What are the teacher mindsets concerning PLC’s that encourage practices that impact teacher and student learning? How does teacher vulnerability, sharing student work and peer observation among PLC members increase the impact of PLCs?
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Steve [Intro]: 00:30 Hello, and welcome to the teacher edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out loud podcast. The complexity of teaching is both challenging and rewarding. And my curiosity is peaked whenever I explore with teachers the multiple pathways for facilitating student engagement in the exciting world of learning. This podcast looks to serve teachers as they motivate coach and support their learners.
Steve: 01:00 Teaching so that every student matters. I recently received an email following a facilitation of a workshop that I did for teacher leaders at the Kai-wen academy in Beijing, China. The email was from Wayne Roland, who’s the head of PE at the school and Wayne wrote about an experience that he had earlier in his career in a school in England. He identified a strong connection with some of the things that I was sharing in my middle leaders workshop around the concept of of every child matters. And so I responded to to Wayne and asked him to join me and he’s agreed and I’m excited to have him share his thoughts and insights with you today. So welcome Wayne.
Wayne: 01:53 Thank you, Steve. Thank you for having me.
Steve: 01:55 Can you tell us a little bit about the role that you had at the school in England and where did that fit your teaching career? And maybe go on share a couple of things that you shared with me about how you saw your experiences there impacting you as a teacher.
Wayne: 02:16 Yeah, so Halifax High takes me back to 2005. I spent eight years, eight fantastic years, a very good grounding for me in my career. I was there as first of all, teacher of physical education and then towards the end of the eight years, I was promoted to head of physical education which included IGSAP and also S and L level PE. From 2013, I then went into international education. My wife actually being Turkish, she was unable to get a visa to come and live in England so that’s why we moved into international education and ended up in Qatar. In Qatar, we spent four fantastic years. I worked at a good school Doha Academy. Really enjoyed every moment of that. And then from there after of four years, we felt it right to make another move and that took us to Kai-wen Academy where I am currently head of secondary PE today and going into my fifth year this year.
Steve: 03:33 So the time at Halifax, was that the very beginning of your teaching career?
Wayne: 03:39 That was right at the start. That was my first eight years in education. And like I said, really enjoyed and really set me up for my career today.
Steve: 03:51 So you could really connect with my comments then about the beginning of my teaching career being in that in that laboratory school where where I received all that support and observation and coaching and teamwork. And that was 50 years ago and it still has a big impact on the work that I’m doing in education today.
Wayne: 04:20 Of course. I worked under a special head teacher, Mr. Jeremy Waxman, who really gave me an insight into the professional self and the way we should teach and the way we should educate young people and putting really, the students first in all the decisions that we make in school.
Steve: 04:47 When you described the school to me, you said that it was a system based on trust, integrity, care, and love. I’m wondering if you’d expand a little bit on those.
Wayne: 05:00 Yeah. I mean, in terms of the, the support network that was always there for me, if I had any question, and that would be literally any question, I was always able to find somebody in the senior leadership team that would be able to care and support me. Again, I felt that right from the start, I was always looked after in my progression in the school and was helped from becoming a teacher at the start into my role as a head of physical education towards the end of my eight years.
Steve: 05:45 Wayne, you mentioned in the email that you sent me, specifically the impact that the student mentoring program had on on vulnerable students. So would you describe that in a little more detail for us?
Wayne: 06:02 Yeah. So staff members at Halifax High School were given the opportunity to mentor young learners within a mentorship program, including vulnerable young learners at immediate risk, gifted and talented young learners, CD borderline GCSE students, and every learner in the school had a mentor. I had the privilege of mentoring several young learners in my time at Halifax, two of whom, Ali Raja and Kareem Shazad, two fantastic young men. I would like to share my experiences. Ali Raja, he didn’t have an experience at home that would allow him to take part in any sport, music or such an activity outside of school. Inside school, Ali was extremely passionate about rugby league. He loved playing it and he loved talking about it. I had a contact rugby club, not far away from Halifax and communicated with the club about possibly taking Ali to some training sessions on a evening.
Wayne: 07:25 And if good enough, get some game time in one of the teams on a weekend. As Ali had no means of getting to the ground, I used to take him training two times per week, and when selected, games on a weekend. In terms of in terms of Kareem Shazad, one of the most talented students I think I’ve ever taught. But he needed more than his talent had decreased on the football field. So I tried to help him with his talents, realizing his talents in other subjects in the school. Going back to Ali, unfortunately, Ali passed away in 2014, suffering from a rare form of bone cancer, osteo sarcoma. I spoke to Ali a few days before his passing.
