Thursday, August 17, 2017

Walking the tightrope

This is the second post about gender bias at work.  After yesterday's post I started to think about how this might apply specifically to schools.  I've worked in both primary and secondary schools, and I began to count up how many of these schools had a male head of school, as opposed to a female.  I was especially interested in this trend in primary schools where the majority of teachers are women.

When working in the UK I was a secondary teacher - both schools I worked at had a male Headmaster.  In my years in Amsterdam, the school had 5 Directors - of these 4 were male and 1 female.  In Thailand, Switzerland and India all the Directors/Superintendents have been male. Looking specifically at the primary sections of those schools, in Amsterdam I worked for 1 male Primary Head and 1 female.  In Thailand the Primary Head was male.  In Switzerland the Primary Head was female.  In India, both Primary Heads have been male.  Let's also think about the %.  Currently in my school there are 44 teachers in the elementary school, of which 4 are men and 40 are women.  You would think therefore that statistically women were 10 times more likely than men to become a head of school, but clearly this is not the case.

The second video in the series What Works for Women at Work,  focus on the issue of the tightrope. Women often feel they have to navigate between being perceived as too "masculine" where they are respected but not liked, and being too "feminine" where they are liked but not respected.  Masculine qualities are seen as being assertive, competitive and ambitious, whereas feminine qualities are things like being nice, helpful and modest. Looking at the person doing a particular job, we often make biased assumptions which work to the disadvantage of women, particularly in education, where they may be seen as being warm, supportive, nurturing and caring. When women act in more "masculine" ways that don't match our assumptions, we often have subconscious, negative feelings towards them. However by recognising these biases we are able to address them.

When people think of a successful leader they are likely to think of this person in terms of someone who is assertive, competitive and ambitious (the "male" qualities).  In order to get ahead women need to be seen as both competent (male) and likeable (female) and this works to the disadvantage of women's careers because women often face pushback for the same behaviours that are admired in their male colleagues.  What is called "assertive" in men, for example being direct and outspoken, is often called "aggressive" or "abrasive" in women. While men are applauded when they discuss their successes, women are frequently seen as lacking in modesty when they do the same.  Expressing anger or frustration can also increase a man's perceived status while it decreases a woman's.

In the video below you'll see Joan William's suggestions for dealing with walking the tightrope at work.  She suggests:
  • Practicing gender judo
  • Forming a group of co-workers who will celebrate one another's successes
  • Expressing anger carefully and sparingly
  • Using strategic body language
  • Making statements with confidence and avoiding "upspeak" where statements appear to be questions
  • Making sure that time-consuming office "housework" gets rotated, and ensuring you are involved in high-powered work that will allow you to turn down undervalued work.
Here's the second video:

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Prove it again ... and again ... and again

This is the first of 4 posts about women in leadership, specifically about the Women in Leadership session I attended at the NESA Conference last April where the videos by Joan C. Williams were shown and discussed.  Joan is the co-author, with her daughter Rachel Dempsey, of What Works For Women at Work:  Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know.  This post is about the "prove it again" bias against women, where women's performances at work are undervalued and where women have to provide more evidence of competence than men to be perceived as equally competent.

Williams mentions that 2/3 of the women she interviewed had encountered this bias, where men tend to be judged on their potential but women on their performance, which means that women often lost out on promotions as they are seen as risky.  In addition, women's mistakes are noticed more and remembered longer.  Whereas men's successes are attributed to skill, women's are more likely to be put down to luck.  Women also experience polarised evaluations, often being rated much less competent than men.  There'a also a very common pattern that emerges in the workplace called the stolen idea - an idea that is overlooked when a women states it, but which is taken up immediately when later on a man says it.

Strategies for dealing with the prove it again bias include;
  1. Going for promotions that are outside your comfort level
  2. Keeping records at the end of every day of your successes and achievements.  A great idea is to form a posse that includes men as well as women to celebrate each other's successes.
  3. If you see a "stolen idea" make sure you acknowledge the originator of the idea.
And now here's the first video:

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Women in leadership and the imposter syndrome

This morning I was talking to our school counsellor, and she mentioned something to me that I had to go and look up - it was the term "the imposter syndrome".  People experiencing this feel that they do not deserve the success they have achieved, along with a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud".  The term was first coined by Clance and Imes in 1978, and apparently is particularly common among high achieving women, many of whom believe they are not intelligent and that they have been over-evaluated by others, and these beliefs lead to them undermining their achievements, discounting praise, overworking and perfectionism.

People who exhibit the imposter syndrome often overwork to avoid the fear of being "found out"; sometimes they work 2-3 times as hard as others, leading to burn-out and sleep deprivation.  Feelings of being phoney can also lead to giving people the answers they believe they want, which then increases the feeling of being a fake.  Gifted women often don't react well to praise or recognition - they may attribute this success to charm, not to ability.  Because of this someone with the imposter syndrome tries to avoid showing any confidence in his or her abilities, fearing rejection by others.

As I dug a little deeper, I came across an article in Forbes that categorises people with the imposter syndrome into 5 types:
  • The perfectionists - who set high goals for themselves, yet when they fail to reach a goal experience self-doubt and worry.  These people can be control freaks who believe if they want something done right then they have to do it themselves.
  • Superwomen/men - who push themselves harder  to  measure up to their colleagues and often overwork.
  • Natural geniuses - who judge success based on abilities rather than efforts.  They believe if they have to work hard at something then they must be bad at it.  These people differ from the perfectionists in that they are focused on getting everything right first time.
  • The rugged individualists - who believe asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  • The experts - who feel they have tricked their employer into hiring them and who fear being exposed as inexperienced and unknowledgeable.
As I read through this I immediately recalled a Women in Leadership session I attended at the NESA Conference in April that was led by Laura Light of International Schools Services.  Laura showed a 4 videos presented by Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for WorkLife Law at the University of California.  She is the co-author, with her daughter Rachel Dempsey, of What Works For Women at Work:  Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know.  On my return to school after the confererence I was able to lead a session on this at ASB.  These four patterns are as follows:
  • The prove it again bias (underestimating women’s performance and what women have to do to prove themselves)
  • The tightrope bias (being seen as likeable -v– being seen as competent)
  • The maternal wall bias (the assumption that women are less competent and committed to their careers)
  • The tug of war bias (how women interact with other women)
Following on from the conversation with the school counsellor I looked back at this blog and asked myself how did I fail to blog about this really important issue (and to share these great videos)? And do any of these biases that Joan Williams identified match with the imposter syndrome? Therefore my next post will be about the patterns that women experience at work and how to deal with them.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A cat's view of time

Another section in Mo Gawdat's book Solve for Happy that struck a chord with me was the chapter about time.  Perhaps I should mention at this point that I have 2 cats.  Living with these 2 cats I certainly appreciate that animals have no sense of time - or rather no sense of "the right time".  When they feel hungry they go and eat.  When they feel tired they sleep.  I've often said that I'd like to come back to life as a cat one day!

