The problem with the single story!

During 2011 and 2012 I studied for my Masters of School Leadership and focused my work on creating a new story for my previous school and dislodging deficit perceptions.  The work was all encompassing and tireless but achieved good results and increased interest in the school.  More information can be found on the website, The Power of Story, that I created as part of the course

The work was powerful and continues to resonate with me, not only in my professional life but also in my personal life.  Stories build pictures, create a sense of meaning, clarify and explain more difficult concepts, and help to teach about ideas that are complex.  However, when ideas, concepts and understandings are based on a single story, then what results can be problematic.

The problem of the single story is explained well by Chimamanda Adichie, a novelist, in her Ted Talk.

Whilst Adichie may talk about stereotyping in her talk I think that single stories can be found throughout our daily lives in a number of ways.  Take for example how we communicate with people and share information online.  Do we tell the whole story or just the bits we want to share whether it be positive or negative?  Whilst they may all be true, do we pick and choose which parts fit best with the audience at the time?  When asked about an issue, or even just a pleasantry, do we always give an edited answer or all the answer?  Or do we respond the way that is seen to be appropriate and provide the information deemed so.

I’ve been thinking about this as I read my novel, Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, particular the chapter on Freud, where Alberto is talking to Sophie about rationalizing a response or explanation for an action or thought.  “Another thing we can do is rationalize. That means that we do not give the real reason for what we are doing either to ourselves or to other people because the real reason is unacceptable,” (Gaarder, p 335). So then how does this impact on how we are perceived if we only give the safe or acceptable response?

As an educator and a leader, I am always checking in with what I say and how I say it.  I am reflective but also aware of my impact on others.  Out of work and during my personal life, am I also keeping a check on what I say and share?  Do I create a picture of myself in a way that is acceptable to others?  And does this then create a single story that disregards the many other facets that make me who I am?  We all have our ups and downs and through social media, online and face to face communication we choose what we share, with whom and when.  We create the story or the public profile.  We create the single story.

So is there a danger in the single story?

Leadership styles and teamwork

Yesterday at the Leading Successful School Conference, we ended the day reflecting on our leadership preferences.  Whilst I had trouble seeing the presentation from the position I was seated in the room, I could vaguely make out a four compass point diagram. Each of the directions, North, South, East and West referred to a different leadership tendency.

compass

NORTH – Let’s do it!  Likes to act, try things, plunge in.

EAST - Speculating – likes to look at the big picture and the possibilities before acting.

SOUTH – Caring – likes to know that everyone’s feelings have been taken into consideration and that their voices have been heard before acting.

WEST – Paying attention to detail – likes to know the who, what when, where and why before acting.

Speaking with a colleague of mine, I asked her which she thought I was (as I couldn’t read the screen).  She thought I was inclined to point SOUTH.  Upon reflection I can understand her choice for me, as I believe I am in the early stages of building teamwork and collaboration in my school.  Working together, listening to each other, supporting collaboration and decision making is key to the work I am doing in my school at the moment. With this, trust can evolve and strengthen, and ultimately a collective vision for the future can start to unfold.

In 2011 I also posted Different Compass Point – Same Ultimate Direction which has the protocol as a download to use with your teams.

Code Club at SAHPS

Last week I received a phone call from Bill Shorten’s office. Unfortunately I was not able to take the call straight away and was interested to find out that it was about our Code Club, which we run after school with our 3/4 students.  Last night I heard a snippet of Bill Shorten’s reply to the national budget, which identified “coding as the literacy of the 21st Century”.

In recent years there has been heightened interest in coding in schools.  Whilst I have always been of the belief that ICT needs to be integrated, embedded and integral to learning and teaching, the need to teach coding is important for our students to continue to be producers of new knowledge, information and products, not just consumers.

I am excited to see where our after-school coding program takes us and how this skill and knowledge will evolve in our school and all other primary schools.

You can contact my school for further information and to talk to our great teachers who work with our students to build digital literacy.

Working together is success

Over the last year I have been quiet on the blogging front.  Whilst I have lots to share and lots to learn, I have been concentrating on my new school and my role in developing a collaborative and effective learning culture.

Teamwork is key to the work we are doing currently in my school.  We are using the fundamental qualities of teams to help us develop trust, collaboration, expertise and of course, improved student learning and wellbeing.

Today and yesterday I attended the Leading Successful Schools conference as part of South Western Victorian Region professional learning for principal class officers.  Much of the learning was around collaboration, teamwork and leadership to achieve success. This video was shown in one of the sessions I attended.  One quote that stood out was:

Coming together is a beginning;

keeping together is progress;

working together is success.

It is encouraging to see a number of teams across my school working together for the success of the kids!

My new blog

I have begun a new blog for my new school St Albans Heights Primary School.  It sits alongside the website and builds upon the weekly news and events of the school.  The audience is the school community and any other visitors.  Please take a look and share a comment or two.

http://principalhelen.edublogs.org 

 

A new chapter…

MP900398819My latest chapter in my career takes me to a school in the western suburbs of Victoria.  It’s a wonderful school that has a lot to offer the community and plenty of character.  It’s been described as a hidden gem by some of my colleagues.  And I have to agree.

My staff are all incredibly dedicated and work to create an excellent learning environment and program for the children.  The students are keen to learn and are from diverse backgrounds.

Learning is important to me, not just for my students but for me as well.  Taking the next step and building upon my knowledge and skills is high on my agenda.  I like to think that I am improving and bettering myself as a leader with each new step.

