NJ Trip Reflection

This is the first time I am the overall in charge of overseas trip. I am actually quite nervous and stressful over this as I seldom travel and I am not good in taking care of people.  Stress pile up after Lunar New Year and yes, I started having sleepless nights over this.  And I even had to delayed my birthday celebration because of this. This is the 2nd time in my life that I cannot celebrate my birthday in peace. The first time occurred in the year that I received my A level results as the results was only out after my birthday .

Well, I survive the overseas learning journey and all my students come back healthy and safe.  I basically feel that I did quite an okay job as the overall in charge.  I have done adequate preparation. To be precise, I over-prepare like purchasing extra moisturizer/food/fever pad with my money. I ensure that my teachers focus on taking good care of the kids while I focus primarily on the other aspects (like ensuring appropriate hotel accommodating  and communicating with the parents).   I have done lots of prep work before the tour and ensure that both the parents and  the students I can be the point of contact. I will not shy away from handling sticky situations and quick to respond to the overly cold weather (getting the local guide to buy lip balms and heat warmers) 

Of course, this would not be possible if not for the other teachers in the trip. They pointed out my blind spots and surface possible issues based on past experience (e.g., getting the souvenirs required not at the last minute so as to have ample time for packing)

I am glad that the NJ LJ is over. It is indeed a good experience for me and I am really happy that I manage to do a decent job!

 

Learning from CLDC on Oct 13

After hearing the sharing by various participants yesterday, I can see two  recurring themes (guess my doctorate studies have always made me see want to do a ‘rise above’ and see what is same same but difference)

(1) Process and structures

Okay, I admit. I hate these two words for it sounds so restrained, so HQish and so the bureaucratic! You know, those typical official comments when things goes wrong. “The process and structures are put in place but ….”

It is definitely important to have process and structures but the devil in the implementation. We might have the best process in the world but all amount to nothing if it is not implemented properly. So, as leaders, we also need to work with the ground people to see that is implemented to high fidelity rate. How? Guess back to finding inner purpose and get them to see the higher meaning as to what they are doing as what I have articulated in the previous post.  [Link]

So far, I have tried that out on my technical staff after trying to convince them of the inner purpose. So far, it seems to work as they are taking more initiative (meaning, I need not chase them for jobs).

My next challenge : Getting teachers to see their inner purpose.

(2) Influencing people

You can’t get things done on your own. You need to work with people. You need to mentor people. In short, try to mentor more of “minion ” me so that I can see the change what I to see.

This is yet another challenge to myself: Mentor more people to become more like ‘minion’ me! Heart in the right place (‘for the students’)! Crazy about technology-enabled learning!

What is the best way to do it? There is no easy solution as people are different. As for me, I will think of how others have mentored me. I realize that they ask the right questions and make me think deeply in another level. And of course, I do respect and trust them as the mentor as they walk the talk.

So, this is a personal note to myself: Walk the talk and be a role model. Ask the right question when mentoring.

(3) The need to plan ahead

I do agree with that and must plan ahead. But, as a MM, there are some many firefighting and things to do. Where is the time to think deeply about issues and plan ahead?

“The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” – Eisenhower

Guess we just to find the time to be engaged in thinking-doing. as these are important but never urgent things!

Here are things that I need to do to be engaged in thinking-doing :

  • Blogging about my doing about a leader helps me to clarify my thoughts and better understand me and my response. I shall continue blogging so as to ensure that I am thinking deeply.
  • There are other timing in which I find myself engaged in thinking deeply too like while driving to walk or when I am out for my daily walking. The ‘me’ time allows me to have inner dialogue with myself!

So, challenge to myself next year: More me time to be thinking-doing. I aim to respond and not react!

 

Random Thoughts about leadership

One point raised in the article “Why Cabinet to Speaker-Plus can be an upgrade” resonates with me.

From authority to influence

“Authority works in a command and control structure. You’re the minister, you give an order, those down the line follows.

