Saturday, 11 June 2016

Encouraging leadership at Hornby High School

Lots of people in our schools are leaders, whether they want to be or not. Often amongst students leadership develops simply because of age and year group. I spoke to our Year 13 students last week, reinforcing this idea that they are leaders whether they want to be or not. I asked them what sort of leader they might want to be.

I've been in formal leadership roles of some sort or another for three decades. When we are put into those roles we tend to adopt a 'leadership style' that perhaps suits our personality; I certainly have. I remember 'teaching' some of the theory that lies behind leadership some time ago at tertiary level, and at that stage the theory suggested that the best approach to leadership was what the textbooks describe as situational or contingency leadership. The style should shift to suit the situation.

At the time of the Canterbury earthquakes for example authoritarian leadership was often the instant and necessary response as many fell into shock and others (at times not the 'formal leaders'), stepped up to 'take control' because lives were at stake. On the other hand when trying for longer term cultural change in an organisation a far slower and more participatory approach is more suitable.

Underpinning all of this there should in my opinion be a set of values that drive those in leadership positions, and those values might best be described with the words 'servant leadership'. Servant leadership is an idea that has been around for millennia. There is reference to it in Indian and Chinese writings from over two thousand years ago. It made a grand entrance to our western management literature in 1970 with the book 'The servant as leader' by Robert K Greenleaf.

The concept is simple: leaders are servants of those whom they 'lead'. Great leaders in history have often taken this path. Consider the leaders of the world's great religions and reforming movements. Whether it's Islam, Christianity or Buddhism, Mahatma Ghandi, or Christ, or Mohammed, the prime figures have seen themselves as servants of their people.

We would produce better outcomes for our world if we were to encourage out students to model themselves around this idea of servant leadership. A quick Google search will take you to a Wikipedia entry (not everything on Wikipedia is bad) which says this:
Larry Spears identified ten characteristic of servant leaders in the writings of Greenleaf. The ten characteristics are listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community. Leadership experts such as Bolman, Deal, Covey, Fullan, Sergiovanni, and Heifitz also reference these characteristics as essential components of effective leadership.
The Center for Servant Leadership at the Pastoral Institute in Georgia defines servant leadership as a lifelong journey that includes discovery of one’s self, a desire to serve others, and a commitment to lead. Servant-leaders continually strive to be trustworthy, self-aware, humble, caring, visionary, empowering, relational, competent, good stewards, and community builders.

You'll find these values described in part at the front of New Zealand's national curriculum; they are a critical part of those concepts whanaungatanga, manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga. At Hornby High School we wrap our values up in these four words: Commitment, Achievement, Resilience, and Respect (our CARR values).

I have already challenged our Hornby High School students to see for themselves what is wrong with our world, to get excited, or get angry, to go out and make a change. There are some big issues out there. We have nearly 340000 children who live in poverty in New Zealand. Is that the sort of world we want to live in? This is a challenge I will continue to lay at their feet.

I am encouraging our students not to wait for someone to GIVE them a leadership role. I am encouraging them to TAKE leadership roles, to get out there and make the changes they think our world needs. This is the true test of their character, of their values.

Nga mihi
Robin Sutton

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Disappearing jobs and changing education

This week I read the following from 'The Main Report', a New Zealand business commentary newzine:

Robot Trucks Soon For US Roads. US developers say autonomous big rigs will be the next big thing on the road to a safer transportation system. US start-up Otto is equipping trucks with software, sensors, lasers and cameras so they will eventually be able to navigate 500,000km of US highways on their own, while a human driver naps in the back of the cab or handles other tasks. Initially the autonomous part would just be on the big highways or freeways leaving humans to navigate though city streets. The idea is similar to commercial jetliner autopilots, which fly the aircraft at high altitudes while leaving the takeoffs and landings to humans. There is a precedent – so far Google’s selfdriving cars have logged about 2m km in autonomous mode without being involved in a serious or fatal accident. Of the more than 20 accidents involving its self-driving cars Google has accepted the blame for only one. Otto already has installed its automated technology in three heavy rigs and completed its first extended test of the system on public highways in Nevada. It hopes to eventually retrofit all US trucks - more than 4.7m vehicles. It says the new technology will help alleviate a severe driver shortage in the US - last year, there were 47,500 too few, and this will rise to nearly 175,000 by 2024.
It follows hard on the heels of the recently reported transit of a driverless convoy travelling from Spain to Sweden. I also recently shared with staff an article featuring a robotic block laying machine that was faster and more accurate than any human block layer (and I've seen some absolute masters in my time).

Increasingly, the jobs that we have taken for granted throughout our lives are disappearing. I recently read a New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report that predicted that 46% of jobs as we know them today may disappear in the next 10-20 years.

Almost half the jobs in New Zealand may be done by computers and robots in the future, researchers say.
A study by the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) has found that 46 per cent of current jobs are at "high risk" of disappearing in the next decade or two.
Most that go will be relatively low-skilled and low-wage jobs. The study found that 78 per cent of labourers and 74 per cent of machine operators, drivers and clerical workers are at high risk.

 The advance of technology has a clear message for us in education: the things we have traditionally done will increasingly become irrelevant. If we don't change we will increasingly disadvantage our kids. The jobs they thought would be there for them simply won't be. What do we do?

No-one has THE definitive answer, but one thing is clear. Knowledge on its own is no longer enough. Schools must produce people who are critical, creative thinkers, people who can communicate and collaborate. We talk about these 'four Cs'. They represent the thinking curriculum. Of course you can't learn these things in a vacuum, you have to have something to think about, so knowledge still matters, although the nature or definition of knowledge has changed. It now means knowing stuff and being able to do something with what you know. (Jane Gilbert 'Catching the knowledge wave').

The days of the teacher standing at the front of the room delivering knowledge are fast coming to a close (if they aren't finished already). We can find almost any knowledge we want on the internet somewhere. Of course we all have to be able to think critically in order to evaluate what we find, determining whether it is valid or not. But it's the act of creation using that 'stuff' that we have to focus on in schools. That said, we all still need to be literate and numerate. After all, communication is impossible of we don't have at least one language with which to communicate, and some basic maths with which to make sense of the world.

Hornby High School has for 3 or 4 years planned to re-imagine the curriculum. We call it our 'connected curriculum' in which we literally connect ideas, and in which we create. And this isn't just a science and technology thing. Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication are all equally developed in the arts and social sciences. The catch phrase in some quarters is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), but I prefer the mnemonic STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Maths)

The old jobs are disappearing. We have to find new ways of creating value, and doing stuff the old way simply isn't going to be an option.

We are confronting the age of disruptive innovation. Let's get disrupting.