Sound of a penny dropping

Now I know… I need to keep learning.

When did the penny drop for you?

When did you realise that it was absolutely vital for you to never, ever stop learning?

The spark for this post was when I found this quote that I had written down over two years ago:

‘Learning is the essential fuel for a leader, the source of high octane fuel that keeps up the energy by continually sparking new understandings, new ideas and challenges.  It is indispensable under todays conditions of rapid change and complexity. Those who do not learn do not survive long as leaders.’ Bennis and Nanus 1985

It is the first line of this quote that jumps out for me…the essential fuel. One of the definitions in the dictionary for essential is:

‘fundamental or central to the nature of something or someone’.

Learning is fundamental and central to my day as a educator, leader and a human being.

Looking back on my career / life I have tried to pinpoint when the ‘penny dropped’ for me. When did I realise that I had to keep learning? There are the times that I have moved schools and this has always meant change and learning as well as confidence building. There are courses that I have been on and conferences that I have attended where learning and the tools for learning have become more defined in my life. There are encounters both in and outside of schools with a wide variety of people that have increased this desire to be the very best I can in all that I do and this must include learning. There are the hundreds and thousands on interactions with the amazing children that I have worked with that have led to learning for both of us.

I have always wanted to try new things, learn from my mistakes so rather than the penny dropping suddenly I feel that it has been a gradual process for me and has built up for the twenty years (this year!) that I have been in this wonderful profession.

The image that springs to mind is one of the penny machines in a seaside arcade.



It does not feel difficult anymore. In fact the most difficult things is that I get slightly anxious that I will not have enough time to learn all the that I need but this may be to do with the time and place that I live in.

My pennies keep dropping.

Do yours?


Reading for inspiration and learning

Reading books

Now I know…that its immensely important to read and learn as much as you can from others as well as yourself.

‘The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.’ Mark Twain.

Being an only child I had a few choices to keep myself amused when I was young including subbuteo, football, the cat ( not really the tortoise as it didn’t do much) or reading.  The majority of the time I chose reading.
It started when I was young.
I have vivid memories of waiting until I thought my mother had gone downstairs after saying goodnight to me, sneaking out of bed, turning on the landing light and leaving my door slightly ajar so I could carry on my mind travels with Harry Harrison, Wilbur smith and Susan cooper.
I went through a period of time during university when reading took a back seat to other pursuits but thankfully it came back with a vengeance and now it is a larger part of my life and learning than ever before.
Here are some of the amazing books that have inspired me over the last year or so.  They are not all directly linked to education.  Due to my position, at school,  the books on slightly skewed towards leadership as I wsh to be the best I can and so aim to know as much as I can from others whilst making my own decisions and directions.

The list does not include the wonderful blogs that I read daily. I think that is a post for another day.

They are not in any particular order and this is not a top ten.

Linchpin  / The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin

I know that Seth is not to everyone’s taste but I really enjoy his books.  The main reason for this, I think, is that they have spoken to the part of me that has had big ideas but can’t quite for whatever reason step over that last hurdle and ‘ship’.

‘Again and again our success turns on not being a low cost leader but a high trust leader.’

Multipliers by Liz wiseman with Greg keown

This book really spoke to me about how we treat others who we work and learn with and brings to the forefront one of the buzz themes of leadership which is raising capacity.  It gives some very simple and achievable ideas and strategies for developing your own leadership alongside the leadership of others.

” Multipliers invoke each persons unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius-innovation, productive effort and collective intelligence.”

I aim to be a multiplier.

The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander.

I still remember being told for the first time about TED talks…”It’s a thinking mans YouTube.” The talk by Ben is one of my very favourites and speaks to me on many levels.  I really enjoyed the notion in the books about the ‘games’ of life, learning and work.’

” It’s all invented anyway so we may as well invent a story or framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”

I’m not sure you can argue with that.

Leadership on the line Staying alive through the dangers of leading by Ronald Heifetz and Marty linsky

I really enjoy learning from these authors as they seem to out their heart on the line as well as speak from it.  The book is a great read and resource for those wishing to develop their ‘humanity’ as well as their leadership.

“Leadership is worth the risk because the goals extend beyond material gain or personal advancement.  By making the lives of those around you better, leadership provides meaning in life. It creates purpose.”

Obviously it isn’t the only thing that provides purpose and meaning in life but it does play a huge part in everything that we do.

And lastly

The Truth about Leadership Barry posner and James kouzes

Now, some people seem to deride books about leadership the same way others deride self help books.  I believe that we can learn from many, many sources.  These two authors have spent many years researching leadership in a variety of forms.  I do not take what they say as gospel and I also do not agree with everything they write but they do know why they are talking about and are very worth reading when you have time.

” You can’t look for the man behind the curtain to solve your problems. You have everything you need.  It’s about taking the first step.”

It often is that first step that makes a difference.  Some never seems to be able to manage it.  I’m very grateful that through the wisdom of others as well as my own decisions I am managing to make that choice to take the first step.

Thank you for reading. I will continue to do so. Will you?

Two years on…



Now I know…

It has been just over two years since I became a Vice-Principal.

My career before that had included teaching and learning in every primary age group and holding a number of middle leadership positions.

During these past two years I have learned so much about myself and leadership as well as others.

