Connected Learning

Jarrod Lamshed


System Overload

53ccc3e8f73817df89f77a3211a68253Yesterday we had a representative from our teacher’s union visit our school. It’s enterprise bargaining time again and she was visiting to let us know how the process was going. One of the issues the union is addressing in this round of discussions is the problem of excessive work load. This is a real problem. It’s nine o’clock on a Friday night and I’ve just finished working. Twice this week I’ve told my daughter I couldn’t listen to her read because I had work to do. I’ve been at work by 7:30 every morning and not out the door at the end of the day until after five. Most nights there is ‘homework’ for me that means I’m not helping my kids with their’s. I’d like to say this is unusual, but it’s a fairly normal week. I think this is true for many of us. I’m not sure how the union thinks that they can change this, but I wish them luck!

I’m not complaining (well maybe I am a little bit). This is the job I chose and I wouldn’t choose to do anything else. I don’t know that anything can be done about it. As a leader in a school, the work is there and it needs to be done. I think what we can do a better job of as leaders is making sure that we don’t overload our teachers.

Planning and managing a strong learning environment takes a lot of time and energy. Our teachers work hard. Throw in committees, parent meetings, professional development, report writing, staff meetings, yard duty and it can start feeling like good classroom practice come second to the ‘stuff’.

As leaders, I think we need to try and give our teachers a break. I’m not saying we can take away all the ‘stuff’, but shaving 5 mins off the occasional staff meeting instead of running 5 mins over can make a big difference to people’s headsets. Being aware that pushing forward with our work as leaders can have an effect on teachers workloads in essential. It’s not an easy balance to find. We certainly aren’t the only profession that has a tough workload and I know there’s not an easy fix. The push of ‘getting through everything’ means that it’s hard to justify these mini breaks, but I believe that the pros outweigh the cons.

We are in a profession where we need to be more aware of each other. Releasing the pressure valve occasionally is good for everyone. When people feel less stressed they are more aware of each other and provide a good support network for work mates. This is important. Covering the yard duty of a colleague who’s had three extra meetings this week, might be the thing that helps prevent their whole week going to the pack. This is better for teachers, it’s better for leaders and most importantly it’s better for students and classroom learning.

It’s a hard act to pull off, but we’ll keep trying.



Activating the Hidden Talent

The-greatest-leader-is-not-necessarily-the-one-who-does-the-greatest-things.-He-is-the-one-that-gets-the-people-to-do-the-greatest-thingsI’ve presented a lot of workshops over the years I’ve been teaching. It’s a great experience that forces me to critically reflect on my practice. When you stand in front of an audience you need be ready to back up what your saying and answer the curly questions that are thrown at you. You need to know your stuff.

This doesn’t mean that we need to be the all knowing expert on everything, but we need to have looked at our own practice through a critical lens and have a good understanding of why we do things the way we do.

Something that I need to better as a leader is to activate opportunities for other staff at my school to be able to do the same. There are many times that we run small professional development sessions within our school that other staff could be a part of. With a consistently long list of ‘things’ to do, it’s easy to use this excuse to just run these sessions myself. I guess this is the leadership version of the ‘default mode’ that we all fall back to when we get stressed or busy. Instead of taking this easy way out, I need to be making more time to activate those around me.

Our schools are full of hidden talent. I say hidden because a lot of the magic happens behind closed doors, and many teachers don’t automatically feel comfortable sharing the great practice that is happening in their classrooms. As a leader in the school, I need to be having conversations with these teachers and support them to share with others as often as I can. When I began teaching I had leaders that helped me find opportunities to share and develop this side of my learning. Without that, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that have been so important in developing my teaching. This is something that I need to a better job at from now on.


Up to Standard?

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This year I became part of a school leadership team for the first time. It’s been a crazy year and has whizzed by at high speed. It’s been a very positive year, but one thing that dropped off my radar was regular blogging. As we move toward the end of the year, I feel like I’ve finally established this as a part of my regular routine again. This is important for my reflection… and sanity. I’ve made some changes to the blog to force myself to step up my game. I’ve added the AITSL Principal Standards and will blog against these as I move forward. In my new role, I preach the need for us to challenge ourselves and to continually improve our practice. It’s important that I model this, and expect the same for myself. The addition of these additional standards is a work in progress. I haven’t been able to find examples of blogs that are using these so I welcome and appreciate any feedback about how they are implemented here.


52 Recommendations for Boys in Schools (Recommendation 1)

Over the last seven years I have worked to establish and develop a single gender program at our school. Starting with some initial small trials, the success of the program has seen us expand so that we now have a single sex class option, for both boys and girls, for students from year 2 through to year 7. Being involved in this process has been a highlight of my teaching. I totally and wholly believe in this program and feel lucky to be involved in something that has made a big difference in the way our school runs. The lasting relationships I’ve been able to develop with students and their families over this time have been brilliant. 

