LEADING LIGHTS     Issue 2 | 2022

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Conference 2022: Sharing the knowledge


Conference article   

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After coming together as a conference community with our shared welcome and greetings we heard from a panel comprised of members from each sector of education. Ene Tapusoa, from A’oga Fa’a Samoa School (Early Childhood); Tony Grey, from Te Ao Mārama School (Primary); Russell Gordon, from Otūmoetai College (Secondary) and Michele Morrison, University of Waikato (Tertiary) .

The forum members were asked to share their thoughts and actions in their institutions on creating equity and growing others.

What we gathered from listening to each of them.

The importance of creating a culture of identity which placed emphasis on values. We heard about the spirit, the feeling for the Samoan way and the interwining of tapasa, as this framed the way learning and leading happened. This placed service to and with others as highly important and the foundation for authority.

We heard about the importance of social justice and relational trust as central to the purpose and integral to the culture. This placed purpose and knowing what we stand for and who we are at the centre. The notion of heading into the future with this sense of identity and know what we stand for and not necessarily knowing what the end outcome looks like or will be, came through as leading into the unknown.

We heard that the culture of the institution especially in regard to staff, was key and of high importance. This placed the who alongside the why, the what and the how in the institution. The placed the context in which learning and leading take place, as of high importance, as each contexts differs as it reflects the people within the community the institution serves.

In terms of reducing disparity and inequities, of giving voice to the disenfranchised, we heard about the importance of exposing our educational history and greater deeper meaning within the institution. This, we heard, was about reframing our experiences for Māori and Pasifika learners and their families and creating a new paradigm for learning. It was a matter of shifting approaches and about winning hearts as well as minds. We learned it was more about ngākau than rakau and about creating coherence with and not for or doing to people. This meant raising one’s head to the horizon, focusing on everyone’s wellbeing, on genuine partnership and choosing wise voice to listen to and take wisdom to our our thinking from. It is about rethinking and finding our own way forward.

This was about being a place of learning in Aotearoa and what it looks, sounds and feels like as the institution creates a place of belonging for learning, takes risks and is courageous in its endeavours, at times dealing with the tension of competing wants by the community.

It is about disrupting the discourse, placing what matters, people, first and foremost, in front and about challenging both the colonial construct of our institutions and the neo- liberal discourse prevalent in our world. This is matter of challenging and changing the language we use and the policies we hold.

It is a rethinking and a re-acting that allows for leadership formation and human flourishing. It requires the challegning of personal biases and a focus within, ourselves and our very being.

Key messages from the keynote speakers

Mere Berryman

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Mere focused us on decolonising and indigenising within our country. This meant foing beyond what she terms brown frills, the surface elements that might be accessed without a deeper understanding and appreciation of the story behind the people. Mere referenced Sleeter (2011) who stated the danger of oversimplifying what it means to be culturally responsive as doing so is highly problematic. This means knowing what is behind the need for decolonisation in order to understand what is changing and needs to change and why. The fear of the elite in losing national and global power is a constant tension with decolonisation.

It is a matter of increasing our depth of understanding of the historical prejudices and biases embedded in our racialised colonial systems. Mere focused us on looking within, what is in our own head and heart. The term mythtakes was refered to; the deliberately concocted falsehoods used to justify the unjustifiable. A central premise for Mere was going back to the Doctrine of Discovery 1542- the papal bulls

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Mere assisted us place this in a New Zealand context by referring to dusrupting intergenerational harm and focusing on forming different relationships, stucures, pedagogies and systems. It is about resisting the status quo, developing critical consciousness and acquiring socio-political awareness and understanding our positionality within the world.

For Mere, indigineity and decolonisation must go hand in hand.

Lesley Murrihy

Lesley focused on on middle leaders making a difference basing her message on her leadership of Amesbury School since its inception. A key point for her was leaders in new roles i.e. Within -school leads ( Kāhui Ako), feeling uncertain, unsafe, underdeveloped and unsupported in their roles. A key messages was leadership matters ; middle leadership really matters and teacher- leaders make a difference at the interface between learning and leading learning.

