Monday, 17 August 2015

Have you heard about the word?

One thing I have learnt as an educator, is that educators love buzzwords like agency, ubiquity, inclusive, thinking tools, innovative learning, elearning, open plan, self directed learners, inquiry based learning, 21st century learners, MLE’s, digital technology, collaborative teaching, the list could go on and on.  

But which one of these words has had the most impact on teaching and learning, or is having the the biggest impact on what you do at your school and in your class in terms of strategic planning or even the day to day practice of your classroom delivery?

Don’t get me wrong, the words that I have mentioned and of course the hundreds of other buzzwords that I haven’t are important (some more than others), and some of these words have shaped and influenced me as a leader and as a classroom teacher.  But for me, there is a much more influential word.  In fact it sits above all of these words and should actually be used when looking at anything that influences change, curriculum delivery, strategic decisions, long term planning and the day to day running of your classroom.

The word is ‘WHY’ (and no it’s not bird, I do like Peter Griffin, but he has little impact on my teaching and learning philosophies!).

The Power of Why!

The word ‘why’ has been part of my vocabulary since I was a toddler, but its true potential has really only been brought to my attention and used effectively in my profession over the past 2 years.

I was listening to a presentation about strategic planning  in developing an effective ICT plan and it was stressed about the importance to answer ‘why’ before you get to the ‘what’ or the ‘how’.  
A few months later I found myself talking to a Principal about collaborative teaching and MLE’s, and he stressed the importance of going back to ‘why’.
When planning our new learning space at the beginning of our team teacher journey, we used ‘why’ during all of the design process.

Then we began the the process of planning our moderate redevelopment of our school (Rebuild) and guess what, all ideas, concepts and discussions around what we wanted learning to look like, came back to ‘why’.

But wait there's more,  there is even a Ted Talk about ‘why’.

This 3 letter word definitely punches well above its weight. So why is it so important and influential?

As leaders, an important part of our job is leading change and also to ensure that the school vision is the driving force of the actions we take and the decisions we make.

Leading change can be difficult, but I have found that by answering ‘why’ first, it gives a clear message to all stakeholders, of where we are going and why we are doing it.  ‘Why’ is now second nature to me in all that I do professionally and has had a significant impact on what learning looks like in my classroom and how I deliver the curriculum.  

When I ask myself ‘why?’  and the answer comes back to raising student achievement or motivating and engaging learners to raise student achievement, then I know I can justify my decision.

Here are some examples of ‘why’ working in our school.

“Why do we do the Peters Spelling Test?”
“Because it’s been on our assessment schedule for years, we always do it in term 1 and 4”.

“How do you use the data that’s collected?”
“I don’t really use it for any of my planning or my spelling programme, because we use the Essential Spelling Words Programme”.

“So tell me again, why do we do the Peters Spelling Test?”
The Peters Spelling Test is no longer on our assessment schedule.

“Why do we need to use e-asTTle for our writing assessment?”
“We are underachieving in writing, and e-asTTle provides us with the data to show us gaps in individual children’s learning, it also breaks down weaknesses and strengths in sub groups.  This information provides us with a clear pathway for the children’s next learning step. Essentially it makes me question my delivery of writing and it will help raise student achievement in writing.”

Last week I was at a cluster meeting about the ‘Me and My School’ survey that our cluster had undertaken.  Cathie Johnson  was there to unpack the data and to begin the discussion about what we do with this information.  She then talked about leading change and asking yourself why? Not once but 5 times. If by the fifth time the reason for change still sits well, then you have a good reason to make change.  

Maybe its time to do some reading and stop thinking of ‘why?’ to the power of one, and start thinking of ‘why?’ to the power of five.

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog Simon with the emphasis on WHY. Too often we do things because that is the way we have always done it. I liked your Peters' Spelling example. A personal favourite of mine is school camps - why do we persist with them? I must go and watch the TED Talk now!


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