Tuesday, 17 May 2016

MindLab: Applied Practice Week 26 - Professional Communities of Practice (Activity 2)

For this blog post we'll be discussing professional communities of practice. A community of practice to me means a group of people working together towards a shared goal. In this case, our November Mindlab intake cohort, colleagues and students at Heights, the whanau of #EngChatNZ and #edchatnz, PPTA whanau and those in my professional learning network. 

The questions below were posed to us this week around professional communities and while I'm only meant to write about two - I think a little bit of an overview is needed before diving in wholeheartedly on two particular ones. 
  1. What is the organisational culture (collective values/principles) that underpins your practice? How would you contribute to fostering a positive professional environment in your community of practice?
  2. What are the current issues in your community of practice? How would your community of practice address them?
  3. What are the challenges that you face in your community of practice? How would your community of practice address them?
  4. What changes are occurring in the context of your profession? How would your community of practices address them?

1. The organisational culture - collective values and principles - that underpin my practice focus are on the aspects of manaakitanga and ensuring that everyone in the class feels safe and respected. I contribute to fostering a positive professional environment in our community of practice in a similar way - by listening, being interested in what my colleagues are sharing, discussing with them on a sometimes surface and then deeper level about issues that are important to me and pushing them to find the talking points that most engage them as well. In essence, I like to develop conversations by being patient and waiting for the right moment to ask certain questions to see whether I can flip the conversation into more unsafe waters to test my colleagues' adaptive confidence and see where their confidence lies in certain areas - particularly around tech in class. 

2. The current issues in our community of practice include building confidence, being more trustworthy of each other, sharing resources and not being scared that someone will 'steal' it, encouraging a high trust model rather than a low trust model. Our community of practice are learning to work together, collaborate more often and build on their shared knowledge in many areas. 

3. The challenges we face in our community of practice include being unsure of how to ask for help and not wanting to be seen as not looking as if they're not the expert, being scared of standing up for what's right, being scared to stand up to those who are workplace bullies, being unsure about how to create leadership opportunities when being a leader and having a leadership position seem to mean a different thing. Our community of practice deals with these challenges in a variety of ways. The old way seemed to be to ignore all of this and attempt the 'fake it til you make it' idea. Some of that previous whakaaro is still around and it's slowly being chipped away at. Our community of practice is incredibly supportive, we support each other, be collegiate and professional all the while being there for each other. Schools can be very catty and toxic places - particularly being around teenage drama all of the time - adults sometimes forget how to stay cool in certain situations. We're lucky at Heights in that even though it's quite clique-y - there are clique jumpers who support and understand differing perspectives and will help provide those bridges to ensure more happier and calmer staff members in difficult situations. 

4. The changes in teaching at the moment is the introduction of technology. I say this with a heavy heart because I've been fighting a very long battle since I was 8 and now - we're finally here - where we can teach across borders, without walls and yet - people still want walls. People still want traditional. People are still scared of the new. This inability to be adaptive to change scares me. I've talked a lot about being 8 and playing the Encarta games and being a teenager and dealing with difficult situations. We had 21st century tools when I was at high school. That is teetering on ten years ago now. Ten years. We're still here. Arguing about wifi and infrastructure and cost and impact on student learning. Studies upon studies and studies and studies. Yet. Still. We're at this crossroads. Such a long long walk to where we are now. Still so much further to go. 

I really really liked the Stoll goals - displayed below. Very very cool. Reminds me of Lichtman's Pathway to Success progression. 

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Further reading:
Stoll (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved fromhttp://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Understanding-school-cultures/School-Culture