Lesley referenced Harris & Jones (2021) whose evidence suggests that a focus on distributed and instructional leadership benefits across the school. Lesley focused on how we develop this leadership knowing it matters. For her collective efficacy was important; making this natural from the outset rather than as an add- on. This meant ensuring it was part of the school culture. Lesley also referenced Silins and Mulford ( 2022) who focused on the notion that improvement of student learning outcomes comes about when leadership sources are distributed throughout the school community and when teachers are empowered in areas of importance to them. A key message from was activate the collective capacity for leadership matters. The main tenet of Lesley’s focus was on a coaching leadership approach. This meant learning and practicing the skills and techniques of coaching, having regular coaching by a senior leader, having reciprocal experiences of coaching and being coached with one another, coaching teachers in the team they were in, continually reflecting upon those experiences of coaching and looking inward to explore their own behaviours, values and beliefs. The impact of student learning and on teacher practice was such that there was significant improvement in student achievement data, in wellbeing and in engagement. There was a shift in teacher culture from nice and contrived congeniality to one of collaboration and care. The focus on integrating growth and development led to expressions of interest in leading. Unexpectedly the shift from doing coaching to it being a bigger aspect of leadership. This meant becoming a coach and leader could be sustained through the narrative of leadership.

Coaching and having a coaching disposition increased a sense of self-awareness, self-control and self efficacy and was seen as a powerful vehicle for the development of teacher-leaders. A vehicle that had far reaching outcomes for students, teachers, teacher-leaders, the culture and the development of a learning system for teachers. For Lesley, 1:1 coaching on its own was insufficient; there had to be coaching in authentic contexts where these approaches could be blended. This is leadership development on the job, in the context of the everyday as the key focus on leadership is to support and grow people. A key message from Lesley was that it does not take as much energy and focus as we think to create change and shifts in practice.

It means activating a collective capacity for leadership, giving leadership opportunities early with scaffolding and support. A central focus for Lesley was the Book Club; a strategy for growing and developing people. This was voluntary , sought a commitment to 4-5 sessions per book. A reading of chapters in advance, a carefully planned and facilitated session with a light touch from senior leaders as a space for teachers to share and discuss was created. The focus was on teacher lead talk and individual making connections in different ways.

Leadership contribution matters: it takes courage; look for opportunities to create for others.

Ann Milne

Colouring in the white spaces! Ann continued her lifelong focus on challenging white based assumptions and illustrated her journey with reference to Kia Aroha College, the learners and the voices of the rangitahi as graduates from the kura. Ann referred to white driven policies as comfort zones and which do not focus on Māori as Māori and self-determination but continue the doing for and deciding for Māori thinking which needs to be disrupted. Ann promoted as outrage what is served up for Māori children and the focus still being on assimilation with mainstream equaling whitestream. Ann refered to white spaces as being everywhere including in our heads. It is about whose voice matters, changing the narratives, hearing the lived experiences and de-centring the whiteness. It is not about having a blinkered focus on literacy and numeracy. Ann challenged the mono cultural education system being seen as normal rather than a hegemony than encourages assimilation and which assumes western power is superior. For ann we risk alienation if we do not focus on an active anti-racist education, developing critical consciousness, actively disassembling the white spaces and placing alternatives in front of our tamariki. This is not done by pākeha and a pākeha system but by Māori.

This is focus on self-determination and sovereignty as deeper issues than just addressing inequty

It is about relentless and courageous activism; about intentionality; about reclaiming language and shifting from colonial based system to Tiriti - centric systems. Ko au ko koe, ko koe ko au. It is about knowing ourselves and about identity.

Click here to see a video of a similar presentation by Anne given to the Leaders Connect Series.

Catherine Bentley

Catherine BentleyCatherine shared the journey of Hastings Girls High School as they intentionally shifted to culturally sustainable practice and away from colonial constructs. At the centre and heart were the indentities, aspirations and voices of the learners in the school .
This involved taking a new perspective ‘ seeing the whiteness’ ; changing the lens through which you see the world; removing one’s blindness and acting on this and not hiding behind a disempowerment.

