Friday, 9 September 2016


Do you know someone who has had their integrity questioned? Do you ever stop and think how you would handle the same situation? Would you have sympathy, empathy or apathy?

Many emotions would surface-

Insulting … especially when it’s done publicly.
Shocking … does someone actually thinks that about them?
Confusing…where is this coming from?
Hurtful … one reflects on their actions and asks why?
Frustrating … one's reputation could be marred.
Creates anxiety … who controls their reputation?
Heartbreaking … people work (sometimes) a lifetime to establish their integrity.
Personal … that’s it…It’s PERSONAL!

If we care about the person, we'd be sympathetic.
If we had walked in their shoes, we'd be empathetic.
If we have no concern at all, we'd be apathetic.

It could be argued that we all should think before we speak, blog, text, present, tweet but that solution simplifies the problem...or does it? 


Friday, 2 September 2016

When the verb becomes a noun.

I experienced something new last week. I have always encouraged my students to take risks. If you fail, learn from it, move on, but make sure you take actions so you don't repeat the same mistakes. I've shown my students Famous Failures video, shared Famous Failures posters on my portal page, and always aimed to create a growth mindset culture in my classroom.

But then, last week, I experienced something new! I am currently studying advanced research methods at university. I have always believed that if I work hard, put in the effort, I will learn and achieve. But this was different. I felt completely isolated. Completely lost. Out of my learning zone. I've seen this visual, I've shared this visual but until last week, I had never connected with the visual. 

My learning history-
  • I finished school in Year 10,
  • Attended university at 30.
  • Awarded Dean's academic prize. 
  • Completed Masters in education (focus on primary mathematics)
  • Completed Graduate certificate in gifted ed (COGE). 
Last week, all this meant nothing! I was now in the PANIC ZONE!

I sought help from everyone. I wasn't afraid to ask for assistance, but very few people knew about multiple regression. All those feelings in the panic zone were felt. While the marks aren't worth much, there was that part of me that wanted to learn, to understand, and to not be defeated.

Then I thought about the students. Is this how some feel? I recently read Lucy Clark's, 'Beautiful Failures' and now I have a better understanding. I have taught students with high anxiety in maths. As a teacher, I always wanted to create a classroom that promoted a love for maths. Songs, books, games, technology, anything and everything to change the students attitudes toward maths. Change their attitude and self-perception, and their ability may follow. How many of you have heard a student say, "I'm no good at maths"?

So now, I understand. I get it. This experience generated a rich conversation with my adult children. We discussed the pressure, the expectations, developing resilience, and the teachers, and how they influence the student's self-efficacy. I can't imagine having those feelings day after day, year after year. It's not sympathy but empathy that I have for the students who don't see themselves as more than a grade.

So yes, it's ok to fail but we also have to recognise that failing for too long can leave some without hope. I may not receive a great grade for the multiple regression responses but what I did learn this week was more important. I felt what some students experience on a daily basis. And I didn't like it! 


Friday, 26 August 2016

Too busy?

I received a message requesting a name of someone I knew. Responding quickly with the person's name, I continued on with my busy day. Later that evening, I looked at the text and felt a little guilty. I didn't say hi or ask how she was. I messaged my apology. I don't want to become one of those 'busy' people. You know the ones I mean. The ones you meet or converse with and you know they are not actively listening or fully engaged. They may respond with a few words, nod their head, type a brief email or text. You are disappointed because you don't feel heard and they're not invested in the conversation.

'Small moments build relationships' 

My coaching accreditation course has resulted in more self reflection as self awareness is an important element of coaching. The foundation of education is relationships and without them, improvement and progress is impeded. Once that trust is established in a relationship, anything and everything becomes more achievable. Today, everyone is busy! Yet, making time for people and investing in our relationships will have long term benefits...and sometimes it could only take a couple of minutes.

Always learning,

Monday, 18 July 2016

Do you encourage or discourage?

I encourage educators to tweet, blog, present, study, publish and step out of their comfort zone and into their learning zone. Some want to share and learn from others. Some may ask for feedback. Let me clarify-questioning and inquiring should be encouraged but making opinionated comments is not constructive feedback. Not all who post on Twitter are looking to be critiqued, judged or challenged. 
And yet... a brief scathing tweet may discourage, dishearten & disengage the educator from social media. The comment may even push them into the panic zone. If you don't agree with their beliefs, opinions or comments, instead of slamming publicly, why not DM and keep it private? You just don't know if that tweet you just slammed was someone taking a risk, which we encourage in our students-take risks!

