Out of the comfort zone

7717136134_e51afabe94_o

It’s that time of year again. The time when the whirlwind of activity happening around us threatens to take away the last little bit of sanity that we have left. Christmas concerts, report writing, school fairs, graduation ceremonies, end of year excursions… exhausting! It’s also the time of year where we often take a step back and reflect on the year gone by. Personally, I can’t believe the speed at which this year seems to have gone. Even more so, I can’t believe that I’m now two years into my new role. It’s been an interesting journey to this point.

A few years ago, I was in a good place. I was working in a role that I loved. I’d been lucky enough to be given enough rope to innovate around some areas that I was passionate about. I was working with a fantastic team and we had developed new programs in these areas that had quickly become embedded in our school culture. It was a fantastic thing. The only drawback was that I felt like I was becoming comfortable. I could map out in my head what the next few years were likely going to look like. This was a nice place to be, but in the end I wondered what else I could contribute that someone else couldn’t. I also had questions. I was proud of the work we’d done and I wanted to see if I could contribute to this type of cultural shift in another school community. I felt that the way to do this, and keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone was to take on a leadership position.

The job I applied for was ‘Senior Leader in 21st Century Learning and ICT’. A truly horrible title. What the title said to me though was that this was a site that had some work to do around where digital technologies fit in today’s classroom. After some research on their school site and a conversation with the Principal I could tell that this was a community that were ready to take the journey. My applicatin was successful and have been at Woodend Primary School for the last two years.

The first year in any new school is a challenge. It takes time to build relationships and become a part of the team… and to be honest, it was a struggle. I wanted to dive in and make changes but quickly learned that this wasn’t the way to go. Luckily, I quickly got to know a team of people that clearly wanted good things for their students and were open to any ideas that I threw their way. We rolled out a small set of school owned iPads into classrooms (including one assigned to all teachers). We rolled out 1:1 macbooks for teachers with the philosophy that if we want teachers to become comfortable with technology, we need to put technology in their hands. These were some big changes, but we didn’t stop there. We implemented a BYOD policy, allowing students to bring devices with them to school. We went to PD with Stephen Heppell to look at how we could change our classroom spaces to better suit collaboration and an inquiry headset for learning with digital technologies. We also took five staff to EduTech to expose them to some new ‘big ideas’ and arm them with the tools to become leaders of change within our school. Looking back we achieved a lot in that first year. 

There are some important points to make here. Firstly, I say ‘we’ because this was well and truly a team effort. Our leadership team worked together with staff to facilitate this new learning, our Principal gave me the trust, freedom and budget make these things achievable and most importantly, our staff engaged in the new learning and pushed through their discomfort to keep learning. This has been a consistent theme in my teaching and the work I’ve been involved in wouldn’t have happened without a trusting and supportive Principal and a collaborative team approach to new initiatives.

Secondly, it’s important to note that it wasn’t all smooth sailing… and it’s still not.  I asked a lot from staff and it took some time to make sure that everyone was moving. I found it difficult to give the right individual support to teachers and am thankful that they stuck with me anyway. This is still a challenge. On top of that, changes in the number of wireless devices put significant strain on our infrastructure causing frustrations for people as they try out new ideas. With every new idea, we hit hurdles, but we push through these and keep going.

This year has been a much smoother ride. We have focussed our energies on continuing the new learning from last year. We have implemented an inquiry teacher role to work with classroom teachers, and it is clear that all staff have made significant changes in their practice when it comes to the integration of digital technologies in the classroom. A good indicator of this was the uptake of teachers attending this year’s EduTech conference. In my first year, five teachers took up the opportunity to attend. This year, we had 24. It’s a wonderful thing. This tells me that we have had a shift in thinking. The value of digital technologies for learning has clearly risen among staff.

This time last year, I wasn’t sure that I’d made the right call moving into this role. The struggle of the dual roles (I have three days in the classroom) was getting to me and I felt like I wasn’t doing justice to either job. This is still a struggle at times.. I think it always will be! This year, my thinking is completely different. I feel lucky to be working with a fantastic bunch of teachers who work extremely hard for their students. My role gives me the opportunity to lead change both from the leadership team perspective but also from the classroom where I still love to be…  best of both worlds.

I’ve always been a big believer that, as educators, we shouldn’t get too comfortable in our jobs. I’m not talking about job security, but the need to be pushed, have thinking disrupted… try new things. I have this in my role. The flip side of this is that the future is unclear, but I actually don’t mind this. After a frantic first year in my role, this year I’ve manage to re-establish my own professional learning network. These are the people who challenge my thinking around innovation in schools. I’m aware that my role ends in three years time, and I don’t know what happens after that. Time will tell.

This post was written by Jarrod Lamshed @jlamshed 

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/oklanica/7717136134

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *