Friday, 16 October 2015

#ELS15 - Core Emerging Leaders' Summit

Now this was good professional learning. Having your head in the books and churning out essays and assignments is one thing, but nothing beats getting together with colleagues (in this case fellow middle leaders from across the South Island and across all sectors of education) having conversations and getting your head around some of the latest, most exciting and most innovative trends in leadership.

The Emerging Leaders Summit is an annual event run by Core Education, that I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to attend in 2015 (thanks Burnside High School for investing in me, and two fellow Burnside middle leader warriors - Dunc and Higgy - to attend). This year the summit was held at the newly opened St Margaret's Middle School building, another fabulous MLE that has risen out of earthquake rubble, showcasing the amazing things that can be done with built environments to support great learning. Core's senior advisor in future-focused education, Mark Osborne, was the facilitator and he did a fantastic job - striking a nice balance between thick and fast presentation of thought-provoking material from a range of edu-brains, and allowing time and space for laid-back discussion to flow between colleagues (why can't in-school PLD be more like this?).
There is loads I could blog about from #ELS15, but I think I will focus on the two aspects that, two months down the track, I keep thinking back to the most...

Change Leadership - Mark Osborne

In this session, Mark reminded us why change is hard, and by extension, why leading in an environment of change is hard too. Understanding how to soften the blow of change has a lot to do with exploring the emotional side of the change process, which is quite tangible to me given my experiences over the years leading in a post-earthquake environment, but also now that I am working in an organisation that has had years of success working in 'traditional' ways, and therefore has personnel that are emotionally attached to 'traditional' ways of doing things. Mark reminded us, via a Heifetz quote that "what people resist is not change per se, but loss", therefore that 'brick wall' feeling that leaders sometimes encounter when exploring new approaches is born out of emotion, not necessarily bloody-mindedness.

At the core of successful change leadership is building a collective vision - vision that is arrived at via thorough exploration of the team members' values and beliefs...a process called 'storytelling'. Visioning and storytelling increase change readiness because it fosters ownership of the change process by all. Decisions that that flow on from the visioning process are easier to arrive at, because you can use your collective values and beliefs as the reference point...

"It's not hard to make decisions...once you know what your values are"
- Ron Disney
2. Leading with Design Thinking - Steve Mouldy

Steve has got an incredibly interesting and pragmatic views on 'modern learning', given that he lives and breathes it in his teaching role at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, one of New Zealand's newest schools and a school that has embraced 'new' (whatever that means) ways of doing things with gusto. I appreciate his perspective as a secondary teacher because there just are not that many experienced modern learning/flexible learning voices coming out of the high schools - it has naturally been the domain of primary and middle schooling to this point. Steve has also got a dry, sardonic wit and is not afraid to spit out buzzwords, acronyms and fashionable ideas with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Steve was presenting his thoughts on Design Thinking, a problem-solving approach that has been adopted at HPSS in both a leadership/structural and a pedagogical sense. He walked us through the DT process (immersion, synthesis, ideation, prototyping and sharing), using the 'problem' of staff meetings as an illustrative example. I particularly enjoyed the 'ideation' part of the process (100 ideas in 10 minutes), which my group conducted on one of St Mag's snazzy whiteboard tables. 
What is Design Thinking about?
Ideation: solving the problems of the world (and staff meetings) on a whiteboard table.  

Steve left us with a take-away challenge is grounded in the human centered nature of the DT process. He challenged us to go back to our school and "observe, question and empathise" to see learning through our student's eyes and capture what they experience. After all, schools are for them more than us. 

There was so much more to take away from #ELS15, and perhaps they will be the subject of future blog posts, but I will have to sign off this post with just a snapshot of the other content we were presented with and some questions we were invited to discuss..
  • Learner Agency (Andrew Cowie)....what are the features of learner agency? how do we promote genuine student involvement in the learning process and decisions about learning?
  • Why Become a Leader?(Neill O'Rielly) what is the role of a teacher? (to cause learning to occur)...Okay...what is the role of a leader? 
  • Mahia te mahi: Maori Leadership Models (Tahu Paki) how do we ensure our leadership practices are culturally responsive? 

Jack Goodfellow - Assistant Head of Physical Education at Burnside High School 


  1. Thanks for sharing Jack - this PD sounds fantastic. Love the Heifetz quote "what people resist is not change per se, but loss"! An important reminder.

  2. Hi Jack - enjoyed reading your views. Sometimes we need to have some time to process and assimilate new learning. And work out how it fits into our own context - both personal and at school. All the best as you take your new learning forward.