Listening to others and experiencing different environments is key to developing wisdom in the job.  Seeking deeper understanding of people and peoples creates a more thoughtful approach to developing a learning community.  I have been privileged to have worked in a number of unique and different school environments and with various communities.

I have begun a new principal blog for my new school, St Albans Heights PS called SAHPS Principal Blog.

Saying goodbye to DMPS

 

goodbyeAfter 2 years and 10 months it was time to say goodbye to my first school as a principal.  Whilst I was excited to have been appointed the new principal of St Albans Heights Primary School, it was incredibly sad to leave Debney Meadows Primary School.

Over my career I have had a few moves and promotions.  With each   move it has been a mixture of excitement, nervousness and sadness.  And this move was no different…but it was my first school as a principal and that made it special.

cardWhilst I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye before I left, I was able to return for the school assembly in the first week of term 2.  It was great to see the kids, families and staff again and to give my heartfelt thanks and goodbyes.  I was spoilt with lovely cards, flowers and gifts, which I was able to take with me to my new school.  And all the while I managed to hold back my tears.

A wonderful chapter has closed for me but I know DMPS will still be a big part of my professional journey and the making of me as a principal.

Saying goodbye…soon!

1:00pm on Thursday 20th March I receive a phone call.  In fact I have already missed a few calls from this number on my mobile.  I have been participating in a course at Bastow with two of my teachers so I have not been able to take the call earlier.  When I do get a moment at lunchtime, I find out I have been offered a principal position at St Albans Heights Primary School.  At the same time the excitement builds so does the realization that this means I say goodbye to the Debney Meadows Primary School community.

I wander back to my two colleagues and break the news!  Lunch is just about over so we head back upstairs to resume our course; Leading Assessment for Teaching.  We are all a bit distracted at this stage and we decide I should go back to school to break the news to the rest of the staff.  The next day I am booked in for a Septoplasty to help me breathe better so this is my last afternoon in the school before the end of term.

office 1

Saying goodbye has been hard, but also tricky as I have not been able to see everyone whilst on leave.  I have written a letter for the newsletter and an email for my staff who were not there on my last day.  So this week I will visit my ‘old’ school and say goodbye in person at assembly.

I better take tissues with me!

Learning with iPads at DMPS

When the dream becomes the reality…

It was back in July 2011 when I first started at Debney Meadows as the new principal with the dream to enable our students and enhance their opportunities to learn within a local and global context.  My dream was to provide technology for each of the preps and to help them develop 21st Century skills to elevate their full potential as learners.

HelenOtway PRIM PRIN 004[1]

Our students are inherently curious.  They bring with them a sense of wonder and awe.  By providing our students access to mobile technologies we can help them achieve some of their dreams. The iPads are not just a gimmick or used to replace traditional learning, but rather a window to a larger world of knowing, doing and being.  They help them learn new concepts, consolidate understandings, and make connections with prior knowledge.  They are not just mere consumers but in fact, producers of knowledge and content.  They read, write and create records of their learning progress and use these to reflect and build upon their achievement.

Who is part of the program?
2011 – Year Preps
2012 – Year Prep to Year 1
2013 – Year Prep to Year 2
2014 – Year Prep to Year 3
2015 – Year Prep to Year 4

We decided to capture our first steps with the help of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) and created a video that followed our journey from our Prep transition program in 2011 to mid year 2012.

We have grown considerably since then, and we are currently in our fourth cohort of preps with their new teacher, Felicity Purcell.

How to find out more…
You can contact the school to find out more information.  If you are a teacher or a parent we invite you to come and have a look at what we do in the school.  Our students and teachers would be very happy to spend some time with you.

Debney Meadows PS website

DEECD iPads for Learning Showcase

Intercultural Understanding

Our school is wonderfully diverse and rich with backgrounds and experiences.  We can learn a lot from others and understand our own cultural identity and perspectives as a result. We have 13 different languages spoken in the school by our families:

English, Spanish, Bosnian, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Hakka, Oromo, Somali, Amharic, Tigrinya, and other non-defined African languages. (from CASES21 data).

In 2013 my school, Debney Meadows PS, joined a pilot project to explore Intercultural Understanding in our schools a little better, what facilitates it and what impedes it for our students and school community, and what we can do to make a difference.

We are working with a host of wonderful experts and researchers, including Prof Christine Halse (DU), Prof. Fethi Mansouri (DU), A/Prof. Colin Arrowsmith (RMIT), A/Prof. Julianne Moss (DU), A/Prof. Yin Paradies (DU), Dr. Ruth Arber (DU), Dr. Claire Charles (DU), Dr. Anne Cloonan (DU), Dr. Nida Denson (UWS), Dr. Sarah Ohi, Dr. Jo O’Mara (DU), Dr. Naomi Priest (Melbourne). Our school is working closely with Gary Shaw from DEECD and Brandi Fox, our research partner.

ACARA describe the importance of Intercultural Understanding in the new Australian Curriculum by saying:

In the Australian Curriculum, students develop intercultural understanding as they learn to value their own cultures, languages and beliefs, and those of others. They come to understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture. The capability involves students in learning about and engaging with diverse cultures in ways that recognise commonalities and differences, create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect.

Our school was asked to share what we have been doing as a result of the work to date.  We presented our summary to the other seven schools in the project late November 2013 at DEECD.  I took with me two of my teachers, Felicity (Yr4) and Lucas (Yr5/6) and a parent, Halima.  Together we shared our story from multiple viewpoints.

Here it is here:

In 2014 we will continue to share our findings and ongoing questions.