There's a really interesting bit in the book that I've just read about emotions - most of your thoughts have very little to do with the present time - they are anchored in the past or are ones we are projecting into the future.  And that's especially true of negative thoughts.  Anger, annoyance, guilt, feelings of disappointment and hurt - all these are linked to events that have already happened.  Nothing I can do now will change that.  That time is gone forever and now only exists in memories.  Perhaps I need to stop dwelling on what cannot be changed.

The same is true of the future.  Thinking about what could be in store can cause all sorts of anxiety: for example just this morning the news appeared to show that the USA is on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea. Thinking about the future can cause stress and tension, anxiety, worry and pessimism.  And again, nothing I can do can have any impact at all on the future.  There are infinite possibilities of things that can happen - and I'm focusing on just one or two of these and letting them worry me.

Positive emotions tend to occur in the here and now.  For example as you can see in the photo I'm sitting out on my balcony on a day off from school (it's Indian Independence day today - a public holiday).  It's a little cloudy and there's a light breeze so it's quite cool out here and I'm feeling calm and relaxed.  I'm satisfied with today, even though the only thing I have planned is a walk around Joggers' Park later, because this is also part of my goal to get fit and keeping healthy.  And I'm really happy that I have found the time to blog which always makes me feel good.

According to Mo this is the important thing:  when we're focused on the past or the future then we're living in our thoughts and not in reality - and we know that our past and future thoughts are often quite negative ones.  When we are living in our heads in the past and the future then we're not experiencing the present.  In fact we're not even laying down the present that will become a past memory in the future.  What a waste!  So here is one part of Mo's equation - maybe the most important part (I don't know because I'm only half way through the book): use time, don't let it use you.  If you want to be happy, live in the here and now.

So here is another analogy.  You're on a train and it will stop at 75 stations, each of which has a lot to experience.  You have the capacity to press a button whenever you want that will move you to the next station.  You can press it 75 times to get to the end, or you can get out at each station and experience what's there on the journey.  The ride is all you have - at the end there is no destination, only death.  What do you choose to do?  Will you spend your time thinking about getting to the end, will you spend your time regretting all the stations that have already passed, or will you get out and enjoy every station and all that it offers as it comes along?

So right now I'm sitting on my balcony and enjoying my cats, my little family here in India.  And because I get so much joy from them I'm going to post another photo!

OK, time for a little more mindfulness .....

The Eraser Test

Every year we have a summer read - in fact this year at ASB we had 4 books we could choose from. I chose to read Your Brain at Work, but I was also interested in a couple of the other books as well.  So this week I did a swap.  I gave my book to a colleague and I took the book that she had read.  This book is called Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat.

At the weekend I was chatting with my son, who doesn't read much, but who has set himself a task of reading 6 books this year.  Perhaps I should clarify that - he reads non-fiction but not fiction - the challenge is to read 6 novels.  Because of this I hesitated to recommend him a non-fiction book, but I did think he'e enjoy this one.  The section I was talking to him about was called The Eraser Test.

Before I go into this, a little background.  Mo is a highly successful engineer who works for Google [X], yet in 2001 he realised that despite all his success he was really unhappy.  He set out to find the equation for permanent happiness.  Having found this, in 2014 his perfect happiness was put to the test when Mo's 21 year old son Ali died during routine surgery.  This prompted Mo to write his book to share his equation with the world to help as many people as possible to become happier.

I've read about half of the book so far, and the theme is to be content with our present situation and optimistic about the future.  The Eraser Test fits into this in the following way:  imagine a technology was invented that would allow you to choose a past event and to erase it from the flow of time.  Of course this would also erase all the effects and consequences of this event as well, right up to the present moment.  How many events would you choose to erase?  Surprisingly, even though at the time that we experienced events as being bad, most of us would not choose to erase them now.  Most people would choose to keep the events and be grateful for the path onto which they were led.  Even Mo, who admitted he would erase the death of his son, has seen that some positive came of it - it led him to writing his book which in turn was good for others.  I thought of some of the events of my past which initially I thought I would like to erase as well, though in retrospect I realise they did bring me to a better place, and without which many, many good times and opportunities would not have occurred.  And this knowledge does give me comfort at times like now when I find myself in another tough place, wondering where my path will lead me next - should I stay in India, or should I return to Europe?

Mo writes "When you realise that every seemingly bad event nudged you onto the path of many good events, you'll reset your definitions of good and bad ... life can surprise you by eventually coming around to work in your favour.  It so often has in the past.  Why would it change now?"

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The Thinking Teacher

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but I'm in a virtual Cognitive Coaching book group.  We "meet" every Wednesday and discuss a chapter from Art Costa and Bob Garmston's book Cognitive Coaching.  This week we have been focusing on teacher cognition.

Near the start of this chapter is a quote by Charlotte Danielson that teaching is very cognitively demanding - "a teacher makes hundreds of nontrivial decisions daily" - as he or she manages the multitude of activities in the classroom.  This made me think about when I first started teaching in Amsterdam where I was a high school teacher, however I used to eat lunch in the classroom of a colleague in lower elementary where it seemed that all sorts of different activities were going on simultaneously and where the teacher was totally aware of all of these and managing them skillfully. At that time I remember thinking I could never be an elementary school teacher - and yet eventually I did become one!

My earliest experiences in the classroom allowed me a lot of flexibility to make instructional decisions.  In both the UK and in Amsterdam I wrote and assessed most of my own curriculum.  The longer I've been teaching, the more the trend has been away from this - and with some state or national curricula that has now been adopted in many schools, I have seen a growth in the tendency for some teachers to deliver this curriculum in a rather unthinking way (hence my wish to stay working in PYP schools where teachers have agency to collaboratively build the curriculum).  It has been clear to me, and something that I continually aspire to, that teaching is a highly intellectual process and, as Art and Bob point out, "teachers who possess cognitive systems with highly developed levels of perception, abstraction, complexity and decision making consistently have students who perform well on both lower and higher cognitive tasks".  Teachers who do not actively think about their experience are more likely to focus on short-term surface knowledge (the content) when planning or teaching a lesson, whereas the thinking teacher simultaneously is aware of the deep long-term learning (conceptual understanding) which can be transferred to other situations in school and later in life.