This meant streaming ( moving away from filtering, weighing and sorting) had to go to be replaced by a shared pedagogical culture involving whanaungatnaga, tūrangawaewae, reciprocity and power sharing, collaboration and mahi tahi, being responsive, adaptive and flexing to meet new aspects. It involved identity – Toi tū te kupu, Toi tū te mana, Toi tū te whenua.

At the heart of the new vision was the learner- ‘ through knowing her story and supporting her in her learning today, our girl will be best prepared for tomorrow’. Creating a space for our girl who is Ngati Kahungungu, if we create this space all else falls into place.

The journey involved creating a curriculum that gives effect to Tiriti o Waitangi; upheld by two pou- Matauranga/Māori and subject specific knowledge ; planned with Matauranga Māori first.

This meant developing a school of learning hubs with students deciding wheere they fit based on the skills and talents. A key component was expressed was working collaboratively as teaching teans, creating a shared culture of pedagogy starting with whanaungatanga.

We learned to

  • Be resourceful- surrounding ourselves with people better than you
  • Be clear in communciation, communication and communication
  • Be strategic- be deliberate and ensuring every action is well executed
  • Be honest- ‘know hwo you are’

Catherine offered a key saying “ Sing above the note’ ( aim higher than you might need to be)

You can’t have courage without vulnerability.

Russell Bishop

Russell focused on leading to the North-East and addressing the literacy crisis. Russel is known for his book ‘Teaching to the North- East which puts relationships at the centre of learning and advocates for a relational pedagogy.

A key message from Russel was fidelity – the importance of keeping true to the intended focus and implementation. He stated that implementation fidelity is a major problem in relation to school improvement foci.

IF ( implementation fidelity) is the degree to which an intervention is delivered as intended and is critical to the successful translation of evidenced- based intervention into practice and ensuring a successful outcome. Unsuccessful implementation is when strategies are gradually modified, recommended procedures or activities are omitted and deficit explanations are used to explain the drop in performance. All this reduces IF, which is also exacerbated by the lack of infrastructural support for teachers within schools.

Russell offered three case studies of three schools which all had the same outcomes: it took two years for Māori learners to reach parity with other learners and to succeed as Māori. The literacy ‘crisis’ was over within two years for these schools.

Success was bounded by teachers implementing strategies with fidelity and sustained practices with leaders making this possible as leaders of learning. A common code of pedagogic practice developed by creating an extended family context for learning , interacting in ways we know promotes learning and monitoring the impact of teaching on learning and modifying in responsive ways.

This meant leaders of learning following the GPILSEO model ( Goals, Pedagogy, Infrastructure, Leadership, Spread , Evidence, Ownership).

Significant here was providing equitable outcomes , ensuring Māori achieving as Māori, ensuring other marginalised students benefitted as well, involved coaching and observation feedback, collaborative interrogation of evidence, review, including whānau and communities, placed emphasis on instructional leadership in distributed ways,

Whānau members adding value to learners, all teachers and leader focusing on the North-East ( relationship and Interaction), being evidence- based .

The message. It only takes two years . What is good for Māori is good for neuro-diverse learners, IF is cricual , the focus on formative assessment is cricual, whatever approach is taken it needs to have fidelity- there is no one way , leader support and direction is cricual.

Chris Jansen

Chris led a workshop session as invited presenter.

Chris focused on growing culturally sustaining leadership and becoming tangata tiriti. This meant Chris made connections and placed whanungatanga at the heart of his mahi. He asked particpants to offer their name, their place of birth and their current place of living as a begining way to create whanangatanga. Chris shared what does it mean to be pākeha in Aotearoa. Codesigning with mana whenua was placed at the top of his mahi with mana orite, kotahitanga and manaakitanga .

Chris shared his journey of realisation; about whote privilege, colonisation, growing awareness.

Key note: Using one’s privilege ( as Pākeha) to open the door to pause and bring others with you, to go through the door with you.

For Chris decolonising means oulling down some of the structures and making space and normalising Te Reo Māori, incorportating tikanga Māori ( starting with Karakia and Whanaungatanga), practicing manaakitanga- no place for ego or showmanship, no place for humiliation. Chris stressed the place of kotahio tanga and never going alone. For Chris mana orite mattered – respectful and reciprocal relationships they bring all people to the table.