Do we have the right to publicly criticise on Twitter? Twitter has many benefits and I appreciate this social platform for learning but should all tweets or tweeters be fair game for criticism? With the popularity of social media increasing daily, it is our social responsibility to stop and think before we tweet and comment negatively. Model being a respectful communicator for your students.


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Building Confidence & Humility

Hearing an early career teacher talk about her aspirations of becoming a principal reassured my optimism for the future of education…only then I heard experienced teachers say something along the lines of- ‘can you believe the level of confidence?’ and ‘get through your first five or ten years first’. I have previously encouraged early career teachers to present, only to hear the concern of what others would think. I‘ve blogged about the Tall Poppy syndrome, which is familiar to many Australians.  On the flip-side, I’ve known of early career teachers who believe that after their first year, they’ve ‘got this’. This is concerning as we all know teaching is never mastered but a continual learning process. I wonder if they want to appear confident and competent. And there lies that fine line between confidence and arrogance.

If we invest in our early career teachers through coaching, could we influence their confidence, while modelling humility? Arrogance in education has no place, but confidence on the other hand, is about trying to improve oneself, which is vital for all teachers and learners. It was inspiring to learn about the tall poppy campaign developed by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science. Young Tall Poppy Science Awards aim to recognise the achievements of Australia’s outstanding young scientific researchers and communicators. It is up to us to encourage, guide and inspire all our colleagues and I for one, would love to turn around the concept of the ‘Tall Poppy’ and make it a positive attribute of all teachers. Just imagine what more we could achieve, if we supported and promoted all our teachers, especially the early career teachers who enter this profession intrinsically motivated and enthusiastic.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Prove or Improve-choose wisely

When you start a new role, position or school, you may feel the need to prove yourself. My advice is ... please don't. They hired you because of your ability and skills and you need to be assured that they believe in you. When you try to prove yourself, you may come across as arrogant or insecure. This may not be a true characterisation of you. Instead of proving yourself, transition to improving yourself. That way you are perceived as confident, yet humble. Insecurity leads to so many issues, not only for you but for your colleagues and inevitably, your students. Improving never stops, until you think you have something to prove. Believe in yourself, because others do.

& the learning continues...
Andrea   @stringer_andrea 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

I’ve been asked recently, so what will you do with your PhD…once you’re finished? Where do you want to go? What are you hoping for? My response was I’ve only just started and it’s a very long journey. But then, I thought about the questions I sometimes ask when I coach. What is your goal? Where do you see yourself in a year’s time? But then I stopped!

Do I really need to know my destination?

What I do know is that having the time to read, learn, ponder has been great. Working part-time provides the opportunity to allocate specific days for university and study. What I have learnt being a student is that having due dates for assignments tends to inhibit my learning. It's quite restrictive. When I find myself going off tangent and reading more about an interesting topic or concept, the deadline reels me back to the task at hand. With the lens of a teacher and a student, I am broadening my perspective of the learning process. A learner and a student are two separate identities. I’m developing more empathy for the students in the higher years when grades and assessment appear to be the major focus. Unfortunately, the whole love of learning is lost when it becomes an exercise of simply ticking boxes. As a postgrad student, I want formative assessment, feedback, or an in-depth discussion to perhaps change or challenge my thinking. I question the level of student engagement. I question the students’ motivation for attending. I question the effectiveness of the lectures. So many questions have generated about learning from my current student perspective.

The opportunity to implement what I am learning is incredible. At present, the balance is working. I am fortunate to coach educators who want to work with me. With the opt-in approach at my school, the educators I work with are willing and keen to build their capacity and take ownership of their learning. Working with people who want to work with you is a huge advantage and this is not lost on me.