There has been research on teacher cognition, with studies showing that when teachers talk aloud about their decisions this causes examination, refinement and the development of new theories and practices, and it also engages teachers emotionally - another plus for collaborative planning!  Further research has shown that there are 4 real categories of teacher thinking:  planning before teaching, interacting during teaching, reflection when recalling and analysing a lesson, and projection when teachers use this thinking and apply their learning to plan next steps.  As I read this I immediately called to mind the coaching maps we use when having our conversations with teachers, which really provoke thinking in all these 4 areas.

I was interested to read that developing learner outcomes is often a low priority for many teachers when planning their lessons.  Studies point to the fact that teachers often think first about the content, materials and resources before they consider aims and purposes.  In Cognitive Coaching the learning outcomes are discussed right from the start in the planning conversation, with the first 2 areas of the map being those of clarifying goals and specifying success indicators - what the students will be thinking, saying or doing that shows the learning outcome has been achieved.  At the same time the coach will be aware of the need for flexibility, and the ability of the teacher to see not just the immediate details of the lesson, but also how this connects to other long-term learning or curriculum goals.  A flexible teacher can design multiple alternative instructional strategies for achieving their learning objectives because during a lesson teachers need to juggle many things - the content, the instructional process, and the learners - and the flexible teacher will be able to respond to how all these are interacting and how the lesson plan is paying out.  In a nutshell, what Art and Bob are telling us is that the basic teaching skill is decision making.

The goal of Cognitive Coaching is to help teachers become more thoughtful in the decisions they make - as teachers reflect upon their experiences they will become more conscious, efficacious, precise, flexible, informed and skillful decision makers - and therefore together coaches and teachers will come to impact student learning.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Candles of the People

This summer I spent a couple of days in the Finnish capital of Helsinki with my daughter.  Having already visited or lived in the other Scandinavian countries, I was curious to see how Finland compared, and even more interested because as an educator I'm reading regular reports of Finnish success in schools.   Since the year 2000, when the OECD first started publishing a ranking of international educational systems, Finland has been at or close to the top of the list of 70 countries in maths, reading and science.

The reasons for this success are not immediately obvious.  There is no more spent on education per student than other OECD countries, and Finnish teachers are paid roughly in line with other Western European teachers.  Class sizes are also roughly the same - around 20 - 23 children per class.  School days are short (around 4 hours), holidays are long (10 weeks in the summer), students don't start formal schooling until the age of 7, there is little or no testing below the age of 16, and almost no homework - and yet over 95% of Finnish children go on to some kind of further education.

Another striking feature of Finland's performance is that the success is spread evenly among all its schools - there is just a 4% difference between the performance of the best and worst school. This compares with other countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan which also perform well but where there are huge differences between schools as students are often admitted on based on entrance tests that measure ability.  I was interested to read that enormous resources are channeled into supporting students who fall behind in Finland - around a third of Finnish students get one-on-one tutoring each year.

The reason most frequently cited for the success of Finland's education system is teacher training. Some of this is historic, as following independence from Russia 100 years ago teachers were seen as playing a key role in the newly independent nation.  This early education was mostly survival skills such as woodwork and sewing, and teachers became known as the "candles of the people", lighting the path to Finnish self reliance.  Today teaching is an attractive career in Finland.  This compares very favourable with the UK, where as I mentioned in a previous post, every teacher friend I have who started with me back in the 1980s has now left the profession.  Today I was reading a BBC article that stated that there is such a shortage of trained teachers in the UK that schools have been allowed to employ unqualified people - there are 24,000 teachers without formal teaching qualifications in state schools in England - an increase of more than 60% over the past 4 years. Looking closer at these figures, it seems that a large number of unqualified staff are in academies and free schools.  In local authority secondary schools around 5% of teachers are unqualified, but in academies and free schools it's more like 10 - 12%.

In Finland, however, teaching attracts the brightest students, with over a quarter of university graduates stating that this is their top option.  In fact teacher training courses can be more difficult to get into than law or medicine, and since 1970 all Finnish teachers are required to have a master's degree, which is seen as a crucial element in their success.  In addition there is not the two-tier public/private system of education that exists in the UK as almost all schooling is state-funded.

There are some changes underway in Finnish education:  one year ago it became compulsory for every Finnish school to teach in a more collaborative way, to allow students to choose a topic relevant to them and to base subjects around it.  Basically there is more of a PBL approach with the aim of equipping students with the skills they will need - no longer woodworking and sewing, but instead critical thinking and technology.  And just as 100 years ago teachers were called "the candles of the people" today they are still carrying on that role, leading the next generation of Finland's people into the future.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Tough times don't last - tough people do

I want to write about this - but it's hard.  Readers of my blog know that my mother has dementia - and that this summer I've been staying with her and trying to support her as best I can.  I'm learning a lot about myself in the process - and it's not always good.  When I have answered the same question 25 times in the past 10 minutes I do get impatient.  I answer the question, but I'm also aware of an edge that creeps into my voice, and I hate myself for it.  I spend my days hunting for things that have got lost - and I find them in the most unexpected places.  Sometimes.  Sometimes I don't find them at all.  Mum has very little awareness of the time.  She can wake up at 2 am and get dressed and decide she wants to go out for lunch.  Or she can decide at 6pm that it's bedtime.  She draws all the curtains and I have to creep around the place in the dark.  But she's my mother, and I love her, and I want her to stay as long as possible in the home where she feels safe.

I know I'm losing her - a little bit more each day.  She remembers my son, but sometimes not my daughter.  She looks at photos of where we used to live, with my brother and I in the garden as children, and says she doesn't know who we are and that she's never lived there.  She can't remember how to cook or even how to make a cup of tea.  She often says hurtful things, and when I suggest she does something (have something to eat, wash, get dressed or whatever) she always replies angrily "Stop telling me what to do."  It's heartbreaking, but she's my mother and I love her.

She's with me every minute of the day, yet I miss her.  I miss the person she used to be.  I miss being her daughter.  I feel like I'm the mother now.  In the course of a day I go through every emotion there is:  sadness, anger, guilt, resentment, happiness, frustration.  One hundred times a day I say to myself "Stop, take a breath, carry on."  Above all else, I think I'm afraid:  afraid that in the future my memories of Mum will be of this time - not the previous 50 years when she was my mother.  That all my good memories will be wiped out by all the conflicting ones I feel now.  I want to remember her as she was - not as she is (or as she will be).  I feel I'm grieving for her - and yet she is still alive.