Wayne: 08:31 I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said, I will never forget what you did for me, taking me to rugby. And Ali passed away just a few days after saying that to me, it was a pleasure to have known and helped that young man. Kareem Shazad, he went on to study in America and now has a successful career and actually plays their semiprofessional football in England. Sort of a great young man that always had it him, but needed a mentor to kind of bring it out of him. Through this mentorship program at Halifax, learners knew that they were loved and felt, and they felt valued through this program. They didn’t feel that, oh, no, I’ve done something wrong or, I need to improve in this area, but it supported personal growth, helped learners to become positive global citizens. And it also lent itself to learner participation and behavior and helped learners to make correct informed choices inside of school, but also it filtered out into the local community as well.
Steve: 09:55 I’lll tell you what’s going through my head as I listen to you – that every gift we as a teacher might pass on to kids in those those settings comes back to us double over.
Wayne: 10:10 Definitely it’s a wonderful program. And keeping in touch with teachers at the school, this program, even though head teachers have come and gone, is still going very strong.
Steve: 10:24 I’ve always been a strong proponent of, in many schools in the states, they’re called advisory programs, but the concept that every student school is someone’s responsibility to totally know that student. And in my own language, I’ve described it as malpractice when we don’t implement it. And even worse is implementing it poorly, which some schools do. But it’s a real opportunity to provide payoff to everybody and remind both students and teachers why we’re really there. There’s a word that I wanted to to run by you. In a lot of my work with with teachers and teacher and administrator leaders, I talk about the need for leaders to make themselves vulnerable and that frequently, when I show my vulnerability, that that helps me build trust. And I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on how vulnerability played into the things you saw happen at that school, both to build relationships among the staff, as well as relationships between staff and students?
Wayne: 11:45 Yeah. I mean, one thing that I would like to speak there about is, within the staff mentorship program, that senior leaders would have maybe three or four junior teachers that they would be able to shadow them, both during their senior leader role, but also in their eight to 12 lessons per week, as all senior leaders at the school did. And we would be able to go into the classroom and observe the senior leaders and be able to give the senior leaders feedback into what we think the senior leaders could do to improve or had maybe missed in the classroom. And I think it could have been something to build relationships between staff members, but also on a serious note, I think it was that senior leaders were older than the junior teachers, the junior teachers coming fresh out of the qualified teacher status and may be able to actually teach some of the older senior leaders some of the new things that are going on in the classroom, for example, technology, which is constantly changing.
Steve: 13:11 There’s a phrase I frequently use in my leader training called model the model. So if you, as a leader, take on the behaviors that you’re looking for other people to take on, and then I move that same phrase back to the classroom, as a teacher, I wanna model the model. So the more that a teacher is is illustrating learning in front of the kids, when the kids see the teacher learn, that’s an outstanding example for students.
Wayne: 13:40 That’s fantastic.
Steve: 13:41 As we wrap up here Wayne, a thought that went through my head as I read and listened to your background at the experiences you had in that school, there was a lot built into the structure of the school, the way the administrative team worked that supported you as a teacher to take on these actions of keeping students at the center and every student being important. Some of the listeners to this podcast are likely having a thought go through their head that that’s not where I’m working now. So I’m wondering what thoughts or insights you have as to how do I, as a teacher, what can I do to begin to make some of those things happen, even if I don’t have the whole organization of a school set up to to back it up and support me?
Wayne: 14:38 Yeah, of course. And I don’t think I will experience such a settle. I hope I do but I don’t think I will, but what Mr. Waxman said to me, my head teacher before I left for international education, he said, always keep your own personal expectations as high as you have done here, wherever you may find yourself. And that’s certainly something that I I’ve had to do in the two schools since I’ve worked at Halifax high. But I think something that teachers personally can do is, if the network’s not there with senior leaders, a network is always possible with regular teachers, and that is to have strong, healthy, collegial relationships amongst school teachers in the classroom. And if you have that, that is what is absolutely essential for school effectiveness and teacher enhancement. And if there’s something that Halifax high taught me is that we work as a team.
Steve: 16:01 I was just gonna say, you’re singing my song – teaching is a team sport.
Wayne: 16:06 Of course. And I was always given four reflective questions and then asked what my response would be in affecting student learning. And the first one is that school leaders should always encourage staff to share ideas rather than compete with each other, which I think can be very dangerous. Staff always behave how they would like students to behave, staff to treat each other with respect and also staff to have a strong sense of belonging. And that’s something that I will always take and I will always consistently have in my career moving forward.
Steve: 16:57 Well, Wayne, thank you so much. I appreciate your thoughts and insights. I’m so glad you went out of your way to drop me an email and connect your connect your thinking back to me. I’ll post your email address in the lead-in to this podcast, so if people have thoughts or questions, they can contact you directly.
Wayne: 17:18 Thank you, Steve. Thank you for the opportunity.
Steve: 17:20 You bet. Have a great day.
Wayne: 17:23 Thank you.
Steve [Outro]: 17:25 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.