Our single gender classes are designed around the work of Michael Gurian, a gender education expert from the USA and also the work of Ian Lillico, an Australian expert in boys education. Among his extensive work, Ian Lillico has developed 52 recommendations for boys in schools. These recommendations were at the heart of our boys classes when we first began.

This year, one of the goals I have set myself is to revisit these recommendations and critically look to see how well we are showing these in our classroom and learning programs. To do this, my plan is to create at least one blog post each week focussing on how we implement (or don’t implement) each recommendation. Each post will focus on one recommendation and look at what we are doing, what we need to improve on and, if appropriate, a commitment to action.

Let’s see how we go!

Recommendation 1:

Both at home and at school women must be in positions of power – they must not be seen as the nurturers and men as the power brokers. Both men and women must play a rearing role in their sons’ lives. The father (or male teacher) must not be seen as the disciplinarian as this tends to further emphasize the gender stereotype.

This recommendation is one that we could certainly do better in our classroom. This is particularly evident to me after participating in the Miss Representation PD last week. Although we have lots of good things happening in our classroom, we need to tighten up our act in this regard.

At Hackham East we have strong female teachers and leaders everywhere. Our boys class spends a lot of time with our female music teacher who is also responsible for our Kapa Haka program and she is certainly a strong and well respected role model. There are many others though, that we could access better.

Our new deputy principal has a passion for reading and has some great ideas about class libraries and the way book clubs run. These passions fit in with one of our key class focuses this year. This is a perfect opportunity for me to expose the boys to another female educator in a position of power. Our new school counselor is also a strong female leader that we could access better for our class. Being the teacher in charge of our schools student voice program means that there are some links we can make with how our classroom runs.

Next week, my commitment to action is to work at strengthening how we achieve this recommendation in our classroom.  My goal in using this process is to turn a never ending  ‘to do’ list into something that will see regular professional reflection and  improvement in our classroom.


Getting Comfortable











I saw this quote somewhere today and it got me thinking.

I’m a firm believer that teaching is not a job in which you should ever feel completely comfortable. I think, as teachers, that we should always be challenging ourselves and striving to provide a better learning environment tomorrow than the one we provided today.

Thinking critically about my classroom, I believe that we do generally challenge ourselves and we do generally step out of our comfort zones. I use the word ‘we’ because it is a team effort in our classroom. As the teacher I need to challenge myself but also need to take my students on that journey with me. I use the word generally because there is always room for improvement and there are always those that come on the journey begrudgingly.

Teaching students to challenge themselves is not an easy thing to do! For many, encouraging curiosity and linking learning to their passions is enough to motivate, but how do you get to those students that avoid thinking? How do you switch them on and get them excited? With so many great tools available to us and providing an environment for differentiated learning, more and more student are ‘coming out of the dark’, but I don’t know that I will reach all of them before the year ends.

It is here where my thoughts start to scare me a bit. For the most part, I have a good amount of control over how my classroom runs and the type of learning environment I provide. I believe (as do most of us) that I am providing a learning environment that meets the needs of my students as best as I know how to do. I feel as though I am continually engaging myself in new learning that enables me to strengthen and add to my skills as an educator.  Unfortunately, a child’s education doesn’t get neatly packaged into one year chunks (as discussed in this post by @gcouros), and as students move from class to class they are not always provided with environments that are challenging and motivating. I don’t say this to belittle the work that teacher’s do. Many, many teachers to brilliant things in their classrooms, but we have all seen or heard of examples where they don’t.

I was visited by a former student a few weeks ago who said that he felt ‘let down’ by what was happening at his new school. He said (and these are his words) that the school doesn’t provide for kids with different learning styles. He said that the main goal for teachers seemed to be to have everyone quiet. His belief was that the focus of teachers was on classroom management rather than learning. I have had regular visits this year from former students who tell similar horror stories of ‘learning’ in their current classrooms at high school. One student told of the math class where the teacher tells them to get their text book out so ‘they look busy in case someone comes in’ and then leaves the room and doesn’t come back for half an hour.

Hearing of this level of ‘teaching’ infuriates me. As a classroom teacher, I have very little control over what happens in other classrooms, but continually jump up and down complaining that someone needs to do something about it. But who is this mystery person? Whose responsibility is it?  I love the classroom and state regularly that school leadership is not the place for me, but am I taking the easy way out? Am I just comfortable in the classroom? Should I be pushing myself into a new challenge? Should I push myself into working toward a position in the system where I can have some control over these things? I don’t know.

Food for thought.

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