The Kind of Leader You Want to Be

I’ve been a leader in schools, in one capacity or another, for 13 years. I’ve seen both poor and excellent leaders in that time. 

It’s often said that a great leader must have a balance of professional competence and sound character, with some arguing that character is of more importance than technical aptitude. For example, would you prefer your GP to be a brilliant professional with great medical knowledge, but who prescribes you drugs you don’t need in order to profit themselves? Clearly, character is important. Things like integrity, honesty and diligence matter a lot. But what does one do when there’s an absence of these? How do you move from being the kind of person who couldn’t care less about others to someone more empathic and caring? What of you are the leadership problem? 

Every leader must routinely take time to examine themselves. Conduct something of a self-audit of your own character. This self-Socratic process could follow something like this:

  1. What do I currently stand for?
  2. What do I want to stand for?
  3. What does someone who stands for the character traits I want to possess do?

The final, and perhaps hardest step is to take action by changing your behaviours so you are no longer the leadership problem but the solution. God knows- our world needs far better leaders now.

Parents as Educators

Schooling at home

With The COVID-19 pandemic forcing us to shut down almost every entity, and then shut ourselves in, it’s reiterated the importance of family.

Overnight, the family became the thing of central importance. The jewel in the crown. It was always supposed to be, but I think many of us forgot that along the way. They say youth is wasted on the young. I say family is wasted on parents!

Schools closed their doors and every home became a school. Consequently, parents the world over tried/are trying to maintain some semblance of progress and learning for their children. This has been no easy task.

Well done and keep going!

The big questions are:

  1. How can we maintain an active role in the education of our children amidst the busy pace of life, outside of the context of a pandemic?
  2. What changes do we need to make in our lives to better be involved in our kids’ schooling?

The family should continue to take stage and center in our lives and communities.

Motivation During eLearning

Keeping students motivated

When delivering eLearning, I always start each lesson with a Daily Dose of Motivation statement. This is my way of stoking the fire in my students’ bellies and giving them something both inspiring and encouraging to think about.

One example of my Daily Dose of Motivation was the theme, ‘Staying Connected’. With all of us having to practise social distancing, I felt it significant to remind my students of the need to maintain relationships: checking in with family, friends and neighbours (safely).

For many young people, I knew this could be a time of loneliness and isolation, as they adapt to life devoid of the buzz and community of school, hence the reason for sharing a few tips on keeping connected to those they care about.

Social distancing need not mean loneliness.

How are you staying connected at this time?

Structuring Online Lessons

Playing the synonyms game with students.

If your school has moved to remote education and requesting for you to deliver online lessons, this is worth a read. There are some basic things you can do to set up your lesson for effective delivery. After all, even in emergency circumstances, we should remain committed to quality. The ideas in this article are not exhaustive, but provide a few common sense approaches to structuring lessons online. I’ve split the lesson structure up into three parts (not to resuscitate the dreaded three part lesson plan that was rammed down our throats) but to give those who are new to this some structure, at least

Phase 1: the check-in

This can be the trickiest part of any lesson let alone online. What do I say? How do I greet them? Be relaxed, stay calm and natural. I have a three step routine which follows something like this:

  1. Greet students with lots of warmth and good vibrations. A little humour always helps, but be you!
  2. Equipment check slide. I then give pupils a few seconds to grab paper and pens. I chuckle to myself when I hear the frantic rustling of students reaching for notepads.
  3. Kick off my first activity. The online space inevitably lacks the same energy and intimacy of the classroom. For safeguarding purposes, it’s unlikely that you’ll be seeing their faces and you might not be comfortable showing yours. This can create a cold, detached ambience.  As a result, your first activity is crucial in building energy and engagement. I have often started with a short game such as a 30 seconds competition to generate the most synonyms from a given word. I then make an effort to give shout outs to students who share their ideas in the chat feature. This is swiftly followed by sharing success criteria for the lesson

Phase 2: the middle

When thinking about how I’m going to explain ideas in an online lesson, I think carefully about what analogies and imagery I’ll use to communicate. Much of our explanation prowess comes from our body language so you have to think carefully about compensating in the absence of this. I do a sort of self-interrogation: would a graphic organiser be best for explaining the process of critical thinking? What image would best represent the idea of using evidence to support each argument in a discursive essay? All of my explanations and models eventually lead to some kind of deliberate practice for students, whether during the live lesson or for homework.

Phase 3: checking out

Like delivering any good lesson, as the teacher you want to know what ALL students were thinking about. You want to plug knowledge gaps and make sure students are successful. Questions such as: what stuck with them? which things did they find tricky? who really hasn’t got this? will need to be answered. These questions will help you to plan the next lesson’s content or set appropriate homework. I’ve found Google Exit Tickets to be useful in creating post online lesson assessment tools. If using a platform like Zoom,you might wish to save the meeting chat and trawl through at the end to spot misconceptions or errors.

With all that said, the best way to learn is to go into your online lessons with a reflexive attitude by thinking about what you can learn from the experience. Like doing most new things, you’ll get better over time.