Conor Rodgers

The beginning of a blog…

PQHNI

I was delighted to discover earlier in the year that I had secured a place on the RTU course, PQHNI.

I had originally applied in October 2013. As a relatively new Senior Leader (1 year in post) I knew that my chances of being successful were slim. I completed the detailed application form and hoped for the best.

A few months later I was invited to attend an Assessment and Development day in Newcastle. This was part two of the entry process, and is day I won’t forget in a hurry.

When I arrived in the morning I met 9 other hopeful candidates (all female). We nervously chatted about the drive down and made some predictions on what was going to happen through the day. We were invited to a separate room and the process started.

That day I took part in a written assessment, an interview with an actor and a formal interview with an assessor. Although all of the assessment were incredibly challenging, I have to say, I really enjoyed the whole process.

A few weeks later, I discovered I was successful and started to begin my journey as a Trainee Headteacher.

I’ve been to an introductory day, and attended 2 summer school sessions, all aimed at developing the skills I require to qualify.

Next week, I’ll begin the process of coaching and sharing my learning journey.

I’ll keep blogging about how things go.

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Digital Leaders

For the past 2 years I have worked closely with my Digital Leaders team developing the ICT provision with my school. I’ve been very lucky, I have to admit. I’ve been lucky to have such an amazing team for the previous 2 years! It consisted of just 6 6th form pupils, who all contributed fully and bought into the process.

In Sept 2011, I advertised on our school website for pupils to join the new Digital Leaders team. I gave a brief outline of the role and pupils were asked to apply using google docs. I actually only received 6 applications, but I was happy with that. I didn’t want the group to be too big- 6 was just right.

After informing the pupils that they were in the team, we had our first meeting. We met at lunchtimes, usually once a month. The 1st meeting was interesting. I was keen to hear what the pupils thought about ICT in our school. Most of the things they said were not surprising and their suggestions for development were straight forward too. But there were a few surprises. And that is when I knew the group was going to be of great benefit to the school and the development of ICT.

As part of the role of Digital Leader, the pupils were trained on the administration side of the school website and were assigned administrator privileges and usernames. At the time, looking back now, I suppose I was taking a bit of a risk. I was allowing pupils full and open access to our biggest form of PR- the 1st face of the school as such. But I trusted the group, and I was right too. Our school website is managed by me, the ICT coordinator, and as most of you know, it’s a full time job. By allowing pupils access to the back end of the website and assigning them sections to manage, my time was freed up but more importantly, the pupils were using their skills and knowledge to develop the website, skills that I didn’t have!

The pupils on the team were also keen to support their teachers in using ICT to support Teaching and Learning. The 6 pupils supported me in training colleagues on things like Moviemaker and Photoshop. They also supported development of our school VLE.

Digital Leaders is certainly becoming more common, and I hear of many schools engaging in creating a group like this; it’s obvious why!! The benefits are endless. The pupils we teach have an advantage when it comes to identifying where we stand with ICT In school- How? They are in all of the lessons, they visit many classrooms every day and they see all the different ways in which ICT is being used and also see where and how it could be used more effectively. Creating a Digital Leaders team is a must!

Unfortunately, my team have all now left school to start new chapters in their lives.

I’m looking forward to posting the advertisement for my new team next week. I can’t wait to see where we go next with ICT!

My Dissertation

I’m currently in the process of deciding on a dissertation topic for my MEd. I was originally going to focus on the theory of change management with particular reference to the implementation of the KS3 ICT Accreditation, but it is currently on hold due to union action, which messes with my plans.

In a meeting today with my course tutor, we discussed alternative topics but only one stood out as possibly viable. I have been a Senior Leader now for 6 months. My thoughts are based around this. Could I complete a dissertation based on the idea of being a new Senior Leader and the difficulties surrounding this complex role?

I think in 2 ways this would be interesting. Firstly, it would be an excellent form of reflection for me within my role, considering every move and using research to guide my thinking. But as a new Senior Leader, I feel that I would currently benefit from hearing about the experiences of others in my position and seeing the relevant theory to support the idea that the decision I made was right… or wrong!