It's hard.  But I know it's going to get harder.  I know that I need to be happy for today, because this is as good as it's ever going to be, and it's all downhill from here.

I know that I'm not alone.  Millions of people are caring for elderly relatives with dementia.  The other day I was taking Mum for an appointment and the taxi driver opened up about how he was caring for his father.  People are kind and understanding and patient, and I draw strength from that.

I know I need to move closer.  India is so far away.  There's a huge heaviness in my heart as I write this because I have the perfect job at the perfect school.  But I need to be closer.  I need to see Mum more often than I can right now.  And I know that in years to come it will be my mother that I remember, not my job.  I know I will regret the time I don't spend with her - no matter how difficult that time might be.

I know I have a lot of readers in Europe.  I know the power of a network.  I know the recruitment season is coming up - and I suspect that with Brexit looming large that international schools in Europe will be expanding as companies relocate.  To those readers I would say - think of me and please reach out if you hear of a suitable opening.  Thank you.

Finally a poem - sent to me today by a friend.  Kind words are very much appreciated at this time. Thank you too.

Creating a culture of innovation

If you've been a regular reader you will know I'm thinking about teams. Next year I'll be coaching all the tech integration coaches, 5 in the elementary school, 3 in the middle and 3 in the high school.  We have 2 campuses - elementary and secondary - so the tech coaches almost never meet together - and I'm wondering how viable it is to consider them as a team.  I want to - but I don't want to force extra meetings on everyone.  One thing I am determined to do, however, is to run Cognitive Coaching sessions every Monday for all to attend, basically for practice and honing their skills as coaches, as well as perhaps sharing some new ideas, since all our coaches are at different stages of their training.  Anyway, with all this on my mind, it was great to get this week's Dialogic Learning newsletter from Tom Barrett, where he shared a link to an article about the 7 most important hires for creating a culture of innovation.  I like articles like this because it makes me reflect on what role I'm playing in the team - as well as what role I could potentially play.

The article is basically about workplace culture, which is something I was also mulling over this week.  A great culture is important for job satisfaction, and building a great culture depends on employing the right people - or more importantly the right combination of people.  Here are the roles that are important for creating this culture:
  1. The Gardener - this is the person who takes on the role of seeding, nurturing, inspiring and cultivating ideas.  At ASB I'm thinking this was largely the role of the members of the R&D department.
  2. The Sage - described as a wise veteran who has been through the trenches before.  In a school context I'm thinking this could be an administrator, for example an assistant principal, who is still very connected with the actual classroom experience that teachers are living every day.  It's the job of the sage to remind the rest of the admin to focus on the culture.
  3. The Empathizer - someone who understands and is in-tune with the (classroom) experience and  whose role is to help people to make it better.  I'm thinking this role is actually vital if you are a tech coach, and I'm guessing that in a school context this person would not be a member of the admin whose role it is to evaluate.
  4. The Talent Guru - this role is described as "reinventing the company’s policies to match the company’s cultural values and employees’ personal values. Most importantly, talent gurus create the narrative that defines how a company aligns its actions (the what) with its values (the how)."  I'm thinking about this role holistically, not just in terms of our tech team here, but more in terms of a school's mission and values - and how they are actually brought to life, recognised and celebrated within a school.  I think teachers are also be talent gurus within their own classrooms.
  5. The Dean - this is the person who is responsible for professional development to keep the talent within the school learning and growing.  I'd say this was a vital role that is taken on by our Teaching and Learning Coordinator, but also on a smaller scale by all of our tech integration coaches as they foster collaboration and creativity.
  6. The Storyteller - all of us can be storytellers, sharing what we do with the world.  There are many ways to do this, of course, such as through the school website, newsletters, publications and so on.  Many of the R&D team have published their stories in the various Future Forwards (see previous posts about our Future Forwards publications here).
  7. The Questioner - creativity and innovation are more likely to happen when a school or organisation values diversity.  Rather than hiring people who are similar to current employees, it's useful to seek out those who think differently or who have had different experiences.  In my opinion, a school that encourages people to ask questions about what they are doing, how they are doing it and why they are doing it, is likely to foster a culture of innovation.
I've written before about the projected growth of international schools worldwide, and how great schools need to attract, develop and retain excellent teachers.  Clearly one way to do this is to focus on the culture.  Some of these roles did resonate with me as being important in schools.  For myself I think I take on all these roles at various times, but the role of questioner really struck a chord:  I'm constantly asking myself and others "Is this the best way?  Can we do this better?"  Do any of these roles resonate with you as well?  Are there other roles that are equally important for fostering creativity and innovation at your school?

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Reducing teacher workload

Last week I had 2 reunions in London - the first one was with friends I started teaching with in the UK over 30 years ago, and the second one was with a group of friends I was a school with over 40 years ago - many of whom had gone into education.  With the first reunion, one of our "team" couldn't make it as it was a week day and she was still teaching - the others have all left teaching altogether or have stepped back to volunteering or working part-time.  With the second reunion, many friends are also reducing their days and saying "just one more year" and planning for retirement (though we are about 10 years short of retirement age).  And yet, on the BBC news yesterday I heard that the retirement age in the UK is going up again to 68, and a teacher who appeared to be in her late 30s or early 40s was interviewed and said she just did not think she could work as a full-time primary teacher until date where she could claim a pension.  Over and over again, both in the UK and from friends in international schools around the world, I hear that workload is an issue.

Digging a little deeper studies show that the number of hours teachers are working has increased significantly over the past 3 years, and that this is driving both teachers and school leaders to leave the profession.  I've read similar reports about young teachers leaving after only a few years too, also because of workload and mental health issues.  The UK government's teacher workload survey, published earlier this year, shows teachers work an average of 54.4 hours a week, and senior leaders work around 62 hours a week.  And yet still, during a taxi journey earlier this week, my driver was quipping about me being able to spend so much time with mum this summer (basically my whole summer has been spent supporting her as she has dementia) because of the short hours/long holidays that teachers enjoy!

This morning I read the Guardian online article about tips to help schools reduce teacher workload.  The article is obviously focused on the UK, with quotes from teachers, headteachers, consultants and union reps, however I thought it would be useful to summarise the main points.