The real world is messier. You want something done, you use your influence, your people skills.”

We are now living in the world of thinking individuals. Gone are the days that you can treat people as “unthinking” individuals. The world is messy. The hierarchy is getting flat.  Just because one is  given the title does not make one do things without proper justification. People need to be convinced. Communicate clearly on “why” and skip all those sophistry. Please do not bother to use big words. What people need now is clear and defensible argument.

Perhaps, it is time to step down from my current post. And I should focus on exerting influence on the ground and getting people to speak up against what I perceived as unsound practices . I remember once telling my HOD colleague why I do not want to take up HOD-ship. I want to lead by influence and not by position. Perhaps, time to rethink my current position. If I am a ground teacher, I will possibly do more about the series of recent incidents and yes, possibly lead a “mini-revolt” against the higher authorities.  This thought energizes me ! 

 

 

 

 

Am I fretting over the small stuff?

Just manage to chance upon this article [Link] entitled “Beware of drifting and sweating the small stuff, stay focused on success”.

It is not that I do not want to focus on the big picture. I wish too but in my humble opinion, there are way too many fire-fighting and operational inefficiencies that I need to deal with almost every day.  I need to cut down on these operational inefficiencies if i want to stay sane.

But for now, I decide to put my foot down and set certain expectation for my technical staff under me. I must let them find the inner purpose so that they can better support the staff.

 

Finding inner purpose in your job

There are quite a few notable hiccups in the news recently:

(1) The printing of wrong word use during the Speak Mandarin Campaign [Link]

(2) Wrong Tamil Translation in NDP 2017 [Link]

(3) Wrong flags used during Sea Games [Link]

So, what really went wrong? Isn’t the process in place for checking and vetting? I believe that there is process but … who implement the process? The people of course. Likely, the people , implementing process, do not do a thorough job. So , that goes back to the question : Why so ?

Perhaps, the job is too mundane that that the people do not see the importance of their task. That is why , they “anyhowly” do.  To me, it is important for the people to find the inner purpose of their job. Perhaps, this is a note to myself , as a leader. I must help people find this inner purpose [Link] .

I would say that I am one teacher who finds purpose in almost whatever I doing in school. The use of the word “almost” is deliberate here as there are still things that I am currently doing now that does not resonate with my inner calling as a teacher *at all*. Well, that is part of work life and it is not that overwhelming that I can still tahan.

Now, the challenge to myself : How can I help them find their inner purpose?

 

Learning learning and learning

Good leaders are good learner [Link] set me thinking.

As a teacher, I am constantly thinking about my classroom-teaching. But , as a leader, am I doing the same? Perhaps time for me to spend some time on reflection on my learning as a leader…

 

 

 

[Leadership 07]Start With Why

I manage to chance upon Simon Sinek Start With Why [Link] and really concur with his view on influencing people. We need to start with the Bug Why. Basically, there is a need to get the people to see the meaning in what they are doing. Whatever one job is, there ought to be a bigger meaning than just the job/task itself. That is the way to keep people motivated and all ready to give it all.

Others always describe me as someone who is highly motivated and energetic teacher. Why is that so ? Because I am yearning for that promotion/performance bonus? Of course not. That is definitely not going to make me a millionaire anyway, so why bother?

What really motivates me is I know why I am doing all this. I am doing all that for my students and that is the higher meaning. Whatever I do, if I can’t see that higher meaning, you can forget me being very enthusiastic about this. I will just give the bare minimum to get it done.  Currently, as my role as HOD, I need to do those seemingly administrative stuff that does not seem to fulfill the higher meaning. But reflecting on those administrative and planning stuff (e.g, planning and purchasing of ICT equipment), these are the important things to be done too for the sake of students. Imagine if I do not plan my ICT purchases carefully, how can my students have technology-enabled learning? The ability to see the big why is essential for me as that keeps my motivation level high. Yes, I can proudly claim that I am still a very motivated and energetic teacher who just happens to be doing just administrative and planning work for the students.