This post, 4 Attributes of a Great Assistant Principal, by George Couros (Thank you George), gave me the opportunity to reflect on who and where I am as a leader.

I am a self starter, but I have had to learn to do this.  Over my career I have worked with nine different principals.  I have learned from all of these. My learning has not always been positive but it has been there.  It is over the last five years or so that I have learned that ‘nothing is impossible’.  The possible and impossible is planned, evaluated and reflected on but it is sometimes started without a ‘whole’ plan in place. It is a joy to see what can happen. An example of this is the learning walkthroughs that happened last year, that had their seed in conversations I had with year leaders that have now lead to us having a phonics continuum. Our learning and teaching in phonics has tightened up in this area due to this continuum and data is showing improvement.

Another attribute, that was definitely there (isn’t it there for all of us?), that has grown over these two years is that I am more confident, excited and enthusiastic when challenging authority.  I remember my pride a few years back when I was awarded the ‘most likely to speak their mind’ award as a year leader in my previous school.  As a leader it is now my role to create and promote the space within our school for this to happen both ways.

I also try my very best to accept what is said and take responsibility of any mistakes I make.  A couple of weeks ago I was in a classroom when an incident occurred, I hadn’t seen it, the teacher thought I had, we had a discussion that exacerbated the misunderstanding and then I heard from my principal that my colleague had been disappointed that I hadn’t supported her. I went to talk to her straight away, apologised for the misunderstanding, which is what it was and through our reflection we moved on.

We are all learning.

Let’s make sure it keeps happening.

Scratch (ing) the surface and digital leaders



Now I know…

For the last three weeks I have been running an after school scratch club.  Scratch is great. For me, and the children I am learning with, Scratch is lego on a screen.

When we met for the first time only Jason had ever used scratch before.  Three weeks down the line the children are developing ideas I could never had thought of.  They continue to amaze me with their creativity, passion and innovative thinking as well as the speed of their learning.

Having heard about scratch a couple of years ago it has taken me a long time to introduce it to school but I am so glad I have.  There are 19 members of the club which is a mixture of Years Four to Six as well as boys and girls.

I was lucky enough to have been pointed towards Learn Scratch which has been an invaluable resource.  We have plowed through the lessons at a speed comfortable for all and managed in three session to complete Scratch 1.

After reading this wonderful blog post by Daniel Edwards I reflected upon the Digital Leaders we have in school and the space we are giving the children to share, connect and learn through teaching.  I asked the children in the club if they would be willing to teach others and there was a resounding ‘Yes!’. So next Wednesday here we go.

The learners become teachers.

We will then explore these children taking on other responsibilities such as becoming ‘Digital Leaders’.

Bullet reflections on #21clhk

Now I know…

It was amazing to be at the 21cl conference at Renaissance College in Hong Kong at the weekend. It was wonderful to connect with old and new and online faces and friends.

I believe it is important to be inspired and to inspire and the first definitely happened for me.

The day after I noted down my first reflections, recollections and thoughts.

So here they are.

  • We are in quite a good place at my school at the moment and we need too find more ways to celebrate and share what we are doing. One of the things we are lacking is connections and sharing. I think we could do a lot better at that.
  • “Engagement, motivation and value, we need to make sure all children have these.”
  • “We create the DnA for learning in the classroom that is important for learning outside the classroom.”
  • Tpack and SAMR model, we need to be working on these in school and using them to promote learning
  • Teachers need to be connecting more with social media for a number of reasons and help is there if you need it. Here is a great resource
  • “Who’s leading the change in your school, if it isn’t you why not?”
  • “Innovation is inspired by science, new products, practitioners and the community .”
  • As we asking these questions?
  • Infuse learning as a student response system
  • iBooks Author could have some great uses for us as a promotional and a training tool.
  • The noun project, great for symbols
  • Phoster app for front covers for ibooks
  • Do we try and do too much? I think we need a definite strategy and then do it…are we looking back at our vision, have we shared our vision? What are we waiting for? The only way it will happen is if we start!
  • Eportfolios…tricky if you are not doing one to one…what about if they are used as a workspace, storage and showcase…where are the teacher pert folios?
  • Timetabled reflection for the whole school. How can we make this happen when we are always saying we need more time and  do we need to mandate it? Would it look different for different age groups?
  • The four b’s…Ask your brain, a buddy and a book before you ask the boss…to build up independence in learning
  • How do we keep things going? Visible thinking? How can we keep pushing this when other things pop up? What is our system for this?
  • Where is our lifelong kindergarten? Where is our playing? How can we weave this into what we are doing in school?
  • Makey makey looks very cool!
  • Keep looking for the perplexity in things Dan Meyer
  • Capture perplexity in every day life using cameras and phones, what makes you wonder, a digital school community based wonder wall
  • List of tools used , promoted by Dan Meyer
  • “We need a strong edtech mission statement to filter the best outs of seemingly infinite tool.”
  • Resources from iPad sessions John burns
  • Minecraft session using it in pyp units of inquiry…I think we could do this very well
  • Redstone minecraft servers free for teachers – maybe good for Mums and Dads…ssshhh
  • Titan pad
  • RT @jdungan: @DDMeyers keynote is a like call back to kindergarten for adults. Explore, fail, learn, succeed, explore more, capture, share