  1. Ask teachers for feedback - for example through workload surveys
  2. Set reasonable expectations for what is expected outside of the school day
  3. Simplify processes such as planning, record keeping and feedback
  4. Take the admin out of lessons - in particular reduce the paperwork involved in lesson plans, marking and reporting
  5. Reflect on whether time is being used in the most effective way
  6. Track progress - plot the hours spent on work outside the classroom and plan for the busy times by cutting other things out
I can identify with many of these.  Certainly there is a lot of "busy work" expected, and I'm always concerned when time is spent on lengthy student assessments and reporting that doesn't then lead to a change in teaching to address the trends noticed in such assessments, or lengthy lesson plans and document writing that is never really looked at again.  

What other suggestions would you have to reduce teacher workload?

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Psychological safety and successful teams

I've been looking through my Twitter feed again today and saw a link to this article about successful teams.  As I'm also currently enrolled in The Role of Technology online course, and having just considered a growth mindset in terms of the IB Learner Profile (my decision was that risk-taker is probably the most important aspect for me in terms of my growth mindset), it was interesting to read that psychological safety is seen by Google as being the most important factor in successful teams.

Psychological safety means that everyone in the team can voice their options, ask questions and take risks.  What Google found was that teams with psychologically safe environments were able to harness the power of diversity, so to me this indicates that they would be more creative.  In addition the findings are that employees were less likely to leave these teams.  When I reflected on these points I concluded that the schools where I'd worked the longest did in fact have psychological safety, and those where I stayed a short time generally did not.

For those interested the other factors in building successful teams were:
  • Dependability - getting things done, meeting expectations
  • Structure and clarity - clear goals and well-defined roles
  • Meaning - personal significance for each member
  • Impact - the work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good
With just another 10 days before I return to school I'm going to have a think about these factors in the light of leading the technology integration coaches next year.  Are all of these factors in place in our team and which need to be strengthened?

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Digital Play

I’m really enjoying the online PYP course I’m doing this summer about the role of technology, mostly because I’m finding lots of new resources that I wasn’t aware of before. Today I read one participant’s post about the Digital Play Framework for the Early Years. Now this is an area that I know very little about. I’ve known some Early Years educators who have been very active in using technology with young learners, and some who have been totally opposed to it. I was hoping that by exploring the DPF that I would come to better understand the different viewpoints.
There have been various studies about digital play in recent years in children aged 0-6 in both the UK and the USA. Generally these show children engaged in a range of technologies including TV, computers and mobile devices. For this age group the average screen use time was less than 2 hours a day. I was interested to see that both YouTube and social media has become popular with children under the age of 8, which I must admit seems awfully young to me! The biggest factor in this appears to be the use of touch screen technology, allowing young children to use technology easily. Although some people are concerned that technology use leads to diminished play, studies seem to point to the opposite: digital technology provide rich opportunities for the promotion of play - opportunities that sit alongside more traditional play activities.

In the UK there have also been projects at the Universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh looking at the use of apps and how they promote play and creativity - for example producing new and original content such as drawings. These studies drew on play classifications developed by Hutt:
  • Epistemic play (exploratory play in which the knowledge of things is acquired)
  • Lucid play (drawing on past experiences, including symbolic and fantasy play)
  • Games with rules - including games of skill and chance.
In addition the studies considered Bird and Edward’s Digital Play Framework in which sets of behaviours relate to the 3 types of play identified above.
In studying play, it was observed that there were many examples evidence of children trying to get control of both the physical environment (for example building dens) as well as the virtual one (for example in Minecraft). Imaginative play was evident in augmented reality apps, for example when children treat digital pets as real animals and take care of them.

In conclusion it seems that contemporary play draws on both digital and non-digital forms and often moves across both. The studies certainly debunk the idea that digital play is not “real” play.
Jo Bird, researcher in early childhood technology and creator of the DPF, has shared observation tools for tracking children’s behaviors when using a variety of technology tools. Below are links to Bird’s DPF Handouts:
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Saturday, July 8, 2017

5 traits of successful leaders

The really interesting thing to me in the PYP online workshop The Role of Technology, is that quite a lot of the resources that have been shared are not directly related to technology, but about the conditions that need to be in place before technology can be successfully introduced and integrated. I'm following the leadership path through the workshop and the good news is that we can all learn to be better leaders.  Here's a video that appears on the MindTools website, and this is followed by a set of questions and resources, skills and techniques to help you become a better leader.  First of all I decided to do the quiz.

So how did I do?  Well overall I got a score of 67/90 and I was keen to read on to find out how I could do even better.  The analysis shows that two keys areas of personal growth and development are fundamental to leadership success: self-confidence and a positive attitude.  This is because self-confident people are usually inspiring, and people like to be around individuals who believe in themselves and in what they're doing. Likewise, if you're a positive and optimistic person who tries to make the best of any situation, it's much easier to motivate people to do their best.  In both self-confidence and positive attitude and outlook I scored 7 out of 10.  The recommendation here is to become aware of all the things you have already achieved and to make the most of your strengths.  In the case of a positive mindset, it's also important to develop a strong sense of balance, and recognise that setbacks and problems happen – it's how you deal with those problems that makes the difference.
Positive people approach situations realistically, prepared to make the changes necessary to overcome a problem. Negative people, on the other hand, often give in to the stress and pressure of the situation. This can lead to fear, worry, distress, anger and failure.

The next set of questions were about emotional intelligence, where again I scored 7/10.  This is basically assessing the "soft skills" that allow you to build strong relationships.  I felt good about this and think that over the past few years I've done my best to develop and practice more empathetic listening to try to understand another person's perspective.

Other questions were to assess transformational leadership - which involves creating an inspiring vision of the future and motivating others to achieve it.  It is key to managing the implementation of new initiatives successfully as well as developing other members of the team so that they in turn become more effective in the future too.  In providing a compelling vision of the future I scored 7/10, but in motivating people to deliver the vision I scored 9/10 which I was really pleased with.  Some of this, I believe, is because I also scored highly in being a good role model.  Good leaders lead by example. They do what they say, and say what they do. These types of leaders are trustworthy, and show integrity. They get involved in daily work where needed, and they stay in touch with what's happening throughout the organisation. Great leaders don't just sit in their offices and give orders; they demonstrate the actions and values that they expect from the team.

Successful leaders also manage performance effectively by setting their expectations clearly and concisely. When everyone knows what's expected, it's much easier to get high performance.  Above all, it's important to be fair and consistent.  In the category about providing support and stimulation my score was 14/20.  This deals with providing people with challenging and interesting work, allowing them to develop their skills and to feel supported in their efforts to do a good job.