Now, to influence more people, I need to get them to see the big why . For my case, why are we using technology for learning? There is a need to articulate the why so that people can see the higher meaning of using technology. I am constantly doing that now. For example, I deliberately start any technology-related presentation with the big why? Why do we need to use technology? Even when getting my colleagues to blog/reflect, I try my very best to convince them about the big why.

 

So, is it successful? Definitely, there is still room for improvement but I will still go on. Why ? Because I know why I am doing all this.  To benefit more students.

 

 

 

 

[Leadership 06] Conversation with VP

Thanks to to arrangement by cluster, I have a chance to have conversation with VP of other school. It is really insightful to hear about about the first-hand experience especially how to manage change and learn about the dimensions of student centered leadership by Viviane Robinson [Link]

Here are my learning points:

(1) Get your hands dirty and be immersed in the job. This is something I always believe in and have been constantly doing this. I definitely give myself A*** for that. I do not believe in “tell-then-you-do”. I believe in “do-then-you-do”.  Perhaps, this is due to my engineering background. I need to get my hands dirty and do the job before telling others what to do.

Example : I use iPads and laptops regularly so that I can know the problems and get my tech guys to solve the issues.  The teachers can also approach me if they have issues and I typically would have answers for them. This is my way of “walking the talk”.

But, I feel that there is one down-side to this approach.  Sometimes, I feel that I am almost too “hands-on” that others are over dependent me on me to solve their problems. Have I , unknowingly, become the clutch ? This is something that I need to ponder about.

(2) Process and structures

At the management level, there is always a need to put process and structure in place for things to happen. It can never be left alone for things to happen organically. This might work for the gung-ho few who would just get things done (e.g., stupid people like me who can go way out and make sure things happen because I believe in it even if structures are impeding it. Just-Do-It is the order of the day!)).

But, at the management level, we have to ensure  pervasiveness so all students have the same learning experience. That is the challenge when one is taking the leadership post.  It is not about your class , it is about our classes. I remember my P once told me that when I share about my experience in my class. She wanted the “our”. Of course, at that point, I was like “why should I care about other classes”.

But , at my position now, I have to look beyond my class. This is the level of thinking that I am developing at my current position. Somehow, I find this intellectually challenging for me and I see it as a mean to influence more people so that “my class” can soon be “everybody’s class”.

Unlike the other two years, I am now slowly putting structures and processes in place for the sustainability of ICT usage (e.g, blogging and ICT PD Day) . Why not earlier? Because I am slowly building my social capital to effect the change. I need the staff to know me as a person and hopefully, they should know by now, I am not one wayang HOD  who do things for personal agenda. I do not believe in doing things for show. I believe in doing things for the students.

So, how is the process and structure so far? It is the first year and things are moving in the right direction but things can be improved. I will look towards fine-tuning it for the second year. I know it is never easy but I need to get started somewhat. My aim is to sustainable and pervasive use of technology for teaching and learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Leadership 05] SWOT Analysis

I have heard of SWOT Analysis for the longest time. You know  that, Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat thingy that one always have to do for staff retreat. Okay, I admit it has always been a mere paper exercise for me. But, after watching the series of videos at this link , I have some fresh insights:

(1) We need to know clearly the difference between internal and external. We need to control what we can and make use of what we can control (i.e., strengths and weakness) to respond to the what we can’t control (i.e., threats and opportunities).  SO , WO, ST, WT  Strategic options

(2) Using framework in guiding the identification of SWOT (e.g., Potter’s Five Forces  , PESTLE Analysis , Resource Audit  and M.O.S.T)

What is the possible challenge of using SWOT analysis? I think it is identifying the unit of analysis that you can control and trying to distinguish between external and internal factors. What is external factor in some cases might be internal in other cases.

It seems that SWOT has somehow been evident in my ICT planning (e.g., resource management, integration of ICT in curriculum).  With the new found insights on SWOT, I think I can more systematically identify the factors and plan my ICT integration.