library will be a more physical presence in the school’s learning curriculum, not just a place to borrow books.

Collaboration, transparency and sharing will empower staff and students by giving them access to the TL as a resource and will empower the TL as a leader in their field.

A classroom teacher – teacher librarian relationship can be likened to the “murmuration of starlings” that Don Tapscott spoke about in that within the collaborative relationship there is not an individual leader as the interests of each individual are the same as the collective.  The relationship should bear the characteristics of collaboration, openness, transparency, sharing, therefore empowering the group to succeed.  Tapscott rhetorically asks whether a collective intelligence can be created.  I believe that successful collaboration between classroom teachers and the TL would produce a degree of collective intelligence through working together.

View Don Tapscott at

Tapscott, Don. (2012) Four Principles of an Open World.  TED Global.  Edinburgh, Scotland. Retrieved 18 March, 2013.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Some Thoughts on Leadership

The art of leadership is always evolving, open to change and reliant on flexibility.
A good leader can communicate effectively, delegate wisely and facilitate the achievement of common goals.  A good leader empowers people to be the best version of them, both professionally and personally, and encourages people to take risks, be confident in their work and their decision-making, and back themselves 100%. 

Leadership requires action.

Marzano, Waters and McNulty (2005) introduced me to a variety of leadership theories that I had seen in action, but perhaps was unable to name.  As a relief teacher, I have seen a variety of leadership styles in action and have seen some of the ways the TL can utilize their leadership skills to encourage and empower staff and students and positively influence the wider school community. 

The leadership of a school is a complex role, not necessarily adhering to one specific leadership theory, but moving fluidly between theories to achieve leadership goals.  Some Principals are agents for change and the Transformational Leadership style produces results beyond expectations with workers being encouraged, empowered and valued within the organization.

Some Principals are situational leaders where their leadership is dependent on the capabilities and willingness of staff.  In this climate of leadership, the Principal moves through delegating, telling, participating and selling styles of leadership.  This could sound more like a “putting out spot fires” leadership style although for some is effective. (Marzano, 2005)

Marzano, Waters and McNulty (2005) include Instructional Leadership as being the most popular leadership style for many educational leaders.  The roles of an Instructional Leader include resource provider, instructional resource, communicator, and visible presence.  The role of the school principal in this style of leadership is,
·      To ensure the school is well resourced through effective budgeting and resource purchasing,
·      To be actively involved in the planning and programming of activities at school, be involved in professional development opportunities,
·      To clearly communicate the goals and visions of the school to faculty and staff, and
·      To be a visible presence within the school and be easily available to faculty, staff and students when required.

This list is not definitive, but certainly an achievable set of roles and responsibilities that would ensure high levels of success. 

As with many things, leadership styles are open to a certain degree of interpretation, dependent on personal choices, interests and values. 
While I am not in a leadership position, but now a keen observer of leadership styles, there is a lot to be said for patience, persistence and common sense


  •  Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on   leadership. In  School leadership that works: from research to results (pp. 13-27). Alexandria, Virginia, United States: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Retrieved 20 March, 2013.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

A New Year

A new year, a new semester, two new subjects and lots of new information......
I am looking forward to learning more and aim to get into the blogging a little big more....
Roll on 2013, give me all you've got......I'm ready!!