The Mind Tools website is full of free resources, for example I have also explored the decision making section of the site today as well.  There are sections on team management, problem solving, project management, time management, stress management, communication skills and creativity tools among others.  There are Bite-Size trainings that you can access with membership, however there are a huge amount of resources on the website that can be accessed completely free.  It's a great resources and one that I'm so glad was shared as part of the Role of Technology PYP workshop.

A mindset for new initiatives

I'm currently participating in The Role of Technology PYP online course and today I've been thinking about mindsets.  When considering technology support and technology professional learning it can feel as if you are constantly trying to hit a moving target.  No sooner do teachers feel comfortable with one new tool or approach, then there is another one on the horizon ready to enhance or transform learning - this was the promise we were sold with IWBs, laptops and mobile devices and the one that we are now being told is about to happen with coding and STEAM.  So when thinking about introducing something new, it's important to think about the mindset of the teachers and administrators and to ask how open are they to change and new ideas.  There's no point in a technology teacher or leader being very gung-ho and setting off in one direction, only to find that the teachers are not ready to follow.

A great video about growth -v- fixed mindsets was shared as part of our online workshop and I'm sharing it again here.  The part for me that I find most interesting is that those with growth mindsets find inspiration from the success of others whereas those with fixed mindsets feel threatened by others' successes.  Today I'm thinking how to encourage a growth mindset and how best to support those teachers with more of a fixed mindset to become a little more open to the opportunities that technology can bring to them and their students.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Digital Intelligence

As my regular readers will know, I'm spending the summer with my mother who has dementia.  As I knew I would be spending many weeks out in the countryside with very little to do, and because I also know that much as I love my mum it is incredibly frustrating to spend hours each day having the same conversations over and over again, I decided I needed a bit of intellectual stimulation and so signed up to take the Role of Technology online PYP workshop.  It's fascinating - and although I consider I'm somewhat of an "expert" on technology integration, there are many resources that I've not come across before and which I'm exploring.  One of these that I've been looking at today is the DQ Institute website.  According to the World Economic Forum, Digital Intelligence (DQ) is the sum of social, emotional, and cognitive abilities that enable individuals to face the challenges and adapt to the demands of digital life.  These abilities can be broken down into 8 areas:

Digital identity: The ability to create and manage one’s online identity and reputation. This includes an awareness of one's online persona and management of the short-term and long-term impact of one's online presence.
Digital use: The ability to use digital devices and media, including the mastery of control in order to achieve a healthy balance between life online and offline.
Digital safety: The ability to manage risks online (e.g. cyberbullying, grooming, radicalization) as well as problematic content (e.g. violence and obscenity), and to avoid and limit these risks.
Digital security: The ability to detect cyber threats (e.g. hacking, scams, malware), to understand best practices and to use suitable security tools for data protection.
Digital emotional intelligence: The ability to be empathetic and build good relationships with others online.
Digital communication: The ability to communicate and collaborate with others using digital technologies and media.
Digital literacy: The ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share and create content as well as competency in computational thinking.
Digital rights: The ability to understand and uphold personal and legal rights, including the rights to privacy, intellectual property, freedom of speech and protection from hate speech.

As I read through these they immediately reminded me of the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.

I started to put these 2 side by side to see where the overlap is.  This is how far I have got at the moment.  

As I'm not very familiar with the DQ model, I'd love some comments about this.  Is there an advantage to using one approach over another?  The DQ model seems a bit more fleshed out than the 9 Elements one, and as I explored it further it seems as if there are different levels - as you can see digital citizenship is Level 1:
  • Level 1: Digital citizenship - The ability to use digital technology and media in safe, responsible and effective ways
  • Level 2: Digital creativity - The ability to become a part of the digital ecosystem by co-creating new content and turning ideas into reality by using digital tools
  • Level 3: Digital entrepreneurship - The ability to use digital media and technologies to solve global challenges or to create new opportunities
The DQ website also addresses very directly the 8 skills that students should be taught as part of digital citizenship.  You can see these on the diagram below:

The DQ website contains lots of information and resources for educators and parents and in addition there is the facility to sign students up for a self-learning programme.  The DQ World website for students seems very interactive and engaging, the activities are gamified with the option of earning points and getting yourself and your school onto a Leader Board. Once a student signs up, parents get an email activation code which they need to approve.  They also get a personalised DQ report showing the strengths and weaknesses of their child'd digital intelligence, the extent of exposure to various online risks, and some practical recommendations to improve your child’s DQ™ based on their profile.  The website claims that results of this programme have been tested and proven, leading to a 30% reduction in risky online behaviour and an increase in personal strengths such as critical thinking, empathy and global citizenship.   I'm interested to know if anyone reading this blog has experience of this programme.  I'm about to sign myself up as a student to experience it myself, but would love to hear from any teacher who has actually used this with a class. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Maps and apps

Last summer was all about trying out apps that can help people with dementia, and also checking out mindfulness apps to keep myself stress-free while staying with and supporting my mother who has Alzheimer's.  This year I've decided to try out some different apps as I'm heading off to the Baltic States with my daughter for a short break.  I know that in India I have really appreciated several iPhone apps that have made my life much easier:  Uber, Google Maps and the Triposo India app. Yesterday I started to look for apps that I could use to plan walking tours around the 3 cities that we are planning on visiting.  Most of these have a "lite" version that I'm going to try out first, and then if I like them I can purchase the full app.

The main reason for wanting to use an app is to cut down on the amount of luggage I am taking with me - I certainly don't want to be lugging guidebooks around with me as my baggage allowance is limited to 10kg carry on.  Also, my main reason for wanting an app is to plan walks around the various cities to the places that we are interested in.  I'm not really bothered about restaurant recommendations as I prefer to eat local food, and I'm not also really wanting hotel recommendations as I'm more likely to do Air B&B, but I really want to know where the museums, galleries and historical sights are and to know how to walk between them.

The first app I decided to download was from GPSmyCity which offers self-guided city walks.  There are apps for over 1,000 cities across the world and each city walk comes with a route plotted on an offline map that guides you to interesting sights.  As I'm starting in Vilnius, I spent some time exploring this app yesterday.  There are 10 walks already loaded as well as the option to make customised walks by selecting the sights you want to see.  It's also possible to take a walk and save it. In the lite version the navigation features related to the walking tours are disabled, so while you can view all the walk details (descriptions and photos) there is no navigation assistance to guide you from one location to the next.  To upgrade to the full version costs $4.99.

The next city that we are going to visit is Riga.  GPSmyCity doesn't have an app for here, so I looked at some other ones.  I found a map app for Riga that allowed me to customise it to remove hotels and restaurants, leaving only the attractions that I wanted to visit (museums, galleries, history and culture).  If you want to, however, you can use filters, for example you can filter restaurants by cuisine and hotels by facilities.  This is a free map and all features work offline.