In education, the art of teaching is never mastered-there is always more to learn. Educators are always looking for further innovation, improved results, more efficient strategies. Sometimes it's good to just marinate. Take stock. Reflect. I’ve spent time wondering about the question that was posed. Whether you call me driven or ambitious, or simply a curious person who loves learning, right now I’m content just being. I’m complacent and while I understand that in education, 'complacent' has negative undertones, I'm satisfied with how things are and see the value in simply stopping and reflecting on what has been achieved. Is it really important to know your destination? At times, it's good to just be.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

"It is what it is"

I recently presented at our Board of Governor’s dinner as a year ago, I was fortunate to receive our school fellowship award that made it possible to have an educational adventure in the US. I’m so glad I blogged throughout my entire learning journey because I continue to have a record of the learning that occurred at that point of time. I'm reminded of Dylan Wiliam's short message to us- "Teaching takes place in time, learning takes place over time".
I’m not one who thrives on public speaking. I know that may shock many of you who know me well (yes I love a chat, I won’t deny that). When it comes to adults, I’m more comfortable working collaboratively one-on-one or with a group of 10-20. But speaking in front of about 200 people tends to rattle my nerves. I am reminded of Principal El’s message- “Get out of your comfort zone and into the learning zone”. That's exactly what I did. My goal this year is improve when publicly speaking. So I pushed myself and accepted a few opportunities to present this year.

I planned this presentation months ago and recently edited when educator friends provided clips and then re-edited when time limits changed. I really struggled with the notion that 200 people would be interested in hearing about my learning journey for 15-20 minutes. I knew I wanted to try something different and I thought it would be more interesting if the audience listened to a diverse group of speakers. So I invited those who have inspired me in my career to make a short clip, as I wanted to share my coaching story. I was humbled that the educators I asked would take the time to create a clip for me. To keep the audience engaged, I animated the pictures and added music - theme of Rocky (Philadelphia), Gossip Girl (Manhattan Private Schools) & Superman (power pose). I knew if I kept the audience's attention on the screen, they wouldn’t focus on me. My script could be read if my nerves got the better of me.

All was going well, but then it happened. We could hear the clip but not see anything. It’s ok I thought, I’ll just click and we’ll move on. But then the computer froze! I could not see the screen from the lectern and the spotlight made it difficult to see the audience. I just looked for someone….anyone….please help! Hours passed…. ok-well it felt like hours. I ended up continuing to read but without the pictures to reference, I was uneasy.

I thought on my feet. Ok – I’ll ask the audience if they’d like to learn something shared at Harvard. I think everyone of those 200 people stood up. I don’t know whether they felt sorry for me, or if they felt peer pressure but that moment was the most memorable of the night. They all did the superhero pose with me. Now it may have been more a sympathetic stance, but I took it and felt so supported. A great example of the Wenona community.  

The slides came back and I admit, my confidence took a bit of a hit. But as I reflect now, I see there are lessons to be learnt in every event.  
  • The message is more important than the delivery
  • Always have a plan B
  • Appreciate and acknowledge those who support you
  • Keep everything in perspective

I’m reminded of the Boston saying- “It is what it is”Technology issues -we’ve all been there. The purpose of my presentation was to share my learning and it's application at Wenona. As my friend Matt said to me, 'The message is the most important bit' and I think I accomplished that. I hope my colleagues felt my genuine belief that coaching is a collaborative approach to meet their self-determined goals. As long as my authenticity was evident to all, I achieved my goal.

The learning continues...

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stay true to the process & the purpose.

I’ve been thinking about various trends in education. We all know that at times, education is full of jargon and buzzwords, and there is always the newest 'thing'. However, in the rush to implement the newest thing, sometimes educators may dismiss or neglect important philosophies, components or elements. When concepts like project based learning or instructional coaching become popular, they can become tainted when sufficient time is not taken to learn the process. The chart below clearly highlights the difference between Projects and Project Based Learning.

At times, concepts like project based learning and instructional coaching are adapted to ‘fit’ personal ideals, beliefs or needs. I believe instructional coaching has even been utilised for evaluation, which was not the intended 'partnership' approach. Professional learning is not the same as evaluation. I view instructional coaching similar to formative assessment and evaluation similar to summative assessment. Both have a very different purpose. I am all for adopting and adapting programs, lessons, activities but when you alter or ignore important steps or processes, the integrity, authenticity and strength is compromised and the purpose is corrupted. It is highly recommended to take time to research and learn from those more experienced and/or those who share. Twitter is a collaborative platform with many educators keen to give freely. The Buck Institute share all their materials and resources and Jim Knight provides many resources and information on the Kansas Coaching Project website.

Take time 

Be professional

Stay true to the purpose

Stay curious...