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The Dialogic Learning Weekly #193

The Dialogic Learning Weekly
The Dialogic Learning Weekly #193
By Tom Barrett • Issue #193 • View online
Welcome along to this weekly missive on innovation, learning and leadership. It is amazing to think we are only a few weeks away from the 200th issue of this newsletter. I wonder what I can do to celebrate that milestone?

Image of the Child
Thanks to Jason Fay at the St Paul Lutheran School for sharing the speech by Loris Malaguzzi about the Image of the Child.
The reading is a strong provocation to us regardless of where we stand pedagogically. Sections like this below, cut to the deepest part of our commitment to children.
We don’t want to teach children something that they can learn by themselves. We don’t want to give them thoughts that they can come up with by themselves. What we want to do is activate within children the desire and will and great pleasure that comes from being the authors of their own learning.
The prominence of observation, in the speech, really resonates with me. In part, because of my continuous work on being as present and “fully involved” as I can. Also, from my fascination with the question: how do I know learning is taking place?
What the child doesn’t want is an observation from the adult who isn’t really there, who is distracted. The child wants to know that she is observed, carefully, with full attention. The child wants to be observed in action. 
Observation is mindful noticing. We notice a much richer set of signals - we don’t just see. These signals in turn might connect together to help us understand the child at a much deeper level, than just what is on the surface.
A very accessible translation of the speech, that I highly recommend. What image of the child do you have?
Your Image of the Child:
Where Teaching Begins
Every day is Day One
At the Adelaide Botanic High School our leadership mini-course on The Conditions for Innovation is soon drawing to a close. We have been exploring the levers we can control that impact the environment for creativity and innovation.
One of the aspects of being a new school is the continuous, intense and prolonged development everyone is experiencing. Over the last few weeks we have been looking at my Spaces for Innovation article, included below.
The Spaces You Need to Innovate
One idea that has struck a chord with some on the team was the notion that “every day is Day 1”. An idea from an extended reading about Amazon’s leadership principles from Amazon.
Day two is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why [for Amazon] it is always day one. ~Jeff Bezos
The big challenge with this approach is the disposition that is needed. Many teachers join brand new schools and bring with them the same expectations for highly mature and established programmes. When that is not the norm, when it is not fully formed, when the whole organisation feels incomplete, people might baulk.
In many ways - and I heard myself framing this today - it is the possibility of different perceptions: Intentional prototyping or unintentional chaos.
One might animate us, the other might intimidate.
Do you have the courage to change?
During this week I have collaborated with teachers in Melbourne and Adelaide. I hope I continue to always have a strong connection to the reality that teachers are facing, through working alongside them.
A frustration I have is seeing the same challenges emerge at this time of the year (Term 4) in Australia. Yes, dear reader, it is time for my 6 monthly soapbox about the detrimental impact of report writing.
When I sit opposite teachers in their first few years of this profession, and hear of the impact on their wellbeing, it encourages me to be the advocate for an alternative.
It is not right that teacher wellbeing is acceptable collateral damage for our reporting systems and processes.
There has been lots of talk about continuous reporting, but I am struggling to feel convinced that this approach is happening quick enough. At least if we are to measure success in terms of teacher wellbeing.
This is not a new problem - for example it has been over 12 years since I wrote a proposal for online reporting.
So today, on World Teachers’ Day, I call on all school and system leaders with these two provocations.

  1. What do you know of the harm caused by your reporting processes on teacher wellbeing and mental health?
  2. Do you have the courage to design a system of assessment and reporting that does not cause unintentional harm to teachers?
Thanks for joining me this week. Drop me a reply with what resonates or what you enjoyed from this issue.
See you again next week.
In dialogue we trust.
~Tom Barrett
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Tom Barrett

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