I’ll keep you posted on how things develop!

Teachmeet St. Mark’s

Last week, the 1st ever Teachmeet St. Mark’s took place and it was a massive success. Not only was it the 1st Teachmeet to be hosted in St. Mark’s but apparently it was the 1st ever Teachmeet to be hosted by a school in Northern Ireland (if I’m wrong here I apologise!)

The Teachmeet came about because of the very successful Teachmeet Belfast and Teachmeet Northwest which were attended by colleagues from St. Mark’s. The teachers were impressed with the relaxed form of CPD and were keen to try to bring this back to St. Mark’s; and they did!

An email was sent to all staff a month in advance of the Teachmeet asking if anyone would be interested in presenting. 8 colleagues signed up and began preparing their presentations.

The Teachmeet took place during directed time on a Monday afternoon and all staff were invited to attend; teaching and support. Over half of our staff did attend and all seemed to enjoy the experience.

The presentations were incredibly useful and I’m confident everyone took something away from the Teachmeet.

This really is an incredible form of CPD. Getting together and learning from each other is important as it is teachers speaking about techniques that actually work! In the coming weeks we will hopefully see some of the ideas discovered at the Teachmeet put into action.

It would be great also to see more colleagues deciding to present next time. It’s refreshing to see teachers taking responsibility for their own CPD!

FADtastic!

Before I begin, I need to say that I won’t apologise for the pun in the title and in actual fact, I’m actually quite proud of it!

That aside, I’m writing this post with a slight feeling of frustration! And not aimed at anyone in particular but in actual fact the whole education system. At the moment, our education system and that of England and Wales is inconsistent. In NI, the 11+ is gone… But is it really?! We have a relatively new curriculum with a greater focus on Cross Curricular Skills and Thinking Skills. We are being introduced to new ideas and styles of teaching nearly every week. And it is similar in England, with an education secretary who could easily walk into a staring role in the Flinstones with his deluded, ‘old boy’ attitude to education.

And it is exactly these new ideas that arrive weekly that have me frustrated!

But don’t get me wrong! I’m not frustrated by the new, innovative ideas. I’m frustrated by the rather harsh welcome they get when they get through the arrivals lounge!

Very often I’ve heard the comment ‘I’m not in to all these new fads like you are’ or ‘I’ve seen this done before, it’s the same as the rest of those fads, it won’t work’. It is comments like these that I’m frustrated at.

It’s time to welcome the fad diet of education.

I believe that new, innovative ideas are the backbone of any successful teachers toolkit. Variety is the spice of life and kids want to be entertained. We are competing with the X-BOX and PS3. It has never been so difficult to engage 12 year olds in Shakespeare or isosceles triangles. Why would they be interested?

It is the new innovative ideas coming from across the UK that engage our pupils.

Whether it be the ‘5 Minute Lesson Plan’, the use of Twitter for CPD, or some other ICT based invention to engage pupils, they are all worth it.

In my year 9 lesson today I introduced the idea of writing on the tables. Pupils were asked to work in groups to plan out a storyline for a script and the plans were to be completed on the desk using whiteboard markers (it can be rubbed off). The result was incredible. Immediately pupils took to scrawling on the tables and being fully engaged in the task in hand. A fad I had discovered on Twitter two days earlier had enhanced my ability to engage my pupils for a longer period of time.

So I ask you, what’s wrong with the new ideas? Even if they are ‘fads’ and only last two weeks, are they not worth it for the engagement of the pupils for that time? Longer lasting education policies and ideas will always exist and we will still have them to revert back to but I challenge you to support the fad. Stand up and say it; their FADtastic!

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Senior Leadership Pathways- RTU

I’ll start by saying- it’s great! Do it! You will thoroughly enjoy it! (That saves you reading my blog but please do read on!)

Senior Leadership Pathways is a course developed by RTU in line with the professional development requirements for aspiring leaders in NI. The course lasts 1 academic year spread across 7 sessions.