Moving on from Riga, we are going to Tallinn.  This city does have a GPSmyCity app, so I downloaded it.  I also decided to have a look at the Triposo apps, since I enjoy using this app in India.  I found a Triposo app for both Estonia and Latvia. Triposo is also free and it works offline.  It crawls data from millions of websites and reviews, such as Wikivoyages, to deliver recommendations for hotels, sights, activities and restaurants based on matching patterns.  You can also book hotels through the app.  There are city maps, weather, currency conversion tools, travelers' photos and more.

Do you use apps when you travel to new places?  If so do you have any recommendations for me that I might like to explore?  Or even better, have you visited these Baltic cities yourself and have some tips for places that we really shouldn't miss while we are there?  If so please let me know in the comments.  Thanks!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trust in leadership

I've been thinking a lot about leadership recently.  This started with the "surprise" results of the UK general election last week, where the Prime Minister went into the election to gain more seats and actually lost a lot of seats to the opposition, whose leader was seen as being a bit of a loony leftist but also as someone with integrity.  Then this week there has been another huge backlash against the Prime Minister following the Grenfell Tower fire where she has been described as "cold as a fish" for not meeting with the victims' families.  Of course "over the pond" there are similar questions being asked of leadership in the US - along with how far can anyone trust what is being said, and how much news is "fake news"?

As I'm writing an educational blog, I don't want this to get political.  Rather I want to reflect on leadership skills and how these can be applied to education.  

A couple of years ago when I started Cognitive Coaching I learned some new things about trust, and one of the interesting things was that we expect a different sort of trust in our leaders than in our colleagues.  With leaders, be it of a country, a business or a school, we are looking for mutual respect, which involves genuinely listening to what people are saying, competence, consistency and integrity. With our colleagues the order of these is different, with competency being less important than caring, honesty, openness and reliability.  

Digging a little deeper, today I read an article from the Harvard Business Review on the skills that innovative leaders have in common.  These are different again, bearing in mind that innovation is a difficult quality to cultivate.  However a study of around 5,000 leaders showed that innovative leaders share the following competencies:
  • experimenting with new approaches while at the same time managing risk
  • demonstrating curiosity
  • leading with confidence and authority
  • being proactive and seizing opportunities
  • being adept at identifying strategic opportunities and threats
Reading through this I started to think about how this could apply to schools.  For example every year there are new initiatives (curriculum, standards, etc.) and could the skills of innovative leaders be brought to bear on these so that implementation is more successful and has more buy-in?  Relevant suggestions from the article that would apply to schools include:
  • creating a learning community to encourage the free flow of new knowledge and perspectives
  • stimulating new thinking by examining mistakes and setbacks as opportunities to learn
  • making time for developmental activities
  • being prepared to deal with people's reactions
  • being assertive and not aggressive - looking for win-win solutions
  • recognising and appreciating leadership qualities in others and involving multiple people in the planning
For myself, though I'm not part of the Leadership Team at ASB, I'm going to be coaching the tech integration coaches throughout the school, and I'm considering which of the facets of trust are going to be the most important to pay attention to next year.  I think I'm already well known for supporting teachers, appreciating their effort and promoting positive interactions (benevolence) and feel I would also score high on integrity, honouring agreements and being authentic (honesty) as well as communicating and sharing information (openness).  But how about the other traits that are most respected in leaders - competence and consistency?  When I consider consistency I think most people would regard me as dependable and reliable.  Generally I think I'm seen as a person who works hard and sets standards.  As far as competence goes I think I could work harder on problem solving, conflict resolution and handling difficult situations:  basically what I am hoping is to develop a more solution-focused approach to the myriad of challenges we are facing in integrating technology throughout the curriculum.

Onwards and upwards!

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Coaching for change

After school today I engaged in a Zoom (think Skype) call to discuss a couple of chapters of the 3rd edition of Cognitive Coaching.  Afterwards, spurred on by some of our discussions, I noticed there were some similarities between the current book I'm reading about brain research (Your Brain At Work), and what we know about coaching.

Just today I was talking with some of the school principals about the different support functions that our tech coaches can offer - collaboration and consultation in addition to their role as a coach.  But we know that consultation is often not the best way to bring about change, as often suggestions can be seen as threats.  The real issue is who comes up with the suggestion.  In consultation, most likely it's the coach/consultant who has the knowledge to give.  What this does to the relationship, however, is that the coach looks smart and the coachee less so - and in fact the better the coach's suggestion the more likely the coach is to resist it.  If however the coach comes up with the ideas and solution him/herself, then there is a sense of autonomy and "buy in".  Despite this, many people think that coaches need to offer ideas and expertise.

There are many skills that need to be developed as a cognitive coach, certainly that of building trust and rapport.  Using positive presuppositions is one way of showing that you believe that the coachee knows more about their students, the content they teach, their own skills and so on, than the coach does.  What the coach does is to ask questions about the coachee's thinking and ideas.  In addition acknowledging the emotions and paraphrasing what the coachee is saying helps simplify and illuminate the issue.  The job of the coach is simply to help the coachee to reflect and move forward without getting stuck on the details of the problem.

The premise behind cognitive coaching is that behaviour will change as a result of thinking changing, not the other way round.  Change is hard - even changing your own behaviour, let alone trying to change the behaviour of others or of entire groups.  This is why behaviourism doesn't really work, especially with adults, who see "rewards" are being offered as a way of changing them, and then they see the person offering the rewards as a threat.  Rock writes, "If being changed by others is usually a threat, this leads to the idea that when real change occurs, it is probably because an individual has chosen to change his own brain."  He writes that an effective way to focus attention on what needs to change is by asking questions that require the coachee to make new connections (in cognitive coaching these are referred to as mediative questions).  When you ask people questions as opposed to giving advice, there is a sense of respect - it shows that you know the coachee has the answers.

For the past few years at ASB we have used the planning conversation to help teachers set goals for how they want to integrate technology.  As people work towards their goals they can feel a real sense of achievement as they decide what to do and notice the steps they are taking towards these goals - this is brought out during the reflecting conversations.  Rock writes, "Setting the right goal is like a gift that keeps on giving: you continue getting positive benefits all the while you head towards it."

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Fairness and status

I went to the hospital today for my annual checkup - and because I knew I'd be sitting around for hours I took my summer read, The Brain at Work.  During the course of the day I managed to read almost to the end of the book, and the sections that really struck me were those on fairness and status.