The course begins with an introductory day and then 6 further group seminars follow. The main purpose of these is to discuss Leadership issues, share experience and develop knowledge.

I’m now half way through the course and can honestly say I really enjoy it. I’m part of the Antrim cohort and am lucky that a fellow, like minded colleague from school makes the journey to Antrim also.

The course so far has been very informative. The facilitators are outstanding- Bert and Stewart, 2 retired Principals, have an excellent, warm and welcoming style of presenting and they both play off each other in a humorous way. Their experience is vast and varied and this is obvious in every session. They speak of school leadership with passion and authority and are a pleasure to listen to and interact with. And it’s that interaction that is key. Stewart and Bert have instantly created an excellent atmosphere within the group and everybody is happy to share experiences and assist in finding solutions to problems.

As a serving, new Senior Leader I have found the course so far to be of great help. Bert and Stewart do emphasise the theory that comes with Leadership, but they also focus on the practical side, the hard hitting facts that Senior Leaders will face in their time in role. They provide real life examples and solutions and you listen and engage in the tasks they develop. But it’s only 2 weeks later when you deal with a situation in school and handle it in a professional manner and show leadership skills that you realise that the practical advice from our course facilitators is invaluable!

In my opinion, I think the RTU Senior Leadership Pathways course should be an essential qualification for any Senior Leader. I’m looking forward to the next session. I will keep you posted on progress!

Senior Leader

I am pleased to say that in November I was appointed Seconded Senior Leader. Obviously, as I had applied for the job, I was absolutely delighted to have been successful and this was for a number of reasons!

Firstly, I honestly do love my school and the pupils I interact with every day. I’m an English teacher by trade, which means I get to see most of my classes every day. Inevitably, you build a close bond with your pupils when you see them so often. I’m proud to be a Senior Leader in this school.

Secondly, I’m glad to ‘have a say’. This sounds strange, because everyone in my school has a say on how things are done, but I have more opportunities now to assist in ensuring these things ARE done (if you know what I mean)!

I’ve been in post now for 2 months and do find the role challenging. As a Senior Leader you have responsibility for numerous different areas of school life and ensuring that you are up to date on all current and new legislation and curriculum requirements is daunting. But it’s manageable and you soon develop a routine to ensure that you are able to cater for all parties concerned.

Before stepping into the role, a number of colleagues offered me advice on how to be a good Senior Leader (whatever good looks like) which was greatly appreciated! I was keen to maintain my friendly, always say yes attitude, but sometimes, this can be difficult! I’m lucky to have other outstanding Senior Leaders/ VPs to ask for help when needed and they are incredibly supportive, as is my Principal. But this may not be the case for all new Senior Leaders.

I’m currently taking part in the Senior Leadership Pathways course with RTU. One of the major benefits of this course is hearing about others experience and getting advice from them (blog about the course to follow). So the purpose of this blog is to develop that.

What advice would you give a new Senior Leader in their first week/month/year? What makes a ‘good’ Senior Leader?

Please feel free to comment below. I would love to develop a list of useful tips!

Thanks!

Blogging

It’s been a quick year so far! And by that I don’t reference the 23 days we have spent in 2013 but instead of course the academic year. I don’t know about you, but the working week seems to fly by and before you know it, events that you look forward to on the school calendar are suddenly upon you.

I started the year in good spirits and had set up my WordPress page, which you are on now if you are reading my blog, and vowed to blog regularly about all things educational. This hasn’t gone well! School life has got in the way and my last blog was in fact at the end of September (feels like a lifetime ago!)

This annoys me, as I do recognise the power of blogging; namely the ability to reflect on things that have gone well in school or on courses related to education.

So, I’m back- I claim cautiously!

Some blog posts will follow- whether school gets in the way or not!

RTU- Steps into Leadership

Although I have already blogged about RTU this week, I thought ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and have decided to heap more praise their direction.

Last year I completed the RTU course- Steps into Leadership. I was recently asked to evaluate the course for the Board of Governors in my school, and this prompted me to blog about it.

The course involved 1 full day session and 6 evening sessions which, for our cohort, were held in Armagh Teachers centre.

The course was delivered by a current serving Head Teacher and a manager of an organisation from outside of the education sector. Both course facilitators were outstanding, balancing a mix of educational experience and more general leadership experience to give a more rounded and reflective insight into leadership.

The course focused on different areas of leadership and attempted to identify practical solutions to real life problems that exist for new leaders in the school environment. It referenced commentators such as Ken Robinson and Stephen Covey. It used a range of multimedia formats to engage participants and was genuinely interesting and informative.

One of the most useful elements of the course was the open forum of discussion that existed. There were around 15 participants in the Armagh cohort; teachers from both primary and post primary sectors. It was incredibly valuable to be able to mix with these colleagues and not only share good practice but also discuss current educational issues and how their schools were affected and how they responded. At times it was reassuring to hear that other colleagues shared your experiences or frustrations and often solutions were suggested based on past experience. The true sharing element of the course really was invaluable.

Another major part of the course was the requirement for participants to keep a log or diary of daily school life. Participants were challenged to try to implement a technique they had learned on the course and critically reflect on he process and how it could be improved. With an increased emphasis on self reflection in schools, this proved very useful and an interesting way to evaluate your own practice on a daily basis.

If you are interested in leadership and have not yet engaged in this form of professional development, please take the opportunity to get involved. It really is worth while and many of the techniques learned on the course have proved useful to me in my role in school.

I’m sure you will find it as useful and rewarding as I did.

The link to the RTU website is: http://www.rtuni.org

RTU- Summer School

It was a fantastic idea! One of my better ones if I do say so myself! Well, thats what I thought at the time.

Another brainwave came across me and I ran with it! “By that stage of the holidays, I’ll be busting to get back at it anyway”, I told myself! I was that excited about it, I even convinced a colleague to get involved!

It was mid-June and delirium had set in! Between marking exams and writing reports, I was longing for something more interesting and engaging! So I did it. I took the leap! I signed up for… SUMMER School!

I know! It’s exactly what it sounds like; school during the summer. But as a teacher who is always willing to develop his practice, I felt it was a great idea. It didn’t feel so great at 7am on August 20th as I was rudely awakened by an unfamiliar sound- the alarm clock!

However, all was fine once I had a coffee X3!

The course I was attending was entitled Transformational Leadership in practice. I chose this course as I have an interest in Leadership and Transformational Leadership was part of a recent module I was studying as part of my MEd course.

The course itself was very interesting. It was delivered by Ann McCann, and delivered in a very professional manner. It was informative and engaging and everything I expected it to be. But that’s not what I’m blogging about today!

Instead I’m blogging about the hope I received at RTU Summer School. On my course there were 15 other educators from across NI, all giving up a day off to engage in professional development. But that was only the start.

As I walked into the canteen at lunchtime I could not believe the amount of people that were there. Without exaggerating, on that day there were at least 800 educators giving up a day of their summer holidays to engage in professional development. And this was only day 1 of many of the summer school.

This gave me hope for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, professional development is often frowned upon. It can be viewed with a pessimism that it is worthless and everything a teacher really needs to know is learned in the classroom. But the hope that day came from the fact that so many educators in NI were willing to sacrifice a day off, we’re willing to get involved in something new and engage with others from around NI.

And it wasn’t just standard teachers! Principals, VicePrincipals, Senior Teachers, co-ordinators, all rank and file were in attendance.

At times we are attacked in the press! At times it is easy for all of societies woes to be blamed on the education system. This week in particular, we see the Chief Inspector of OFSTED saying we (teachers) need to work harder! But that is the example I will refer to when those questions are asked. There are few other professions where staff would give up time, unpaid to develop themselves. As much as we are told he education system is failing, always remember that the teachers are not.

That day I realised how dedicated a staff of teachers Northern Ireland possesses and how with people like those I met at Summer School, the future of education is certainly bright.

I’ll be back next year; it was very worthwhile!

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