Fairness is something that I feel is very deeply rooted in me, and I was interested to read that this is true of most people.  David Rock writes that fairness is a big driver of behaviour, often more important than money, and that when you perceive you are being treated unfairly this can often lead into an intense downward spiral.  Fairness is connected with safety, and is linked to relatedness - when we feel that someone is being fair you tend to trust that person.  At the same time your brain releases dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, making you open to new ideas and more willing to connect with others.  Rock suggests that workplaces that allow employees to experience fairness and also those where people report intrinsic motivation - and people perform better in these cultures.

Status is another thing I've been thinking about recently, following conversations with colleagues.  One person who is very highly qualified was lamenting the "flat" pay scale where all the time and effort she put into advanced degrees is not recognized.  In this instance fairness (same pay) seems to be working against status (more qualifications and experience).  Yet again, status can often be more rewarding than money.  Another colleague was talking to me about the fact that she has had to give up one position of responsibility in order to take on another one - she explained that she is not able to do both because "we are all equal".  This got me thinking about the idea of being a small fish in a big pond, as opposed to a big fish in a small pond.  The status of the latter is higher, despite the fact that the pond (school in this case) is not as good - and some people get much more satisfaction out of that.  When I lived in Thailand status was very overt - you were either a phi or a nong.  A phi was someone of higher status (for example you could be older, more qualified, richer and so on) than the nong.  When people meet for the first time they go to great lengths to establish who is the phi and the nong - and after that they understand the relationship and things proceed harmoniously.  For me I found it a bit off-putting to be asked very personal questions by people I hardly knew ("how much do you weigh, how old are you, how much do you earn? etc)

Your brain also reacts to higher status, as dopamine and serotonin levels go up making you feel happier, and your cortisol levels go down reducing stress.  With more happy chemicals in your brain you are able to process more information, follow through with your intentions, and have more control than people of lower status.  Your brain works on keeping this elevated status, constantly findings ways that show you are smarter, healthier, stronger and so on, and along with status comes more certainty, more autonomy, more relatedness and often more fairness.

I'm now at the final section of the book which is about change.  I'm curious to know about how change impacts your brain (and how your brain can open you up to change).

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Zone of Peak Performance

I had a day at the pool today!  I'm really lucky because as part of my school's "Softening Mumbai" package we get an extended benefit that we can use towards a club membership.  India is an amazing and fascinating country - but it's not all easy living here and there are times when you really need to "get away" from everything.  My getaway is my local Taj Lands End.

As I have been determined to finish my holiday read before my actual holiday (the idea of backpacking with a hardback book is not appealing - especially as I have hand luggage only flights), I took the book along with me to read and reflect on.  I managed to get through 6 chapters, interspersed with swimming, lunch, the jacuzzi and a nap.  So this post is a reflection on these 6 chapters - starting with the one on peak performance.

Performance and stress
Studies have shown that performance is poor at low and high levels of stress.  It seems there is a sweet spot somewhere in the middle.  I was interested to read that the word stress actually just means emphasise - and that this can be positive (in which case it's known as eustress).  This type of stress is associated with more focused attention - and so our performance would actually decrease if this type of stress was removed, and we would become bored (which also explains why I can only cope with so many hours at the pool before getting restless).  Basically this is because of the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in our brains;  norepinephrine brings an urgency to our thinking at the times when we need to be highly alert.  We can artificially increase our brain's supply of this chemical by visualizing an activity and by imagining something going wrong - but obviously there's a tricky balance between producing enough of the chemical to get motivated to do something, but not producing too much so that you end up fearful!  Dopamine seems to. be a better chemical to try to stimulate:  this is what spikes our interest in something - for example when something is new or unexpected.  The good news is that telling jokes increases dopamine, as does anticipating a positive event.

Often, however, the issue isn't that we need motivating, but simply that we have information overload, with too much stimulation coming at us from all sides.  As mentioned in a previous post, one way of coping with this is to get the information out of our heads and onto paper.  Another strategy is to focus on the sounds around you or to do something physical such as take a walk.  As I read this I immediately thought about the mindfulness apps I was experimenting with last summer, as I would take regular "time outs" from living with my mother, who has dementia, to go for a walk several times a day.  Some of these apps did ask for me to pay more attention to the senses, in particular to sound.

I thought a lot about mindfulness today at the pool.  Basically this involves paying close attention to the present and being aware of experiences as they occur.  I want to develop more ability to pause before reacting to something - as this will give me the space to consider and choose between various options.  We've been lucky to have a focus on mindfulness at ASB, and I've also explored more about meditation during my yoga classes.  I know it is a matter of turning off the internal dialogue, not thinking about the past or the future but simply experiencing what is happening right now.  This allows more sensory information to get to the brain and lets you be more flexible in how you respond as events unfold.

My reading today also made me think more about cognitive coaching.  One sentence really stood out: "By understanding your brain, you increase your capacity to change your brain".

Feeling emotional
Later in the book I read a chapter about emotions.  In this chapter I read about the 3 options we have once our emotions kick in.  We can express our emotions, suppress our emotions, or undergo cognitive change by labelling and reappraising our emotions which can change our interpretation of events.  Suppressing emotions is hard - it takes mental energy, leaving less for paying attention to what is going on.  Suppressing emotions makes other people feel uncomfortable as well.  In Cognitive Coaching we have learned to name and acknowledge the emotion and then to move on to the desired state.  It's important to describe it in a word or two (this actually reduces the emotion), but not to dwell on it as this tends to increase it.  I was interested to read that many people in leadership positions do just this to stay cool under pressure:  they name this emotion and turn it into eustress.

Autonomy and agency
Agency has been a word I've been thinking about a lot in recent weeks.  It's going to be really important in the review of the PYP that will be published next year.  When you experience a lack of agency you feel helpless to influence outcomes - yet it is the perception of control over a stressor that can diminish the impact of the stress.  I was interested to read that low-level employees experience more stress than senior executives, as they have less sense of choice or control.  In a nutshell, when you feel you have choices, something that used to be stressful can feel more manageable.  Having autonomy and agency also makes you happier - and people perform better when they are happy.  According to Rock, "happy people perceive a wider range of data, solve more problems, and come up with more new ideas for actions to take in a situation".

I've now read 2/3rds of the book and am ready to start on the next section which is about collaboration.  I'm really keen to read this section as most of my work involves collaborating with my colleagues as they integrate technology into their lessons - and we all know that technology can be a huge distraction.  Hopefully I'll be blogging about the final part of this book before the end of school on Friday.